According to Torah the original diet for both humans and animals was vegetarian:
Genesis 1:29 And God said: 'Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed - to you it shall be for food;This seems clear enough. Both humans and animals were created as vegetarians (and arguably as vegans). This state lasted until Noach and his family left the ark after the great flood as I discuss elsewhere.
So, if humans and animals lived in peace and shared a common diet what are we to make of the following? What did Abel offer to Adonai that was more pleasing than Cain's vegitable based offering? Here's the text:
Genesis 4:1 And the man [Adam] knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: 'I have gotten a man with the help of Adonai.'First, the text says that Cain was a farmer, he grew food. Abel tended the sheep.
It has been assumed by many that Abel raised and slaughtered the sheep for food, however that would contridict the command to be vegetarian. The text merely says that he tended sheep.
At this early period three necessities predominated life: food, shelter and clothing. For the brothers to both be involved in food production would be redundant. The clear teaching here, especially considering the dietary command, is that Cain grew food for the family while Abel tended sheep for their coats and not for their meat.
The most common disagreement with this view is verse four: And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof..... The argument being that Cain produced the dietary fat (and hence presumably meat). Is this what is being taught here?
The Hebrew clarifies this misunderstanding: min cheleb("the fat") refers to the richest or choice part a thing, not to the literal fat (depending on the context). We still use this term in that same way: "the fat of land" means the best.
There was a critical difference between the offering of Cain and that of Abel. Let's re-read the material:
4:3: ...Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Adonai.While Abel offered the best he had (the min cheleb) Cain, it appears, did not. His sacrifice was not pleasing to Elohiym because Cain did not intetionally give his best. This understanding is affirmed as Elohiym says:
4:7 If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up?...Cain did not offer his best and so Elohiym did not accept his offering. To serve HaShem we must do so from the heart, offering our very best:
Isaiah 29:13 And Adonai said: Forasmuch as this people draw near, and with their mouth and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear of Me is a commandment of men learned by rote;HaShem wants our best with love.
Even when it is not shining;
I believe in love,
Even when not feeling it;
I believe in God,
Even when He is silent. - World War II Inspiration in a Cologne Hiding Place