Are Jewish Vegans Hurting Their Own Cause?

KosherAndHumane.com has an interesting post on how Jewish vegetarians and vegans often misrepresent Judaism. They argue that such misrepresentations hurt our chances of getting humane kosher slaughter and our chances for dealing with the true abuses that permeate factory farms. As you might expect, I agree.

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7 Comments

Filed under Kosher Meat Scandal

7 responses to “Are Jewish Vegans Hurting Their Own Cause?

  1. John K. Diamond

    I can only speak for the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) where I serve on it’s Advisory Committee.

    It has been a long standing official policy of the JVNA that while it would prefer that Jews be vegetarians, we respect the right of Jews to eat animal based foods but that these foods must come from sources where the animals are raised humanely and slaughtered according to the schechitah laws given to Moses directly from Hashem.

    Diets contaning these foods would reduce the cruelty that animals today are experiencing on factory farms, almost eliminate the epidemic of degenerative diseases among the Jewish poulation at large and reduce the damage being done to the Earth’s environment.

    The JVNA has also long supported and lobbied for exactly what KosherAndHumane proposes.

    How this can be brought about given the dominance of the Kosher Meat industry by the likes of Rubashkin and supervising agencies (both religious and govermental) which have become almost utterly corrupt, is an issue that needs to be worked and one in which the JVNA would most likely be a valuable partner.

  2. Howard Katz

    All,

    Interesting discussion. A few comments:

    1) Full disclosure – I’m a vegan. However, while I think that veggie/vegan advocacy for all people/Jews to become veggies/vegans is important, I also think that advocating for humane slaughter is an important intermediary goal,and eliding the discussion by advocating full vegetarianim as the only option doesn’t especially help.

    2) The problem is – advocating humane slaughter in light of the Rubashkin awfulness isn’t likely to help either. For the unpleasant truth is that, within the culture of observant Jews, an attitude of sneering/contempt is de rigeur towards anything considered “liberal”, with animal rights/humane slaughter(or anything that has even a whiff of vegetarianism) high on the list. If anything, support for Rubashkin and the corresponding attack on PETA as “Anti-Semitic” has become a mark of “frumkeit”(as has support of Jack Abramoff, endless wars, etc.). The less observant Conservative/Reform Jews are usually cowed by Orthodox opinion in these matters and,in any event, don’t care all that much about kashrut.

    3) That halacha mandates meat eating in certain hypothetical circumstances ignores

    A) there are no korbanot, so this is irrelevant

    B) ninety percent of Jewry is not Orthodox, so this whole issue is theoretical

    4) The data suggesting that vegetarianism has demonstrable health benefits is massive and well documented.

  3. “4) The data suggesting that vegetarianism has demonstrable health benefits is massive and well documented.”

    And old. And not rigorous.

    All of Ornish’s major benefits are short-term. You’ll be hard pressed to find long term benefits. The longest lived people in the world are not vegetarians. The most healthful society is not vegetarian.

    Even with heart disease, it is becoming increasingly clear the issue is the *combination* of animal fat and carbs that is the problem. Remove either and what do you get? You still have the problem, except and Atkin’s-like diet is surprisingly safe, and a low-fat high card diet is surprisingly *un*safe.

    Further, our bodies were designed (or evolved) as meat-eaters. While life was brutal and short 10,000 years ago, that was because of lack of *technology,* medicine, and rampant food shortages, not because of high meat consumption. As any decent palentologist will tell you, it seems clear that the rise of farming and the resultant change to a grain-based diet led to disease and infirmity. Those drawbacks were overruled by the ability to feed more people, and the stability caused by farming and fixed settlements.

    To assume that 20 year old non-rigorous data is the gold standard is wrong. Sadly, it is exactly this pap that JVNA sells to its members.

    Be a vegetarian for moral or halakhic reasons. (And do so healthfully by reducing carb intake and increasing protien intake.) There is no need to sully the debate by using arguments – whether for “amazing health benefits” or saving the planet – that are rightfully hooted down by the rest of us.

    And, for the most part, I think this is exactly your point.

  4. John K. Diamond

    Shmarya,

    Your post, in part, takes issue with the work and reputation of Dr. Dean Ornish. To be completely fair to FM readers and to permit them a balanced view, I have pasted below some biographical information about Dr. Ornish from the WebMD site.

    [Dean Ornish, MD, is the founder, president, and director of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, where he holds the Bucksbaum Chair. He is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Ornish received his medical training from the Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts General Hospital. He received a BA in Humanities summa cum laude from the University of Texas in Austin, where he gave the baccalaureate address.

    For the past 25 years, Dr. Ornish has directed clinical research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery. He is the author of five best-selling books, including New York Times’ bestsellers Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Eat More, Weigh Less, and Love & Survival. He recently directed the first randomized controlled trial demonstrating that comprehensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer.

    The research that he and his colleagues conducted has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Circulation, The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Cardiology, and elsewhere. A one-hour documentary of his work was broadcast on “NOVA,” the PBS science series, and was featured on Bill Moyers’ PBS series, “Healing & The Mind.” Their work has been featured in virtually all major media, including cover stories in Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report.

    Dr. Ornish is a member of the board of directors of the U.S. United Nations High Commission on Refugees, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation, and the Wheelchair Foundation. He was appointed to The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy and elected to the California Academy of Medicine.

    He has received several awards, including the 1994 Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from the University of Texas at Austin, the Jan J. Kellerman Memorial Award for distinguished contribution in the field of cardiovascular disease prevention from the International Academy of Cardiology, the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement, a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association, the Beckmann Medal from the German Society for Prevention and Rehabilitation of Cardiovascular Diseases, and a U.S. Army Surgeon General Medal. Dr. Ornish has been a physician consultant to The White House and to several bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. He is listed in Who’s Who in Healthcare and Medicine, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in the World.

    Dr. Ornish was recognized as “one of the most interesting people of 1996” by People magazine, featured in the “Time 100” issue on alternative medicine, and chosen by LIFE magazine as “one of the 50 most influential members of his generation.”

    © 2004 WebMD Corporation. All rights reserved.]

  5. Yes. And much of the basis for his work has been repudiated in the last two years.

    This is exactly what I mean. Instead of spurious science, why not focus on the two arguments that both make sense and would be effective?

    1. Factory farming/slaughter abuses.

    2. We can now choose to be vegetarian and can do so because we wish to for moral reasons (like Rav Kook or Rabbi David Rosen) within a halakhic framework.

    The rest of these issues are ancillary and they detract from making a cogent, compelling argument.

  6. John K. Diamond

    Shmarya,

    For my education, please email me privately the evidence from reputable sources that has repudiated the work of Dr. Ornish.

    Yes, the cruelty on factory farms, non-kosher schechitah and the endemic corruption in our religious and governmental institutions re the Kosher Meat Industry are massive problems that defy simple solutions. The JVNA, if you would kindly get of our backs, would be more than willing to be a partner in solving these problems.

    On another matter altogether, please post my article on FM, as you said you would, that I sent to you on Monday concerning Global Warming.

  7. John K. Diamond

    To FM readers,

    A committment in writing by the webmaster of this site to publish my article on Global Warming, which was posted in the March 27, 2006 JVNA Newsletter is almost a week overdue. So I am posting it myself below.

    3/27/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

    Posted on Jewishveg.com

    Science Fiction: Will Global Warming Wipe Out Humanity?

    [JVNA does not generally have science fiction articles, but the one below by JVNA advisor John Diamond reflects many previous items in JVNA newsletters. It can be a valuable wake-up call. Responses welcome, as always. Thanks. And thanks to John for his valuable work on this.]

    Global Warming Induced Human Extinction, An Avoidable Catastrophe
    by John K. Diamond

    Rosh Hashanah, 5850 (2090) : The last human being alive on earth starves to death.

    During the first decade of this century, conclusive scientific data from NASA Atmospheric Research proved that global warming is primarily caused by greenhouse gases (primarily methane) being emitted directly and indirectly by the over 50 billion animals raised annually worldwide for human consumption of beef, poultry, dairy and eggs.

    The Summer 2005 Issue of “Earth Save Magazine” had a report by Noam Mohr, coordinator for the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), entitled “A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in our Lifetimes.”

    Based on the NASA Atmospheric data, other reputable sources and Noam Mohr’s report, some of the world’s leading climate scientists and vegetarian/environmental organizations combined to issue a warning to humanity that unless consumption of animal based foods is severely reduced or eliminated in the current generation, the human species would be threatened by extinction by the end of the century or sooner.

    In 2006, Dr. Richard Schwartz, President of the JVNA, with the cooperation of several environmental groups and the leaders of the annual “Earth Day,” held on Saturday, April 22nd, actively promoted the idea of religious communities celebrating that “Earth Day” weekend as an “Environmental Sabbath.” Many copies of Noam Mohr’s report were distributed during that weekend, which also marked the beginning of a concentrated campaign to make people aware of the importance of eliminating animal foods for human consumption within the current generation in order to prevent the predicted impending catastrophe.

    From that time, the group urged Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other religious groups to strongly recommend that their members eliminate animal products from their diets and take additional steps to respond to global warming and other environmental threats. This met with great success in many cases, as people became increasingly aware of the severe threats that humanity was facing. However, the momentum of population growth, the continued demand for more and more consumer goods in the United States and newly developing countries, and the increasing demand for animal products in China, Japan, and other countries where affluence was increasing proved too great to overcome.

    By 2030, the global warming “tipping point” had been reached. Global temperatures began increasing at an accelerating and uncontrollable rate, although at that point, much of the world’s energy was coming from renewable non-polluting sources and hydrogen-fueled transportation had been almost universally adopted.

    By 2050, half of the ice at both of the Earth’s poles had melted, raising sea levels 10 feet, and caused some coastal cities to become uninhabitable. Many of the world’s primary aquifers became dry after many decades of being overused to grow crops for farmed animal consumption. Severe fresh water shortages became worse as the rising seawater ruined water supplies in coastal areas. Mini-wars began to break out in many parts of the world over fresh water supplies.

    By 2075, almost all of the ice at both of the Earth’s poles had melted, and sea levels had risen an additional 13 feet. All of the coastal cities became uninhabitable, and severe food shortages were occurring worldwide due to lack of clean water and the desertification of almost all of the world’s previous agriculturally productive land. One billion people each year around the world were starving to death with little hope in sight. To avoid starvation and flooding, people began a mass migration toward the Earth’s Polar Regions, where there was still some fresh water and agriculturally productive land.

    By 2080, all of the remaining human population was concentrated in both polar areas and for the next five years, they were able to exist on a vegan diet that their ancestors in the first decades of the century rejected. Many still died from starvation, as the limited area they were living on could not sustain everyone.

    But the uncontrolled global warming started to take its final toll. Rising temperatures over the next five years made the Polar Regions too hot to raise any food.

    On Rosh Hashanah, 5850 (2090) the last human being alive on earth starves to death.

    Simultaneously, on a planet in a distant galaxy, a newly-created Adam and Eve in their Garden of Eden are commanded by G-d:

    “Behold, I have given to you all herbage yielding seed that is upon the surface of the entire earth, and every tree, that has seed-yielding fruit; it shall be yours for food.”

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