This story, written by the author of the Gospel of Luke for his Greek community, has one point: that God loves all people, regardless of religion. Peter doesn't kill or eat these animals, and every interpretation makes the exact same point, that this passage "is a new intervention of the Holy Spirit so that the Church would come out of the Jewish environment and the Gospel would come to other people." (Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition).
These animals are part of a dream, and are symbolic of human beings, as the context makes absolutely clear. In this case, by saying that there is no such thing as an "unclean" animal, the vision tells Peter that there is also no such thing as an "unclean" human being. To make sure that we don't miss the point, the passage is framed by unclean Cornelius' vision in which an angel tells him to summon Peter, and Peter journey to Cornelius' house. One might think that would be enough for anyone to get the point.
But just to be absolutely certain, Peter is explicit, "You know that is forbidden for Jews to associate with anyone of another nation or to enter his house. But God has made it clear to me that no one should call any person common or consider him unclean; because of this I came at once when I was sent for Truly I realize that God does not show partiality, but in all nations he listens to everyone who fears God and does good, whatever his nation may be."
As with other passages that are often used to justify actions that are inherently unchristian, the only way to misinterpret this passage is to totally ignore its context (and all of the commentaries). Interpreting this passage as being pro-meat requires that the reader completely ignore everything that the story is trying to communicate.
Clinging to this passage, which promotes inclusiveness, to justify eating animals today is particularly vulgar. Modern farms treat God's creatures like so many boxes in a warehouse--ripping out their teeth, slicing off their beaks, tearing out their horns, inflicting third-degree burns (branding), castrating them, and the list goes on, all without any painkillers at all. Agricultural scientists play God, forever struggling to make animals grow faster (or produce more milk and eggs). The animals pays the price, as they suffer heart attacks, leg deformities, and broken bones, because their hearts and legs can't keep up with their Frankenstein-like bodies. If their treatment hasn't killed them on the so-called farm, they are carted to slaughter through all weather extremes to a gruesome and bloody death under the knife.
The Nazarenes of Mount Carmel
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