Editor, Times-Union:

In Western churches, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast, in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry.

Many Christians abstain from animal foods during Lent. However, a meat-free Lent is more than a symbol of devotion to Christ. A meat-free Lent reduces the risk of chronic disease, environmental degradation and animal abuse. Volumes have been written linking consumption of meat with increased risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and more.

In a 2007 United Nations report. they noted meat production as the planet’s largest source of pollution and greenhouse gases. And undercover investigations document farm animals being beaten, crowded, deprived, mutilated and shocked.

Lent offers an opportunity to honor Christ’s powerful message of compassion and love by extending a meat-free diet beyond Lent; it’s the diet mandated in Genesis I:29 and observed in the Garden of Eden.

Today, there’s a rich array of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, as well as readily available vegetables, fruits and grains.

Decide to make this change for Lent but commit to keeping meat off your plate all year.

Arthur Breedlove

Warsaw, via email