December 31, 2004

Special JVNA Newsletter - Postville Slaughterhouse Case #9

Shalom everyone,

This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is the ninth follow-up to the JVNA newsletter on the Postville slaughterhouse issue sent out on December 1. It includes much material from various perspectives to give you an idea of some of the latest developments. For additional information, please do an Internet search for recent articles and/or check web sites of PETA, the OU, and other involved groups, and the blog at

This newsletter has the following items:

1. Newsletter Editor's Comments/Sample Letters

2. Counter-response to PETA's Campaign Coordinator by Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel

3. PETA's Response to Rabbi Shafran's Statement (Above)

4. Los Angeles Times Article

5. Washington Post Article

6. PETA calls on Allamakee County Attorney to prosecute AgriProcessors

7. Statement by OU Kashrut Expert Rabbi Menachem Genack

8. More Jerusalem Post Letters

9. Statement From JVNA Advisor John Diamond

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, information re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsements by JVNA, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Newsletter Editor's Comments/Sample Letters

Incredibly, as indicated in the dialogues and articles below, the controversy over the Postville Iowa slaughterhouse case continues. In many ways, I will be happy when it is over, and I can get back to my normal, hectic life, but the continuing coverage and discussions are keeping a focus, especially among Jews, about what is involved in producing meat for their tables, and it gives us an opportunity to present our case: a shift toward vegetarianism is both a religious imperative because the production and consumption of meat is inconsistent with at least six basic Jewish mandates and a societal imperative because animal-based diets and modern intensive “livestock” agriculture is having devastating effects on human health, the environment, our resources, our climate, in short on the future of humanity. These issues are generally being ignored by the media and the main participants in the Postville controversy, so it is essental that we respectfully bring it up. Of course, improving conditions at Postville and making sure that better standards to make sure that shechita is properly carried out are important concerns, but we should make people aware that there are many more problems related to the meat industry.

So, please review the articles below, check your local newspapers, and do an Internet search to see where additional articles have been written, and please respond with letters to editors, calls to talk shows, and discussions with local rabbis and others in your community. There is the possibility of a major change of consciousness here, and we should take advantage of the opportunity.

I planned to state some points that you should consider in composing letters to editors and in helping spread our messages in other ways. Instead, I am pasting below excerpts from some letters that I have written, in the hope that it will provide background information and inspiration for your own letters. Please feel free to use any of my material, without attribution. Please also consider sample letters in previous issues of the JVNA newsletter. Our letters can help convince editors, rabbis, educators, and others to look more deeply into the issues.

Many thanks.

Sample letters and excerpts:

Letter 1:

… However, even if shechita is carried out perfectly, can we ignore the severe cruelty that animals are subjected to daily on factory farms, and the other ways that the production and consumption of animal products violate basic Jewish teachings?

Since nutritionists have concluded that one can be properly nourished on a diet free of animal products, a fundamental question to be addressed is: since Judaism mandates that we should diligently guard our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people, and animal-based diets and agriculture have negative effects in each of these areas, shouldn’t Jews (and others) seriously consider a switch toward meatless diets?

Letter 2:
I believe that the horrific scenes of the mistreatment of animals at the Postville glatt kosher slaughterhouse and the efforts of some Jewish groups to defend the facility’s procedures raise questions that go to the heart and soul of Judaism: If slaughterhouse procedures are not consistently monitored for strict adherence to the ideals of shechita, are we carrying out our mandate to be "rachmanim b’nei rachmanim" (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors)? Are we failing in our obligation to properly imitate G-d, Whose "tender mercies are over all His creatures" (Psalms 145:9)? If, as is recited at synagogue services every Sabbath and Yom tov morning, "the soul of every living creature shall bless G-d’s Name," can we expect these cruelly treated animals to join in the praise? If, "the righteous person considers the life of his or her animal" (Proverbs 12:10), how will we be judged, based on our treatment of animals?

Even if shechita is carried out perfectly and pain during slaughter is minimized, can we ignore the many violations of Jewish teachings on compassion to animals that occur daily in the mistreatment of billions of animals on "factory farms" in the United States and worldwide?

Finally, perhaps the most important question: since Judaism mandates that we should diligently guard our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people, and since animal-based diets and agriculture have major negative effects in each of these areas, shouldn’t Jews (and others) seriously consider a switch toward meatless diets?

Letter 3:

The Orthodox Union is to be commended for initiating an end to the horrible treatment of animals at the Postville, Iowa slaughterhouse that were revealed on the PETA videotapes.

Alternate start: I wish to express my deep concern about the mistreatment of animals at AgriProcessors in Postville, Iowa, and to commend the Orthodox Union both for its swift movement to correct the situation there and for its laudable public commitment to do all that is Halachically acceptable to ensure the most humane slaughter conditions possible in all plants that it certifies.

But what about the many other violations of Jewish teachings related to animal-based diets and agriculture?

When Judaism mandates that we treat animals with compassion, can we ignore the cruel treatment of animals on factory farms, where they are raised in cramped, confined spaces without sunlight, fresh air, or opportunities to fulfil their natural instincts? When Judaism stresses that we must diligently protect our health, can we ignore that animal-based diets are major contributors to the epidemic of heart disease, many forms of cancer, and other killer diseases and ailments afflicting the Jewish community and others? When Judaism mandates that we be partners with God in protecting the environment, can we ignore the significant contributions of animal-centered agriculture to air, water, and land pollution, species extinction, deforestation, global climate change, water shortages, and many other environmental threats?

For the sake of our health, the sustainability of our imperiled planet, Jewish values, as well as for the animals, it is essential that we consider shifting toward plant-based diets.

Letter 4:

It is essential that the widespread publicity over the cruel abuse of animals at the kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa lead to much needed changes throughout the entire industry and a reevaluation of our dietary habits. The Orthodox Union (OU) is to be commended for its initial steps toward ending the abuses of animals revealed by videos at the Postville facility, but these horrors are part of a much wider pattern of animal abuse in today's meat industry. We can no longer ignore the suffering and abuse that many farmed animals experience for their entire lives on factory farms.

The current controversy must be a wake up call to end the many violations of Jewish teachings associated with the production and consumption of animal products. Since Judaism mandates that we preserve our health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people, and animal-based diets and agriculture have negative effects in all of these areas, Jews should seriously consider a shift toward plant-based diets.

Letter 5:

As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I can assure you that JVNA has consistently opposed efforts to single out shechita for criticism and that we have been very critical of some of PETA’s outrageous methods . While we believe that Jews and others should shift toward plant-based diets, JVNA believes that properly carried out ritual slaughter is a humane method of slaughter, which aims to minimize animal pain, and that Jews who continue to eat meat should eat kosher meat.

However, we, respectfully, believe that it is essential to indicate that the inhumane treatment of animals at the Postville slaughterhouse that has been shown on the videotape is not typical of shechita. It is critical to immediately change the slaughter procedure [some changes have already been made], based on the advice of halachic experts and animal welfare experts, such as the highly respected Dr. Temple Grandin. Otherwise, we fear the possible negative effects on Jews and Judaism if people associate conditions at that slaughterhouse with Jewish ritual slaughter.

What appears on these videos seems to show animals, unnecessarily and in contravention of Jewish tradition, being mistreated and made to suffer. I am concerned that those who know little of Judaism may come to believe that this is actually what Jewish observance requires and condones, and may thereby become hostile to Jews and Judaism.

We want the idealistic vision of the Torah to be admired and influential in the world, not associated with cruel and insensitive practices.

In this case PETA has consistently focused on the Postville plant and stated that they believe that shechita, when properly carried out, is a superior method.

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2. Counter-response to PETA's Campaign Coordinator by Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel of America

I thank Mr. Goldsmith for his response to my piece on the AgriProcessors controversy.

The issue of PETA’s core philosophy is not one that I will use this space to discuss further; ample material is available to anyone who wishes to explore in that direction. But I do feel it necessary to note that, contrary to what Mr. Goldsmith writes, PETA’s co-founder and president declared that “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” (Vogue magazine, 1989) not in the context of the sensation of pain but rather as a coda to her contention that "There is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights.” As she concluded, “They are all mammals.”

And so, with all due respect to Mr. Goldsmith's assurance that PETA “has never been duplicitous” and “never would exaggerate,” I must remain skeptical as well about PETA’s assertion of a 25% rate of consciousness after shechita at the plant during the period in question. The current rate seems to be something less than 1%.

Mr. Goldsmith asserts that AgriProcessors, like "criminals [who] sometimes act in accordance with the law,"” has simply changed its procedures. But the only relevant change instituted in the interim was something that, according to veterinary expert Dr. I. M. Levinger, who recently spent two days observing shechita at AgriProcessors, would have little or no impact on the rate of animals that remain conscious after shechita.

What Mr. Goldsmith characterizes as the "ripping" of animals'’ tracheas and esophagi was in fact the manipulation of those neck organs to facilitate a second cut to the carotid arteries – to better bleed the animals, and hence render them unconscious even more quickly. Such manipulation is not required by Jewish law, however, and it is that procedure that has now been discontinued (although a second cut to the carotids is till being done). If the current practices at the plant yield an acceptably miniscule post-shechita consciousness rate, as Dr. Levinger and a host of government and rabbinic officials have testified, there is no reason to believe that a dramatically higher consciousness rate was the product of a procedure designed to stimulate even more rapid bleeding.

The discrepancy between what Mr. Goldsmith claims is shown on PETA’s full videotape and the unanimous testimony regarding the current situation at AgriProcessors is striking. More striking still is the internal tension inherent in Mr. Goldsmith’s response to my article.

On the one hand, he seems to accept the testimony that the procedures currently in place at AgriProcessors are entirely humane, and that only a tiny percentage of animals – well within normal and acceptable bounds – display signs of post-shechita consciousness. But then he goes on to insist that AgriProcessors must make yet additional changes to their procedures.

If shechita as currently practiced is in fact, as Mr. Goldsmith concedes, humane, whence the necessity for further changes?

Mr. Goldsmith asserts that his group is “not asking much” of AgriProcessors or other kosher meat producers. And, at least to an innocent eye, what PETA is in fact demanding of all kosher meat processing facilities sounds innocuous: that such facilities be held to “the widely-accepted regulatory standards for religious slaughter developed by the Food Marketing Institute.”

Those standards, though – which, incidentally, go far beyond what the government has determined to be the requirements of humane slaughter, and were unilaterally compiled without any consultation with kashrut authorities – are not at all "widely accepted." On the contrary, they have been widely rejected, as they were adjudged by religious authorities many months ago to be incompatible with the ritual requirements of shechita. The incompatibility led fifteen Jewish kashrut experts and organizational heads, representing the full gamut of the glatt kosher meat producing and consuming community in the United States, to go on written record three-quarters of a year ago informing FMI that its standards "could improperly interfere with our religious ritual requirements." And requesting that the standards be modified accordingly.

Which leads to the crux of the issue, my original article's bottom line: Who will determine how shechita is done in the United States – rabbinic authorities or non-Jewish partisan groups? By petitioning U.S. governmental agencies to impose new rules on Jewish ritual (and despite the fact that no one is pointing to anything objectionable transpiring at AgriProcessors), by pressuring supermarket chains to stop doing business with kosher meat suppliers that are in full compliance with religious and federal law but do not follow the religiously objectionable and legally excessive standards unilaterally promulgated by the FMI, PETA has crossed a dangerous line. And that should alarm anyone committed to religious liberty.

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3. PETA's Response to Rabbi Shafran's Statement (Above)
By Ben Goldsmith of PETA

I appreciate Rabbi Shafran's thoughtful consideration of my response. As I said before, it is evident that we share similar concerns about animal welfare and adherence to Jewish law.

In light of this common cause, I hope Rabbi Shafran will agree that there need not be a dichotomy between the welfare standards proposed by humane organizations and those advocated by certain religious leaders. Surely the two are not mutually exclusive, and given our shared concern for the welfare of animals, I hope we can work together to ensure that kosher slaughterhouses live up to the requirements of Jewish law. Rabbi Shafran should not view PETA as a threat to rabbinic authority.

As I said before, I am glad that AgriProcessors has made a few small improvements; but without the proper guidelines for kosher slaughter in place, they could resume their shoddy killing practices after the current scandal fades from memory. This is why we are encouraging AgriProcessors and the OU to adopt a set of standards that will guarantee that kosher slaughter is humane without fail.

The changes that PETA has requested of AgriProcessors were recently summarized by their lawyer, Nathan Lewin, as follows: “Repair your unloading ramps. Restrict the use of electric prods. Ensure that no more than 5 percent of cows vocalize. Ensure that each chicken is held one at a time, by one person, for slaughter. Provide fresh, clean water for all animals at unloading. Ensure that all animals are calm at all stages of processing. Engage in self-audits on a regular basis.”

Reading their own lawyer's recitation of the changes that we are suggesting, I am left wondering why AgriProcessors or anyone else in the Jewish community would object to our recommendations. If AgriProcessors had made these simple, very reasonable improvements two years ago when we first approached them, they could have avoided the scandal and subsequent public scrutiny that they face today.

The Food Marketing Institute standards that we are asking AgriProcessors and the OU to adopt do indeed "go far beyond what the government has determined to be the requirements of humane slaughter." The scientists who developed the standards are very proud of this fact. Doing more for animal welfare than the bare minimum dictated by the government should be a goal to which kosher slaughterhouses continually aspire.

If there are issues with the FMI standards, the OU and other authorities should address those issues. As we read the standards, it's unclear to us what is at issue; the authors of the standards, also, have not heard from any OU or other authorities that there is any issue with the standards, other than the pen. That should be something to work on, rather than something that causes the standards to be discounted entirely. Since the OU prefers the pen, perhaps the OU could use its considerable influence to help change the preference of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel; since the Chief Rabbinate's stance appears to be based in humane considerations, this endeavor would seem likely to meet with success.

PETA has no interest in undermining rabbinic authority, and it is not our desire to "impose new rules on Jewish ritual." The issue here should be halacha, not an imagined power struggle. Our only objective is to assure that rabbinic authorities live up to the precepts of Jewish law that forbid causing unnecessary suffering to animals. We are pleased to be told that the OU shares our concern and will do all that it can, within Halachic parameters, to ensure the most humane slaughter possible. Our goal in this case is precisely that they do so, with unannounced audits of AgriProcessors, to ensure compliance at all times.

The fact remains that AgriProcessors was slaughtering animals horribly—that fully one-quarter of the animals showed unarguable signs of consciousness even after they had been mutilated (throats ripped out) and dumped onto the concrete, and that Mr. Rubashkin and his attorney, Mr. Lewin, continue to defend all practices; they continue to argue that these animals were not conscious, in complete denial of what is scientifically true. Extrapolated over the 2,500 to 3,000 cattle AgriProcessors slaughters each week, we're talking about 600 to 750 or so still conscious, every week, fully a minute after shechita. And that doesn't even address the mutilation, which no expert contacted by PETA or anyone else has ever indicated having seen. These overt violations of the Jewish commitment to kindness should be concerning to anyone who cares about Jewish values, as should be AgriProcessors continued defense of these horrors.

Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, the President of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement, stated that "the disturbing video that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals produced of incidents during shechita at the AgriProcessors' plant in Postville, Iowa should be regarded as a welcome, though unfortunate service to the Jewish community."” We hope that Rabbi Shafran will join the other religious leaders who recognize that they should do everything in their power to address this problem, and not become preoccupied with attacking the messenger.

Finally, I feel odd that we even have to continue to discuss the often-misquoted statement of Ingrid Newkirk, our President. It is a rare thing for someone to insist that he knows what an organization stands for better than its representatives. In fact, it is simply true that physiologically, in the capacity to feel pain, as well as in other biological needs, other animals are our equals. They were designed this way by G-d. That was the whole point, regardless of an attack article by Fred Barnes in Vogue Magazine, which is run by one of the most animal-unfriendly women in the history of publishing. That it was repeated incorrectly by others who are opposed to PETA’s mission only proves that we do upset the likes of Philip Morris by opposing their cruel experiments, KFC by opposing their breeding and drugging animals so that they can’t even walk, and other large corporations with the resources to misrepresent us.

But PETA actively recognizes the different moral standings of animals and humans. One of our primary differences lies in the human ability to show compassion in choosing the foods we eat. When given the choice between cruelty and kindness, we believe that humans should choose the latter; in calling on AgriProcessors to make improvements in its slaughterhouse, we are fulfilling our obligation to act kindly towards animals. This is very much in accordance with Jewish law.

I understand Rabbi Shafran's concerns, but I am also certain that our position on animal welfare closely matches that of the Jewish community—one does not have to choose between the two. Again, rabbinic authorities should not view this as a power struggle; instead, they should focus their energies on improving animal welfare. We all want to ensure that kosher slaughter is consistently quick and humane, in keeping with Jewish law, and PETA maintains that by adopting a uniform set of standards, Jewish leaders will be doing their part to guarantee that kosher slaughter will never again cause animals the horrible and wholly unnecessary suffering that was the norm at AgriProcessors for some years. I am confident that this is a goal we can all embrace.

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4. Los Angeles Times Article

Cattle Video Stirs Kosher Meat Debate
Tue Dec 28, 7:55 AM ET
Top Stories - Los Angeles Times
By Stephanie Simon Times Staff Writer

The beef is produced according to ancient Jewish law: A trained rabbi makes a swift cut across each animal's neck with a long, sharp knife. The blood drains quickly from the meat. Orthodox rabbis supervise the process and certify the beef as kosher.

But when an animal rights activist went undercover at one of the nation's top kosher slaughterhouses, he found practices that had raised deep concerns among some observant Jews.

The activist, from the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was assigned to the sausage line at Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville, Iowa. Whenever he could, however, he slipped over to the kill floor with a hidden camera. There, he filmed cattle struggling to stand minutes after they should have been dead. Some even staggered about after their throats had been slit and their windpipes ripped out.

The Orthodox Union, the largest kosher certification authority in the world, has declared that the procedures at Agriprocessors "meet all [our] standards to the highest degree." Meat from the plant — sold under the brand names Aaron's Best and Rubashkin — is certified not only as kosher, but as glatt kosher, which means it's deemed of the highest quality.

But kosher law is more than a procedural checklist. It's based on the ancient Jewish principle of tza'ar ba'alei hayyim — the need to minimize pain to all living beings. And that's where the video has caused unease.

The Torah lists specific rules for treating animals humanely. For instance, oxen must not be muzzled on the threshing floor because it would torment them to see grain they could not eat. Rabbinical scholars nearly 2,000 years ago introduced the general principle that Jews must make sure the animals they use for work and food do not suffer.

That principle is integral to kosher slaughter, which, experts say, can be virtually painless if done correctly.

After watching the video, which PETA posted online, some rabbis have concluded that the animals at Agriprocessors suffer unnecessarily — and have declared the meat unfit.

"The animals appear to be in agony," Rabbi Joel Rembaum recently wrote his congregation at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles. "The meat that comes from there is not kosher."

He was shocked, he wrote, by the sight of animals with gashed necks thrashing on a bloody floor for a minute or longer. He also rejected as unacceptably cruel the equipment the plant uses: a revolving metal drum that turns the cattle upside down, baring their necks for the cut, and then dumps them out seconds later on the concrete.

Rabbinical scholars within the Conservative movement declared the inverted pen unacceptable for kosher slaughter in a legal opinion issued in 2000. The Iowa plant is one of the few in the nation that still use it.

"Does the meat technically fulfill the requirements of kosher slaughter? Yes," said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, a leading philosopher in the Conservative Jewish movement. "But if by calling it 'not kosher' [you] mean that the meat should not be eaten, I agree with that. The way it's produced violates Jewish law."

Many Orthodox rabbis dispute that conclusion.

They point out that the inverted pen was designed to speed the draining of blood — an imperative in kosher slaughter. It's the method preferred by the chief rabbinate of Israel. And it is an ancient Jewish custom.

"This is the way we did it in the Holy Temple all those years. This is basically the exact way that God asked us to do it," said Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, who supervises kosher slaughterhouses for the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

"The PETA video wasn't pretty, that's for sure," Fishbane said. "But the meat was definitely kosher."

The debate comes against a backdrop of concern among some Jews about PETA's motives.

The group in the past has compared chickens to Holocaust victims, juxtaposing scenes of Nazi death camps with photos from factory farms. Jewish leaders also were appalled when PETA wrote the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) to complain that a donkey had been injured in a bombing attack in Jerusalem.

PETA coordinator Bruce Friedrich has made a point of praising kosher law for its emphasis on animal welfare. Nonetheless, some in the Jewish community view the undercover video as an anti-Semitic attack.

Nathan Lewin, an attorney for Agriprocessors, noted in a column in the Jewish Press that the Nazis launched their attacks on Jews in the 1930s with a campaign to discredit kosher slaughter as barbaric.

And Agriprocessors executive Heshy Rubashkin recently wrote customers urging them to join "with us in defending our religious practices against these extreme political attacks."

Customers like Leah Hoffmitz have followed the back-and-forth with some unease.

Hoffmitz, a graphic design professor from Los Angeles, said she always assumed that kosher slaughter meant humane slaughter. Hearing PETA's allegations "disturbed me," she said. But not enough to stop her from grilling Rubashkin steaks for dinner.

In the end, she said, she has to believe that the rabbinical authorities certifying the plant's meat as kosher are doing their jobs.

"As an observant Jew, I have to trust these people," she said. "Their job is to make sure the food I'm eating is proper."

Although Agriprocessors maintains that its animals do not suffer, it will — on the advice of the Orthodox Union — implement some new practices on the kill floor.

Workers no longer will rip out the animals' windpipes immediately after the neck is cut. Veteran slaughterhouse inspectors have described that practice as horrifically painful. Also, any cattle that survive the initial cut will be stunned to ensure they lose consciousness quickly. (Animals handled in this way will not be sold as kosher.)

Other changes also may be in the works. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (news - web sites) sent a team this month to investigate the plant — including the work of its own inspectors, who are supposed to monitor animal welfare as well as meat safety.

Meanwhile, two big Agriprocessors customers, supermarket chains Albertsons and Safeway, have asked the slaughterhouse to accept surprise inspections from independent animal welfare experts. And some Jewish leaders intend to push for a rethinking of kosher certification laws across the industry. Calling for rabbinical inspections on farms and ranches, they argue that "kosher" should mean an animal has been treated humanely while alive, not just at the moment of death.

"We really ought to check," Dorff said. "This is a very important issue."

To some loyal customers, any change is unnecessary.

Mike Engleman distributes a million pounds of Agriprocessors beef annually through Doheny Kosher Meat Market on Pico Boulevard. He visits the Postville plant twice a year and says he has always been impressed.

"They do a great job serving the Jewish community," Engleman said.

"The PETA people sent me a tape," he added. "I threw it in the garbage."

Times staff writer Patricia Ward Biederman in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2004 Los Angeles Times

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5. Washington Post Article

USDA Investigating Kosher Meat Plant
Advocacy Group's Grisly Video Sparked Outcry

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 31, 2004; Page A03

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has told federal meat inspectors that they should immediately shut down any slaughterhouse where they observe acts of cruelty similar to those surreptitiously videotaped by an animal rights group at a kosher meat plant in Iowa.

The videotape by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which shows a steer struggling to its feet and walking into a corner after its throat has been cut and its trachea and esophagus are dangling out, has caused a furor among Jewish organizations and rabbis around the world.

AgriProcessors Inc. sells meat to kosher markets and meat counters like this one in Evanston, Ill. The company's method of slaughtering is being questioned. (Peter Slevin -- The Washington Post)

Some are angry at PETA, accusing the animal rights group of reviving the Nazi libel that Jewish ritual slaughter involves torture of animals. But other Jewish groups have condemned the AgriProcessors Inc. plant in Postville, Iowa, saying it appears to have violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules for kosher butchering, which require a swift cut with a razor-sharp knife by a person trained to put down a large animal in seconds, with minimal suffering.

PETA says one of its members got a job at the Iowa plant and used a hidden camera to record five hours of operations on the "kill floor" over a seven-week period this summer. Based on its video footage, it filed a complaint with the USDA on Nov. 29 and has urged Iowa authorities to prosecute the plant's managers for animal cruelty.

Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman for PETA, said it advocates vegetarianism and is "not a fan of killing animals, period." But he said PETA acknowledges that "done correctly, kosher slaughter is no less humane, and probably is better, than the conventional method" in commercial slaughterhouses, which fire an air gun or metal bolt into the animal's brain.

"We're not objecting to kosher slaughter in general," Friedrich said. "We're objecting to the sloppy, unethical methods used at this particular plant, which many experts on slaughterhouse standards say is the worst cruelty they have ever seen."

Nathan Lewin, a Washington lawyer who represents AgriProcessors, said the plant is continuously monitored by USDA inspectors and kosher certifying organizations, none of which has found anything wrong. PETA's campaign, he said, "is really an attack on shechita," or kosher slaughter.

"I'm not suggesting this is part of an anti-Semitic wave. But I do I think it's an attempt to get rid of kosher slaughter, maybe as a first step to getting rid of all slaughter," Lewin said.

PETA's allegations have reverberated internationally because the Postville plant is the largest glatt kosher meat producer in the United States and the only one authorized by Israel's Orthodox rabbinate to export beef to Israel -- though, at present, Israel does not accept any U.S. beef because of concerns about mad cow disease. Glatt, the Yiddish word for smooth, is the highest standard of cleanliness.

Federal and state officials, noting the sensitivity of regulating religious rituals, have responded cautiously. The USDA sent four investigators to the Postville plant Dec. 2, two days after PETA made the videotape public. Their inquiry remains open and has neither exonerated the plant nor concluded that it broke federal laws on humane handling of livestock, USDA spokesman Matt Baun said.

The USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, however, sent a detailed advisory to federal meat inspectors on Dec. 22. The three-page document, obtained by The Washington Post, does not mention either PETA's videotape or the Postville plant by name. But it describes what inspectors should do in a scenario that corresponds closely to the situation shown on the tape.

"You are the Public Health Veterinarian" assigned to monitor a kosher slaughterhouse, the scenario begins. "Today the establishment is ritually slaughtering cattle." Seconds after the shochet, a rabbi trained as a kosher butcher, cuts a steer's throat, a plant employee steps forward to make a second cut and pull out the steer's trachea, or breathing tube, and its esophagus, or gullet.

AgriProcessors Inc. sells meat to kosher markets and meat counters like this one in Evanston, Ill. The company's method of slaughtering is being questioned. (Peter Slevin -- The Washington Post)

"The trachea and esophagus are dangling from the neck of the animal. . . . You are concerned as to whether the animal is sensible during this process," the scenario continues. "But before you can call the District [supervisor] or adequately examine the animal . . . the steer begins to right itself, and then stands, and starts to stumble around in the bleeding area, flopping its head on adjacent equipment."

In such a situation, the document says, the federal inspector should immediately notify the slaughterhouse that it has a "conscious" animal "at a point in the process where it should be unconscious." After waiting to verify that the animal has been put out of its misery, it says, the inspector should place a "U.S. Reject" tag on the device that restrains the cattle during slaughter and "inform the plant that the slaughter operation is suspended."

"You take these actions because the plant personnel performed a dressing procedure on a conscious animal, and because they failed to react appropriately to address a suffering, conscious animal. In addition, you inform establishment management that they will be receiving an NR [Non-compliance Record] for this egregious violation," it says.

Gary A. Dahl of Aurora, Colo., who has been a USDA slaughterhouse inspector for 21 years and heads a federal inspectors union, said he had no doubt, given the timing and the details of the USDA's instructional scenario, that it was a reaction to the PETA videotape.

Dahl said he could speak only for himself and the inspectors union, not on behalf of the USDA. But he said he considered the scenario a "very, very strong" response that "gives us a guideline and a tool to help us stand up to the pressure we would get from plant management" if an inspector were to shut down a kosher slaughterhouse under such circumstances.

One Orthodox Jewish group, Agudath Israel of America, has called PETA's campaign a "vicious and unethical attack" on Judaism, which "introduced human society to the concept of humane treatment of animals." Noting that Nazi propaganda included photographs of allegedly cruel kosher slaughter, it said, "PETA now follows in that vile course."

The Orthodox Union, the largest association of Orthodox synagogues in the United States and a major certifier of kosher foods, also has defended the plant. But it has refrained from attacking PETA, and its executive vice president, Rabbi Tzvi H. Weinreb, said in an interview that he found the videotape "disturbing."

The images of cattle attempting to rise to their feet after slaughter "certainly appear to be cruel or inhumane," he said. As a result, Weinreb said, the plant has made two changes.

"We asked that they discontinue this practice of excising the trachea and esophagus immediately after the [ritual cut], and they agreed to that. They also agreed to stun or shoot animals which show the kind of motor coordination that's indicative of consciousness," he said. "So both kinds of images that were portrayed on the video are no longer happening."

Israeli newspapers have followed the controversy closely, with Saul Singer, the editorial page editor of the Jerusalem Post, writing that he has decided to avoid beef until he is assured that kosher slaughter is being performed "according to the full letter and spirit of Jewish law."

The Rabbinical Assembly, an association of Conservative rabbis, said the PETA video "should be regarded as a welcome, though unfortunate, service to the Jewish community." When a company "purporting to be kosher violates the prohibition against . . . causing pain to one of God's living creatures, that company must answer to the Jewish community, and ultimately, to God," the assembly said.

The Postville plant was opened in 1987 by Aaron Rubashkin, a Lubavitcher Hasidic butcher from Brooklyn. It is now run by his son, Sholom Rubashkin, who declined through a spokesman to be interviewed.

The spokesman, Mike Thomas, said the phenomenon of cattle moving their heads or struggling to their feet after their throats have been cut is rare but not unknown at AgriProcessors and other kosher facilities. "Biologically, if the cut was done correctly, that shouldn't have happened. It must have been an incomplete cut or a faulty cut," he said. "The only thing we can say is, human error does happen."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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6. PETA calls on Allamakee County Attorney to prosecute AgriProcessors


Send e-mails at

After a statement by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge indicated that Postville-based slaughterhouse AgriProcessors, Inc., is subject to the local cruelty-to-animals statute, PETA formally called for charges against the company at a news conference Tuesday, Dec. 28, outside the Allamakee County Courthouse.

In a formal complaint that was delivered immediately before the news conference, PETA explained the legal case against Postville-based AgriProcessors and called on county attorney William Shafer to institute legal proceedings against the company - which packages meats under the Iowa's Best Beef, Rubashkin's, and Aaron's Best labels. After delivering the complaint, PETA presented and discussed video footage that supports the group's call for local prosecution.

A PETA undercover investigator videotaped workers at the plant ripping the tracheas and esophagi out of the throats of fully conscious cows and slaughtering them in such an inadequate manner that many were still attempting to stand as long as three minutes after their throats had been cut open.

PETA's request is in response to comments made by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, who told the Globe Gazette that she found the footage "disturbing." She stated that if she had the jurisdiction, she would shut the plant down and launch an investigation but that charges of cruelty to animals would have to be brought by local law enforcement. While PETA disputes that the secretary is unable to enforce state law on state grounds when violations are brought to her attention, the organization is heeding her suggestion by simultaneously working to reverse her decision and calling for local prosecution under the state's cruelty-to-animals statute.

"The Iowa secretary of agriculture has understandably expressed her revulsion at what AgriProcessors was doing to animals," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "What AgriProcessors was doing behind closed doors is the ultimate violation of 'Iowa nice,' and we are calling on Mr. Shafer to take swift and decisive action against the company, its owner, and the kosher certification agencies that allowed state law to be so flagrantly violated."

©Waukon Standard 2004 Copyright © 1995 - 2004 PowerOne Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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7. Article by OU Kashrut Expert, Rabbi Menachem Genack

Setting The Record Straight On Kosher Slaughter
Posted 12/29/2004

Many people expressed concern about the standards for humane treatment of animals at a kosher slaughterhouse after viewing a well-publicized video of kosher slaughter at the AgriProcessors plant in Iowa, which was released by the animal rights organization PETA.

Any slaughterhouse, whether kosher or non-kosher, is by definition a disconcerting, blood-filled and gruesome place. Torah law, however, is most insistent about not inflicting needless pain on animals and in emphasizing humane treatment of all living creatures.

Kosher slaughter, shechita, involves cutting the trachea and esophagus with a sharp, flawless knife. At the same time, the carotid arteries, which are the primary supplier of blood to the brain, are severed. The profound loss of blood and the massive drop in blood pressure render the animal insensate almost immediately. Studies done by Dr. H. H. Dukes at the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine indicate that the animal is unconscious within seconds of the incision.

After the shechita at AgriProcessors, an additional cut is made in the carotid arteries to further accelerate the bleeding. This is not done for kashrut reasons -- for after the trachea and esophagus have been severed the shechita is complete -- but rather for commercial reasons, to avoid blood splash, which turns the meat a darker color. The carotid arteries are attached to the trachea and at AgriProcessors the trachea was excised to facilitate the bleeding.
In the overwhelming number of cases the animal is insensate at that time. However and inevitably, particularly when it is considered that 18,000 cattle were slaughtered during the seven-week period when the video was shot, there was a tiny percentage of animals whose carotid arteries were not completely severed so they were not completely unconscious. Although this is very infrequent, the removal of the trachea immediately after the shechita has now been discontinued.

It should be kept in mind that in a non-kosher plant, when the animal is killed by a shot with a captive bolt to the brain, it often has to be re-shot, sometimes up to six times, before the animal collapses. The USDA permits up to a five percent initial failure rate.

At AgriProcessors and at other plants it supervises, the Orthodox Union is committed to maintaining the highest ritual standards of shechita without compromising halacha one bit. The OU continues to vouch for the kashrut, which was never compromised, of all the meat prepared by AgriProcessors.

As I indicated previously, images of slaughter ¡ª especially selected images in an abbatoir ¡ª are jarring, particularly to the layman. Statements by PETA that animals were bellowing in pain after the shechita are an anatomical impossibility. After the animal`s throat and larynx have been cut, it cannot vocalize.

PETA is well known for the passion it brings to the issue of animal rights, but it is an organization devoid of objectivity. PETA`s comparison of the killing of chickens to the Holocaust is, at a minimum, morally obtuse. So to whom should we turn for an objective view about the situation at AgriProcessors and about kosher slaughter in general? Here are the opinions of some experts:

1. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge inspected the plant. She found the handling of the animals to be humane and commendable. She said, after viewing the shechita, that the animals were unconscious within two to three seconds. She also said that chickens were handled more carefully by the rabbis than by her own "grandmother on the farm."

2. AgriProcessors is under constant USDA inspection. Dr. Henry Lawson, the USDA veterinarian at the plant, told me he considers the treatment of the cattle at AgriProcessors to be humane and that the shechita renders them unconscious within a matter of seconds. He determines this by certain physiological criteria related to the eyes, tongue and tail of the animal.

3. Earlier this week, Rabbi Dr. I.M. Levinger, a veterinarian and one of the world`s foremost experts on animal welfare and kosher slaughter, called the shechita practices at AgriProcessors "professional and efficient," emphasizing the humane manner in which the shechita was handled. Dr. Levinger was also highly impressed with the caliber of the ritual slaughterers. He issued his evaluation following a thorough two-day on-site review of shechita practices and animal treatment at the plant. He viewed the kosher slaughter of nearly 150 animals.

4. AgriProcessors has hired an animal welfare and handling specialist to evaluate the plant processes. The specialist was recommended by both Dr. Temple Grandin, a foremost expert in animal welfare, and also by the National Meat Association. In reviewing the shechita process last week, the specialist made the following observations:

* The shechita process was performed swiftly and correctly;
* The shechita cut resulted in a rapid bleed; and
* All animals that exited the box were clearly unconscious.

The OU and AgriProcessors are committed to the Torah principles of humane treatment of animals. At the OU we constantly review our procedures, evaluate them, and if necessary, improve or correct them. We don`t want ever to be wedded to a mistaken procedure. AgriProcessors has been completely cooperative in working with the OU and shares our philosophy.

As Torah Jews, we are imbued with the teachings which require animals to be rested along with people on the Sabbath and fed before the people who own them, and that the mother bird must be sent away before her young are taken to save her grief. These and similar statutes make it clear that inhumane treatment of animals is not the Jewish way.

Kosher slaughter, by principle, and as performed today in the United States, is humane. Indeed, as PETA itself has acknowledged, shechita is more humane than the common non-kosher form of shooting the animal in the head with a captive bolt, for reasons noted above. The Humane Slaughter Act, passed into law after objective research by the United States government, declares shechita to be humane. For Torah observant Jews, it cannot be any other way. ?
Rabbi Menachem Genack is rabbinic administrator of the Orthodox Union`s Kosher Division.

© Copyright 2001, The Jewish Press Inc. (ISSN 0021-6674) > Our Privacy Pledge

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8. More Jerusalem Post Letters

Morally kosher

Sir, - In "Cutting-edge kashrut" (UpFront, December 17) Saul Singer points out the absurdity of following the letter of ritual law while ignoring morality, as the Orthodox Union has done in response to the abuses exposed at the AgriProcessors slaughter plant.

It is eye-opening for anyone who believes that kosher meat is necessarily humane meat.

NOAM MOHR [JVNA Coordinator]
Forest Hills

Sir, - A member of my family who worked in the US meat industry once told me: "If you visited a kosher slaughterhouse, you would never eat meat again."



Sir, - I was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in Brooklyn. My grandfather, a kosher butcher, loved animals and gave free meat to poor people.

He assured me that the holy books promote respect for animals. He said cows were free to graze in the fields and chickens to spread their wings on Shabbat, which we now know doesn't happen in factory farms.

He told me that animals were slaughtered by the swiftest cut from the sharpest blade to cause the quickest death and minimize their pain and distress.

PETA's AgriProcessors footage sickened me. I became a vegetarian after seeing Victor Schonfeld's masterpiece The Animals. I consider vegetarianism the ultimate form of kashrut.

Temple Grandin, in "Kosher slaughter done right" (UpFront, December 17), described the form of shehita my grandfather told me about.

RINA DEYCH [JVNA Newsletter reader]

New York
Sir, - I applaud Saul Singer's decision to restrict his diet. A vegetarian for 35 years, I recently took a similar step.

Last spring I attended a lecture on the socioeconomic reasons for vegetarianism, together with a presentation by an animal rights group. It showed films about how animals and chickens in Israel are treated pointing out, among other things, that the terms "organic" and "free-range" are misleading.

After seeing cattle being branded and de-horned without anesthetic and chickens eing de-beaked and even tossed living into garbage bags – not to mention the horrid conditions in which these creatures live – I decided I could no longer regard dairy products and eggs as kosher and adopted a vegan diet.

Living so far removed from the sources of our food we have to accept packaged products bearing someone else's stamp of approval. And yet see where that can lead.

The whole question of kashrut has indeed become "both suspect and absurd."



Sir, - I've been wrestling with the morality of kosher slaughter since hearing about the AgriProcessors video. It's obvious to me that modern shehita is not as humane as we've been told.

Maybe it's because of the assembly-line atmosphere that prevails in modern slaughterhouses, or because portions of the Orthodox world seem to have moved in the direction of stringency in matters of ritual while downplaying Halacha's moral element.

Whatever the reason, it's made me reexamine my eating habits. I've stopped eating beef, and toyed with the idea of stopping eating kosher.


Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island

Saul Singer [Jerusalem Post Editorial Page Editor] responds:

Don't stop being kosher, that's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I still believe that kashrut in general either is – or potentially is - a beacon of morality. I want kashrut to meet that potential, not abandon it.

To Yehuda Miklaf: I have to clarify that I am not a vegetarian and don't believe that kashrut is in principle "suspect and absurd." I do believe that the many Jewish laws designed to reduce animal suffering, including the laws of shehita, should be interpreted to prohibit abusing the animal in the shehita process.

I see kashrut as so important to Judaism that I would rather be kosher than vegetarian - even though a vegetarian diet is also kosher and it is arguably morally superior to abstain from meat altogether.

I feel this way partly because I support the Jewish distinction between human and animal life. I don't agree with PETA and others that the life of a person is equal to the life of an animal.

It wouldn't do

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9. Statement From JVNA Advisor John Diamond

As a member of the Advisory Committee for the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I want to comment on some points in Rabbi Gennack's latest statement on 12-29-04.

In this statement, he says:

"As Torah Jews, we are imbued with the teachings which require animals to be rested along with people on the Sabbath and fed before the people who own them, and that the mother bird must be sent away before her young are taken to save her grief. These and similar statutes make it clear that inhumane treatment of animals is not the Jewish way."

Unfortunately, animals raised for kosher slaughter on modern-day factory-farms are subjected to treatment which violates the Torah Law of "tsa'ar ba'alei chayyim," certainly not in accordance with the "Jewish way," as he mentions.

I would very respectfully like to challenge Rabbi Gennack and other rabbis in the kosher certification industry, in addition to making the ongoing improvements in the AgriProcessors plant, to begin a serious effort to see that only animals from organic humane-certified farms be accepted for kosher slaughter in all OU, KAJ, etc. approved slaughterhouses. For meat eating Jews and others, this would permit them to eat cruelty-free meat which would be far more healthier for them and as well as the earth's environment.

Posted by: John K. Diamond December 29, 2004 06:51 PM at

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** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

December 28, 2004

12/28/04 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. Responding to the Great Loss of Life and Suffering in Asia

2. What do the CIA, the Pentagon and the UN Have in Common?

3. Interested in Getting on a TV Reality Show?

4. Getting Healthier Foods Into Hospitals

5. Helping Achieve More Compassionate Treatment of Farm Animals

6. Example of Our Influence/From an Author

7. All VEGAN Grocery Store goes ONLINE!

8. Global Climate Changes, Other Environmental Threats, and the Bush Administration

9. Do Torah Teachings Justify Animal Exploitation?

10. Vegetarian Thoughts From a JVNA Newsletter Reader

11. A New Feature at the JVNA Web Site

12. ACTION ALERT: Tell Massachusetts to Ban Foie Gras!

* Some Quotations To Think About

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, information re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsements by JVNA, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Responding to the Great Loss of Life and Suffering in Asia

Message from Yosef Hakohen, JVNA advisor and coordinator of “ Hazon - Our Universal Vision.” It is followed by a message from the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) on the tragedy and how one can contribute to help alleviate it.

Given the news of the great loss of life and suffering in Asia, we share with you the following teaching of Rebbeinu Yonah, a noted 13th century Torah sage, where he discusses our universal yearning for "shalom" - peace, harmony, and wholeness:

"A human being should pray for the shalom of the entire world and feel the suffering of others. And this is the way of the tzadikim - righteous ones...For a human being should not make supplications and requests just for his own needs; rather, one should pray that all human beings should thrive in shalom." (These words are from his commentary to Pirkei Avos 3:2, which teaches that we should pray for the true shalom of all governments, so that anarchy, violence, and chaos not prevail)

In this spirit, we pray for the arrival of the messianic era when the roaring of the sea will be a sign of life and not death; moreover, in this new era of spiritual enlightenment, the sovereigns of the nations will finally accept the sovereignty of Hashem - the Compassionate One - Who created all life, and all creation will therefore rejoice, as it is written:

"Tell it among the nations: When Hashem reigns, the world will not falter; He will judge the peoples with fairness. The heavens will be glad and the earth will rejoice; the sea and its fullness will roar. The field and everything in it will exult; then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy - before Hashem, for He will have arrived, He will have arrived to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness and peoples with His truth." (Psalm 96:10-13).

Hazon - Our Universal Vision:

AJWS reports:

American Jewish World Service is sending humanitarian aid to the people affected by the tsunami.

For several years, AJWS has partnered with 24 non-governmental,
community-based organizations in the region on sustainable community development projects.

[Arthur Waskow, author and director of the Shalom center adds : Because it is the only Jewish organization deliberately set up to assist non-Jewish communities to develop themselves, it is the only one with these kinds of grass-roots connections and experience in South Asia.]

AJWS is working with these local groups to assess needs and provide emergency relief - food, water, shelter and medicine -- and long-term development support.

Donations for this relief effort are being sought and can be made by mail, phone or Web site: American Jewish World Service, Asia Tsunami Relief, 45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10018, 800-889-7146 or make a secure, online donation now.

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2. What do the CIA, the Pentagon and the UN Have in Common?

[This is included because, like other articles in recent JVNA newsletters, it illustrates broad issues that are often not adequately considered by society and its leaders. Some of the issues discussed in the article, like poverty, disease and climate change, have strong connections to animal-based diets and modern intensive “livestock” agriculture.]

What do the CIA, the Pentagon and the UN have in common?

by Katrina vanden Heuvel
12/21/2004 @ 5:33pm

They share a prescient view of the world's greatest dangers and their unheralded agreement on key issues facing the planet has received far too little attention in the media.

Since 2000, all three institutions have produced a number of valuable reports arguing that so-called soft issues like poverty, disease and climate change are endangering global stability and the future of the United States.

This rising consensus should compel US policy-makers to concede a most basic point--we need a global development agenda. It isn't a soft-headed, idealistic thing either. Unless we confront issues like poverty and gender inequality, the world will become more destabilized,
increasingly violent and less secure.

In December 2000, the CIA's Global Trends 2015 report warned of instability brought on by a shortage of drinking water--"the single most contested resource on the planet," as described the CIA's findings. The report also warned that nation-states would soon disintegrate, "non-state actors" like Osama bin Laden would emerge as greater threats, that populations would increase by one billion people by 2015, and that HIV/AIDS would represent a major security issue in sub- Saharan Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Republics.
(Another CIA report issued that same year, "Global Infectious Disease Threat," estimated that by 2020 over half of all deaths from infectious disease in the developing world will be caused by AIDS, imperiling government stability, food production, health services, and even nuclear/weapons security in places.)

Some cities in the Arab world would become "impossibly overpopulated hubs of discontent, dramatically under- serviced by such basic infrastructure as drinking water and sewage," as described the CIA's Global Trends 2015 report's conclusions. "Their population is likely to be young, hungry, sick, disillusioned and very, very angry."

The CIA's report argued that we should increase foreign aid and investment, along the lines of the Marshall Plan, to close a growing divide between rich and poor, which would, in turn, reduce threats to the United States.

The CIA's findings, which remarkably dovetail with the United Nation's Millenium Development Goals, ought to be heard as a rousing call to fund the UN's development agenda--the only truly global Marshall Plan of our time. The UN's Millenium agenda--adopted in 2000--includes reducing by half those suffering from hunger; reducing child mortality for children under five by two-thirds; cutting in half the number of those without access to safe drinking water and establishing universal primary education and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases by 2015.

The statistics don't lie: UNICEF reports that one billion children are living in poverty (or every second child); more than 121 million primary school age children are out of school--the majority of them are girls; and that 10.6 million children died in 2003 before they were five of largely preventable deaths.

The global community knows how to deal with these catastrophes. By spending $150 billion dollars worldwide each year, the UN could actually meet its Millennium Goals over the next decade. (UNICEF puts the figure somewhere between $40 and $70 billion--either way, it's a paltry sum in contrast to the $956 billion spent annually worldwide on military items.)

Indeed, while the CIA and the UN may diverge on rationale and policy implications, the underlying issues in the decade ahead give credibility to the much-derided "soft" side of the global agenda. Supported by Gordon Brown, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, the UN Global Millennium Agenda offers an agenda that do-gooders as well as economists, national security strategists and CIA agents can (and should) love.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Pentagon tasked two futurologists with assessing long-term threats to the United States--their report , "Imagining the Unthinkable," focused on "worst-case" scenarios and actually cited climate change as a major long-term threat to US national security.

The report's co-author, Peter Schwartz, told NPR's Living on Earth that the "most extreme case would be a scenario of fairly rapid warming in the near future—the next, say, decade or so--that would in turn trigger rapid cooling. "Ultimately, we'd see 'warming' [in] Europe, parts of the northeastern United States and Canada. You'd see severe storms--more torrential rainfall--very short winters, a shift in the location of tornadoes--and 'mega-droughts.'" Conflicts over water and fishing rights would emerge, and refugees would flock to the US in greater numbers.

An even more recent report issued last fall—and authored by the Defense Science Board Task Force, an organization that advises the Secretary of Defense-- raised crucial issues. The report, virtually ignored by the mainstream media, found that: "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies" and "American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists..." The study also concluded that US public diplomacy faces "a fundamental problem of credibility" and that US support for authoritarian regimes in the region has undermined the so-called war on terror by turning ordinary Muslims against the West.

Back in Dec. 2000, John Gannon--Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and one of the authors of the CIA Global Trends 2015 report--urged America to deal with countries that "feel they're being left behind"—thereby confronting the downside of globalization. Yet, four years have passed, and America's political leadership is doing quite the opposite: neglecting the global South and attacking the UN as outdated and useless.

While our mangled Iraq war policy is sowing hatred for America in the Middle East, American policy-makers have failed to heed the rising global consensus that poverty, climate change and the global HIV/AIDS pandemic demand intelligent and collective response and funding.

How many more reports (and threats) must appear before attacking the world's most glaring problems becomes priority number one?

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3. Interested in Getting on a TV Reality Show?

Forwarded message:

Looking for animal rights families/families who are anti-fur

My name is Melissa Mills. I work in casting at "Trading Spouses," a family-themed reality show that airs on Fox, Monday nights at 8PM. The purpose of our show is to compare and contrast various families across the country while highlighting their unique interests and cultures! For example, we've had everyone from hunters to vegans, alligator wranglers to family bands, tattoo artists to political activists appear on our show.

Currently, we are casting for new episodes and would like to meet families who are in favor of animal rights. We love interesting families who could show the world a little bit about what makes them so special! This is a terrific opportunity for any family who is energetic and who
wants to Learn about another way of life. In addition, every family who has appeared on the show has been compensated $50,000! This could be a chance for an animal rights family who wants their voice heard to have an audience of millions of people.

All families who want to be on our show must have the following: at least one child between the ages of 6 & 18, a crime-free background, US citizenship, and an ability to speak English. Also, the spouses must be legally married. Please have a look on our web site: for more details.

If you know of anyone who might fit this description, please contact
me as soon as possible.

Melissa Mills
Casting Assistant/Trading Spouses
Rocket Science Laboratories

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4. Getting Healthier Foods Into Hospitals

Head of Cleveland Clinic Is Attacking Big Mac
And in Hospital Lobby, McDonald's Fights Back

By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 15, 2004; Page A01

CLEVELAND -- The Pizza Hut is shuttered, its neon sign collecting dust on the floor. But knocking down the Golden Arches has proved far more difficult for Toby Cosgrove, the new head of the Cleveland Clinic.

A heart surgeon who has cleaned out a career's worth of clogged arteries, Cosgrove didn't think Big Macs, supersize fries and inch-thick, six-cheese pizzas belonged in the lobby of a hospital renowned for its cardiac care. So he decreed the fast-food joints had to go.

Pizza Hut went quietly. But McDonald's, halfway through a 20-year lease, has refused to shut down a franchise that serves 12,000 doctors, nurses, janitors, secretaries, patients and visitors each week.

"Our menu is something we're all proud of," said Marty Ranft, a McDonald's vice president. "We've got a great relationship with the Cleveland Clinic. We are not interested in closing" the restaurant.

In the struggle against obesity, Americans are losing. And among the favorite targets for blame are fast-food chains such as McDonald's. Studies show that consuming large portions of high-fat, salty, sugar-laden foods has helped create a nation in which 64 percent of people are overweight or obese. They often land here at the Cleveland Clinic seeking treatment for diabetes, strokes, heart failure and crippling joint pain.

"We have to set an example with the food we serve our patients and employees," said Cosgrove, a trim 63-year-old. "In a way, McDonald's was symbolic as much as anything else. It is not associated with heart-healthy food; neither is Pizza Hut."

But Cosgrove's crusade has been met with resistance from not just McDonald's executives, who say they are being singled out for a problem that goes beyond the occasional Happy Meal, but also from staff and visitors who resent what they consider to be a paternalistic attitude from bosses who can afford pricier, more healthful food.

"What they have in the cafeteria is not a lot better, and it's certainly not affordable," said Donna Wilkison, a post-operative nurse waiting in line for her McDonald's salad with chicken. The cafeteria salad bar, priced at $4.64 a pound, "gets very expensive. They need to bring in something else that's more affordable."

On its sprawling urban campus, the clinic has a Subway sandwich shop, Au Bon Pain and Starbucks. Adjacent to the McDonald's is a cafeteria that features a large salad bar, a grill, a deli and hot entrees. The choices range include fresh fruit and homemade mashed potatoes. At Subway, salads begin at $3.99 and subs are about $5. McDonald's salads cost $4.10.

Nutritionists such as Montefiore Medical Center's Miriam Pappo said the Cleveland Clinic battle is akin to fights being waged in America's schools -- and a handful of other hospitals -- over candy, soda and fast-food sales.

She said it was "appropriate" for clinic officials to act as role models, yet Pappo sympathized with McDonald's' argument that no one forces people to eat there. "In a way, they are a scapegoat," Pappo said. "But in other ways, they are contributing for sure."

Of its 13,000 U.S. locations, about 30 McDonald's outlets are in hospitals, including children's hospitals in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The New York City Health and Hospital Corp. does not intend to renew the McDonald's contract at its Elmhurst hospital and has not decided whether to keep the one in the Jacoby Medical Center in the Bronx, spokeswoman Kathleen McGrath said. The Harlem hospital closed its McDonald's earlier this year.

The Cleveland debate began two years ago when one of the clinic's most talented, most outspoken heart surgeons rose at a staff retreat to question how in good conscience they could tempt their patients with such unhealthful products.

"I can't tell you how many patients found this repulsive," said cardiology chairman Eric Topol. "How can the Cleveland Clinic, which prides itself on promoting health, have the audacity to have a McDonald's in the main lobby?"

Some days, the scent of cooking grease wafts up the one flight to Topol's domain, a heart center that has been ranked first in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for 10 straight years. He has heard all the wisecracks and not-so-amused comments about serving up a side of fries with that angioplasty.

"If this was a strip mall or a food court in a public place, that would be a different matter," he said in an interview. "We're supposed to be the icons for promoting good health."

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy as the left-leaning Center for Science in the Public Interest, said McDonald's few salads, fish sandwiches and fruit drinks do not make up for its overwhelming emphasis on fried foods.

"They announced with a lot of fanfare they were going to change the frying oil, and they never followed through," Wootan said. "There's twice as much heart-damaging fat in the french fries and nuggets and apple pies in the lard they use."

McDonald's executives accuse Topol, Cosgrove and Wootan of opportunism and demagoguery, targeting an easy villain rather than the individuals doing the eating.

"If Dr. Cosgrove wants to say McDonald's is inconsistent" with the health goals of the hospital, "he needs to take a look at the vending machines with candy bars and salty snacks, the cafeteria with deep-fried chicken, baked pies and slabs of ribs," said William Whitman, director of U.S. media relations for McDonald's.

McDonald's nutritionists point to numerous high-calorie, high-fat foods in the clinic cafeteria. But their comparison of "typical meals" tallies a cafeteria breakfast of orange juice, three scrambled eggs, two pork sausage patties, two hash browns and two slices of toast against the steak, single egg and cheese on a bagel with hash browns from McDonald's.

As the burger battle has escalated, McDonald's public relations gurus have rolled out legal, political and economic arguments. They defend their food as healthful. But they also have suggested that Cosgrove is racist for targeting Turan Strange, the African American small businessman who owns the franchise, raised the specter of unemployment for its 40 low-wage workers and said that closing down will hurt Ohio beef producers.

Phillip Wilkins, a representative of the National Black McDonald's Operators Association, warned Cosgrove: "We vigorously support one another and will not hesitate to do so with every resource available to us."

In the meantime, business is brisk at the Cleveland Clinic McDonald's, one of four owned by Strange.

"I try to eat healthy, but for lunch I want something that's cheap," said Tanya Sutton, who works 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in patient food service. "At 11 a.m. they're still serving breakfast in the cafeteria, but that's my lunch break." She eats at the McDonald's a few times a week.

Nudged by his wife, engineering supervisor John Moorer walks through the cafeteria salad bar, loading his plate with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs, cucumbers, cheese cubes and diced ham, which he knows is not good for his high blood pressure. But he has also opted for McDonald's or Pizza Hut: "I can't eat salad all the time. It's rabbit food."

Near retirement age, Moorer doesn't want his boss telling him what to eat. "If it's killing me, then that's my choice," he said.

McDonald's officials said they want to work with the clinic to develop more healthful menu options. But Cosgrove did not sound interested. He suggested a financial settlement is in the offing.

His next target: tobacco. He wants the Cleveland Clinic smoke-free by Independence Day.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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5. Helping Achieve More Compassionate Treatment of Farm Animals

Whole Foods Market Establishes Foundation to Help Achieve More Compassionate Treatment of Farm Animals

As Company Celebrates 25th Year, It Will Donate Five Percent of Total Global Sales Tuesday, January 25 to Launch Animal Compassion Foundation

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Whole Foods Market(R) (Nasdaq: WFMI), the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket founded in 1980, invites shoppers to visit its 166 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom on Tuesday, January 25 as five percent of total company sales will be allocated to create the Animal Compassion Foundation. As an independent, non-profit organization with its own board of directors, the Foundation will provide education and research services to assist and inspire ranchers and meat producers around the world to achieve a higher standard of animal welfare excellence while still maintaining economic viability.

full story:

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6. Example of Our Influence/From an Author

Forwarded message:

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your thoughtfulness in sending Pamela's brochure to me. She has agreed to allow me to use up to ten of her 101 reasons for being a vegetarian.

You have made an amazing contribution in your work that is deserving of discovery by all who can benefit by it (which I think is everybody). I love your work. It goes deeper than so many of the writings on this subject, and is very enlightening. Taken in context with many Christian writings on the subject, it adds breadth and depth that is extremely beneficial. Given that there are over 200 million Christians in the United States, in addition to those of the Jewish faith, there are many who should find an interest in your work.

What do you feel is the best and most appropriate way to give proper credit to you and to Pamela for the portions of your work that is included in the book. I would like to lead others to your work so that they may benefit by it, as have I. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter. Also, because of time constraints, I am limiting the chapter in my book, regarding the spiritual writings on diet to a narrower focus for now.

Rather than discussing each of the major world religions, I am focusing on Judaism and Christianity (parent and child), and will only lightly touch on the teachings of other world religions concerning vegetarianism and diet.

I hope to expand this work in future editions. However, it may be deserving of an entire book by itself. I've have completed over half the work I've wanted to accomplish on this topic, but it will require significantly more time than I can devote presently to complete it. Thus far I've researched and written on Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, Bahaii, and Islam, but have covered too broad of area in too little time and am not comfortable with presenting the information now.

It deserves far more attention. It has been beneficial to me personally, and I would like to find a way to share this benefit with others.

For my immediate purposes, the article you have written entitled, "A Vegetarian View of the Torah," is ideal for introducing Jewish thoughts on vegetarian and animal-based diets, and I would like your permission to use it in its entirety, without edits. It is the perfect beginning to this chapter, after my initial introduction.

With that permission, I would like to send this chapter to you for your review, to make sure you are completely comfortable with the context in which it will be represented.

Jim Simmons

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7. All VEGAN Grocery Store goes ONLINE!

Forwarded message:

My favorite store, Food Fight! Vegan Grocery, which (unfortunately) is on the other coast in Portland, OR, just launched an online store so that NY/NJ can get a chance to shop its shelves.

Shipping is quick. The customer service is award-worthy.

Goods include: Cheeses, fake meats, candy, jello, (many types of) jerky, dips, sauces, marshmallows, books, condoms, etc. Typical convenience store fare, but it's all VEGAN. What they also seem to do very well is keep their shelves stocked with items that go beyond the convenience store such as vegan haggis and vegan caviar.

After I visited the store in September I tried to track down some of the items here in Brooklyn, but was unsuccessful. Food Fight! online is a welcome resource for this vegan.

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8. Global Climate Changes, Other Environmental Threats, and the Bush Administration

Forwarded message:

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

The Bush administration's irresponsible environmental policies have reached disturbing new lows. Just weeks after taking office, President Bush announced the United States would not participate in international efforts to control global warming through the Kyoto protocol. At the time, Bush insisted he was still "committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change." Four years later, the Bush administration is the leading obstacle to progress. At a U.N. conference in Buenos Aires that ended Saturday, Bush's surrogates opposed efforts by other nations to hold a series of discussions about what to do to combat global warming when Kyoto expires in 2012. The Bush administration officials insisted that "it was too early to take even that step" and, if any meetings were held, "there shall be no written or oral report." The U.S. insisted that talks be limited to a single seminar where participants will not be allowed to discuss future cuts in greenhouse gasses. As a result, the future of international efforts to prevent catastrophic global warming is hanging by its "fingernails."


A big topic at the Buenos Aires conference was "adaptation assistance" -- providing resources "to poor, low-lying island countries to help them cope with the impacts of climate change." Such aid would benefit tiny Pacific Ocean nations like Tuvalu, Kiribati and Micronesia. But Saudi Arabia, one of the world's richest nations, insisted "aid include compensation to oil-producing countries for any fall in revenues that may result from the reduction in the use of carbon fuels." The United States stood alone in supporting the Saudi request.


Bush has rejected mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases because he claims they would have a "negative economic impact." But the international business community understands that the consequences of inaction would be far worse for their bottom line. For example, at a meeting organized by major insurance companies, "concerns were expressed about rapidly rising payments resulting from more severe and frequent hurricanes, heat waves and flooding."

Experts at the conference agreed that the "frequency and intensity of such events" is increasing because of global warming. Extreme weather patterns could cost the insurance industry an additional $25 billion annually if global warming is left unchecked.


The Bush administration is dropping the ball on global warming. So a bipartisan coalition of eight states -- four Republican governors, and four Democratic -- is taking matters into its own hands to control global warming. The consortium, called Northeast States for Coordinate Air Use Management, will implement a regional cap-and-trade system to control greenhouse gas emissions. The states involved see "environment, health and economic" benefits in taking action. Washington, Oregon and California are considering developing a similar plan. California has a plan (now being challenged by the auto industry) to reduce greenhouse gasses from automobiles by 30 percent over the next ten years.


The Bush administration stands "virtually alone in challenging the scientific assumptions underlying the Kyoto Protocol." In other words,
the world is getting hotter because of human activity. It might not seem like it today, but 2004 was the fourth-hottest year on record. The top ten hottest years have all occurred since 1990. The last year brought "four powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and deadly typhoons lashing Asia." Alden Meyer, policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said, "whatever is going on is not natural and is no longer within the realm of variability." Nevertheless, the Bush administration has announced its opposition to the phrase, "climate change," in favor of the ambiguous (and inaccurate) term, "climate variability."

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9. Do Torah Teachings Justify Animal Exploitation?

The article below provides some material for responding to arguments that are often brought up by animal rights advocates who challenge religious practices and by religious people who wish to justify their diets.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. and Dovid Sears

Many apologists for the exploitation of animals seek justification in scripture, but their presumption is largely due to the misunderstanding of two important Torah verses that, when properly conceived, actually endorse the struggle to improve conditions for animals.

The first misunderstanding is that the Torah teaching that humans are granted dominion over animals (Genesis 1:26) gives us a warrant to treat them in whatever way we may wish. However, Jewish tradition interprets "dominion" as guardianship, or stewardship, not domination: we are called upon to be co-workers with God in improving the world. This biblical mandate does not mean that people have the right to wantonly exploit animals, and it certainly does not permit us to breed animals and then treat them as machines designed solely to meet human needs. In "A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace," Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and a leading 20th century Jewish thinker, states: "There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent person that [the Divine empowerment of humanity to derive benefit from nature] does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to satisfy his whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Divine Law would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is 'good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works' (Psalms 145:9), and Who declared, 'The world shall be built with kindness' (ibid. 89:33)."

This view is reinforced by the fact that immediately after God gave humankind dominion over animals (Genesis 1:26), He prescribed vegetarian foods as the diet best suited to humans (Genesis 1:29). This mandate is almost immediately followed by God's declaration that all of Creation was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Perhaps this indicates that Adam and Eve's original vegetarian diet was consistent with the stewardship that God entrusted to them and to all humankind. Another indication of the true message of dominion is the Torah verse that indicates that God put Adam, the first human being, into the garden of Eden to "work it and to guard it." (Genesis 2:15)

The second error of apologists for animal exploitation is the presumption that the biblical teaching that only people are created in the Divine Image means that God places little or no value on animals. While the Torah states that only human beings are created "in the Divine Image" (Genesis 5:1), animals are also God's creatures, possessing sensitivity and the capacity for feeling pain. God is concerned that they are protected and treated with compassion and justice. In fact, the Jewish sages state that to be "created in the Divine Image," means that people have the capacity to emulate the Divine compassion for all creatures. "As God is compassionate," they teach, "so you should be compassionate."

A rabbinic teaching that we should imitate God is Hama bar Hanina's interpretation of the verse, "After the Lord your God you shall walk" (Deuteronomy 13: 5): "How can man walk after God?" the ancient sage queries. "Is He not called a 'consuming fire'? Rather, what is meant is that man ought to emulate the attributes of God. Just as God clothes the naked, so you shall clothe the naked. Just as God visits the sick, so you shall visit the sick. Just as God comforts the bereaved, so you shall comfort the bereaved. Just as He buries the dead, so you shall bury the dead."

In his classic work Ahavat Chesed ("The Love of Kindness"), the revered Chafetz Chayim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin) discusses this teaching at length. He writes that whoever emulates the Divine love and compassion to all creatures "will bear the stamp of God on his person." Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a leading 19th century Jewish thinker, also discusses this concept: "You can know God only through His acts of love and justice; and, in turn, you too are called upon to act with love and justice." Concerning the biblical concept that human beings were created to "serve and safeguard the earth" (Genesis 2:15), Rabbi Hirsch states that this actually limits our rights over other living creatures. He writes: "The earth was not created as a gift to you. You have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration, as God's earth, and everything on it as God's creation, as your fellow creatures - to be respected, loved, and helped to attain their purpose according to God's will... To this end, your heartstrings vibrate sympathetically with any cry of distress sounding anywhere in Creation, and with any glad sound uttered by a joyful creature."

In summation, as the Lord is our shepherd, we are to be shepherds of voiceless creatures. As God is kind and compassionate to us, we must be considerate of the needs and feelings of animals. To this we may add that by showing compassion to animals through a vegetarian diet, we help fulfill the commandment to imitate God's ways.

Jewish tradition clearly forbids any display of cruelty toward animals. In Hebrew, this is called tza'ar ba'alei chayim, the biblical mandate not to cause "pain to any living creature." In contrast to this, Psalms 104 and 148 bespeak the worthiness of the animals of the field, creatures of the sea, and birds of the air before their Creator. Psalm 104 depicts God as "giving drink to every beast of the field," and "causing grass to spring up for the cattle." Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best summarized by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person regards the life of his or her animal." In his explanation of this verse, the Malbim, a 19th century biblical commentator, explained that the righteous person understands the nature of the animal, and hence provides food at the proper time, and according to the amount needed. He is also careful not to overwork the animal. According to the Malbim, the tzaddik (righteous person) acts according to the laws of justice. Not only does he act according to these laws with human beings, but also with animals.

In conclusion, apologists for animal exploitation who try to justify their stance from biblical text are mistaken. Since Judaism is concerned with the well being of animals and forbids causing them unnecessary pain, it clearly is a foe of animal exploitation.

Rabbi Dovid Sears is the director of the New York-based Breslov Center for Spirituality and Inner Growth. He is presently completing a comprehensive anthology of original translations and essays entitled The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism. His previous books include Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition, The Path of the Baal Shem Tov: Early Chasidic Teachings and Customs, and The Flame of the Heart: Prayers of a Chasidic Mystic.

Richard H. Schwartz is Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, College of Staten Island, City University of New York. He is author of Judaism and Vegetarianism , Judaism and Global Survival, and Mathematics and Global Survival. He has over 100 articles and book reviews at

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10. Vegetarian Thoughts From a JVNA Newsletter Reader

For: Temple Beth Or, The Light newsletter
Date: 12.25.04
By: Jeffrey Tucker, member of NALITH Foundation committee


The statement "nothing died to feed my face" has religious overtones. Why? Abstaining from meat often denotes spirituality, Buddha was a vegan, Essene dead sea scrolls recount Jesus' vegetarian teachings and The Jewish Vegetarians of North America vigorously promote diet as a multi-mitzvah.

Indeed so many talmudic issues are crammed into one's daily choice of
sustenance that you would be amazed!

In short, one's fork is wielded either as a benign plowshare or as a deadly weapon. As we spend a consumer dollar in effect we are voting: organically-grown fruit, veggies, grain with concurrent avoidance of water-soil-air-body-pollution (by herbicides, pesticides, dyes, preservatives, etc.) OR animal production for slaughter and over-zealous food-processing for profit (ethically-suspect, energy-intensive, ecologically-unsound and worse).

The JVNA’s chief spokesperson is Richard H. Schwartz, PhD, a tireless Educator and advocate for the USA and Israel. In Beth Or's library, you can read his "Judaism and Vegetarianism" and "Judaism and Global Survival," or go to, or many others, easily found. Explore each Jewish holiday’s vegetarian-based lessons, how Rami’s [Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Beth Or’s previous rabbi, and an author and thinker] minyan practices largely correspond, how 'kosher' living is radically-redefined for our modern world.

Personally, I see many 'normal' practices as addictions: involving sugar,
salt, tobacco, meat, dairy, alcohol, medications, coffee, processed grains, carbonation, cosmetics, animal abuse. Some are obvious – you lick the smoking habit, and then the rewards abound. Others are less obvious, but equally powerful. Isn’t the best addiction the discarded one?

Perhaps thousands of meals and snacks lie ahead for you. Each one presents an opportunity to show compassion for the earth and its creatures. By tweaking your choices, a bit here a bit there, especially on Shabbos, you lend support to your own (biological) temple, you align with treasured values, you save an occasional chicken, cow, or sheep whose Creator will surely acknowledge your deed one way or another. Tap me on the shoulder if I can be helpful in this.

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11. A New Feature at the JVNA Web Site

Noam has added a new feature to the web site. At the bottom of the homepage, you can now do searches for documents on the website.

We are still looking for volunteers to translate some of the material on the web site into Hebrew.

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12. Action Alert: Tell Massachusetts to Ban Foie Gras!

This alert is on the JVNA web site at

Tell Massachusetts to Ban Foie Gras!

A bill is to be introduced in Massachusetts to ban the notoriously cruel "delicacy" foie gras. If you live in Massachusetts, please contact your state (not federal) legislators and ask them to cosponsor legislation to prohibit the force feeding of birds for foie gras. To find out who your legislators are and how to contact them, check or ask us at

Foie gras is created by sticking a steel pipe down the throats of geese and ducks three times a day and using pressurized air to force large quantities of food into their stomachs. This force feeding causes the birds' livers to grow to ten times their normal size, producing "fatty liver," or "foie gras" in French. The birds suffer enormously, and many die. Foie gras production has been banned in many countries, most recently in Israel, the world's third largest producer of foie gras [The ban has not yet gone into effect]. In 2004, California passed a law banning foie gras as of 2012.

The Massachusetts bill is already cosponsored by Senator Fargo, Senator Tisei, Representative Pope, Representative Jim Leary, Representative Paulsen, and Representative Tom O'Brien, who could use the encouragement of a thank you letter:

Your help is critical to getting this bill passed. Thanks for making a difference!

For more action alerts, visit

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Quotations To Think About:

“The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future---deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Editors, World Watch, July/August 2004

Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead

Until we extend the circle of our compassion to all living things, we will
not ourselves find peace.

- Albert Schweitzer

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets

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