Abstinence from meat has been a subject of much controversy and friction from the dawn of Christian history. Relatively widespread in the early Church, it was praised when it formed part of a temporary ascetic fasting regimen, but condemned if it amounted to a permanent rejection of animal flesh, as it would be associated with heretical ideas found in various dissident groups, gnostic sects, and pagan philosophical schools. Nevertheless, several patristic authors put forth a number of compelling arguments in defense of a meatless diet, all of which would be revisited by future generations of Christian thinkers. Laying the emphasis upon the ethical incentives for abstaining from animal flesh, as well as upon enduring ambivalent attitudes toward vegetarian dietary practices, this article offers a brief overview of abstinence from meat throughout Christian history.

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