February 21, 2005

2/21/05 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Relating Vegetarianism to Purim/Suggestions Welcome

2. Is it Already Too Late to Prevent Horrific Effects of Global Warming?

3. Update on the ‘McLibel’ Trial/Victory for Plaintiffs Against McDonald’s

4. Kyoto Protocal Becomes International Law

5. An Example for Jews?/Statement of the National Council of Churches USA on Global Warming

6. Article by a Rabbi re the JVNA’s Teachings on Vegetarianism

7. Some Republican Leaders Joining the Battle Against Global Warming

8. Amazon Forests Not Doing Well

9. Article in Los Angeles Times on the Postville Slaughterhouse Issue

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. Relating Vegetarianism to Purim/Suggestions Welcome

With Purim (March 25 this year, starting after sundown on March 24) about 5 weeks away, I am planning to send the material below to the Jewish media. Comments/suggestions for improvements are very welcome. Also, please consider using the material below to create your own articles and letters about Purim. Thanks.

Purim and Vegetarianism
Richard H. Schwartz

There are many connections between vegetarianism and the Jewish festival of Purim:

1. According to the Talmud, Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, was a vegetarian while she lived in the palace of King Achashverus. She was thus able to avoid violating the kosher dietary laws while keeping her Jewish identity secret.

2. During Purim it is a mitzvah to give "mat'not evyonim" (added charity to poor and hungry people). In contrast to these acts of sharing and compassion, animal-based diets involve the feeding of over 70 percent of the grain in the United States to animals, while an estimated 20 million people die of hunger and its effects annually.

3. During the afternoon of Purim, Jews have a "seudah" (special festive meal), when family and friends gather to rejoice in the Purim spirit. Serving only vegetarian food at this occasion would enable all who partake to be consistent with Jewish mandates to preserve health, protect the environment, share with hungry people, conserve resources, and treat animals with compassion (as well as the vegetarian practices of Queen Esther).

4. Jews make noise with "groggers" and other noisemakers, to drown out the infamous name of Haman when it appears during the reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther). Today, vegetarians are "making noise" in attempting to educate people and drown out the very well-funded propaganda of the beef and dairy industries.

5. On Purim, Jews emphasize unity and friendship by sending gifts of food ("shalach manot") to friends. Vegetarians act in the spirit of unity and concern for humanity by having a diet that best shares the earth's abundant resources.

6. Because Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people, it is the most joyous Jewish holiday. By contrast, animals on factory farms never have a pleasant day, and millions of people throughout the world are too involved in trying to obtain their next meal to be able to experience many joyous moments.

7. Mordecai, one of the heroes of the Purim story, was a nonconformist. As the book of Esther states, ". . . And all of the king's servants . . . bowed down and prostrated themselves before Haman . . . But Mordecai would not bow down nor prostrate himself before him" (Esther 3:2). Today, vegetarians represent non-conformity. At a time when most people in the wealthier countries think of animal products as the main part of their meals, when McDonald's and similar fast food establishments are still popular, vegetarians are resisting and insisting that there is a better, healthier, more humane diet.

8. Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from the wicked Haman. Today, vegetarianism can be a step toward deliverance from modern problems such as hunger, pollution, and resource scarcities.

9. Purim commemorates the time when conditions for the Jews changed from sorrow to gladness and from mourning to festival. Today, a switch to vegetarianism could result in similar changes for many people, since plant- based diets would reduce health problems, pollution, water scarcities, and hunger.

10. Jews hear the reading of the Megillah twice during Purim, in order to reeducate themselves about the terrible threats to the Jewish people and their deliverance. Jewish vegetarians believe that if Jews were educated about the horrible realities of factory farming and the powerful Jewish mandates about taking care of our health, showing compassion to animals, protecting the environment, conserving resources, and helping hungry people, they would seriously consider switching to vegetarian diets.

11. Hamantashen, the primary food associated with Purim, is a vegetarian food.

In view of these and other connections, I hope that Jews will enhance their celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Purim by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism’s highest moral values and teachings by moving toward a vegetarian diet.

Letter to the editor re “Vegetarianism and Purim”

Dear editor,

According to the Talmud, Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, was a vegetarian while she lived in the palace of King Achashverus, in order to avoid violating the kosher dietary laws while keeping her Jewish identity secret. Therefore, Purim is an ideal time for Jews to consider a shift toward vegetarian diets.

This dietary change would be consistent with important Jewish mandates to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and pursue a more peaceful, less violent world.

While Purim commemorates the triumph of the Jews in ancient Persia over their oppressors, a shift to plant-based diets would enable contemporary Jews to reverse current threats from an epidemic of disease related to animal-based diets and the many environmental problems related to modern intensive animal-based agriculture.

Very truly yours,

Richard Schwartz

p. s. I thought you might be interested in my Purimsphpiel (Purim humor) below, which was published by Sh'ma magazine, after they requested me to submit something on the topic, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Reb Henna taught: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Clearly, the chicken. How do we know this? We learn from the
Book of Esther that when Mordecai asked Esther to go before King
Ahashveros to plead for the Jewish people, she was 'chicken,' fearing
for her life. Only when Mordecai 'egged' her on, telling her that
perhaps she was enabled to be queen for just this EGGcelent purpose,
did she muster the courage and 'scrambled' to appear before the

Reb Roosta stated, "Speaking of birds, I heard that a Heavenly
voice once announced: 'A Robin Redbreast in a cage puts all Heaven in
a rage'". (William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”) Reb Chicka
responded, "Not to EGGaggerate, but - If a robin redbreast in a
cage puts all heaven in a rage, how feels heaven when, dies the
billionth battery hen?" (Spike Mulligan, British comedian) Reb
Poultrie stated, "Since Queen Esther was a vegetarian to avoid
violating the dietary laws while hiding her Jewish identity, and
since our esteemed editor Rabbi Judah, the Prince was stricken with
pain for many years because he callously treated a frightened calf,
perhaps we should egg on Jews to protest against current horrible
treatment of chickens.

Another Purim Shpiel

Pork More Kosher than your Bubeleh’s Brisket
A Purim Spiel, by Aaron Gross

Pork is treyf (non-kosher) par excellence and, I argue, the perfect food for the celebration of Purim. Forget those triangular hamantaschen cookies. Whether you keep kosher or eat everything, I suggest that this Purim Jews should start eating kosher pork instead of chicken, fish, or beef. What food could be more in line with the topsy-turvy spirit of Purim than kosher pork? Now, I’m not talking about eating a dead pig—that, we can do without. I’m talking about fakin’ bacon, pseudo-sausage, and pigless pepperoni! There is a wave of wonderful vegetarian faux pork in today’s supermarket and, I submit, this pork is more kosher than you Bubeleh’s brisket. Most of this faux pork is certified kosher (no kidding), but what makes me say it is more kosher?

First, eating kosher pork rather than meat allows you to pig-out without porking-up. According the American Dietetic Association, multiple studies have shown that eating meat can contribute to obesity. More significantly, the three biggest “killers” in this country—heart disease, cancer, and stroke—are all preventable to some degree through lifestyle changes, including adopting a low fat vegetarian diet (see www.PCRM.org for more info).

Second, kosher pork is green. No, I don’t mean that the pork is actually the color green. Thankfully, that is only the case in Dr. Seuss books. I mean that vegetarian faux pork is ecologically sound while meat-based diets contribute to our ecological woes. According to the environmental think tank, the Worldwatch Institute, meat-based diets burden our limited supply of fossil fuels because the grain fed to farm animals is an energy-intensive product. Animal agriculture also wastes land resources and contributes to water and air pollution.

Finally, kosher pork saves lives. I don’t have in mind here your own life, though a vegetarian diet may save it. Rather, I mean the lives of literally billions of animals that are raised and killed in cruel conditions each year to feed our appetite for meat, fish, eggs, and milk. Even in a Purim spiel, I think it’s hard to laugh at the plight, for example, of chickens who routinely have their sentient beaks seared off with hot irons when they are only days old. The beak is seared off so the chickens can’t mutilate each other with it in the filthy, over-crowded conditions that prevail on today’s factory farms.

Purim’s playful spirit calls Jews to drink until they cannot distinguish the holiday hero, Mordechai, from the villain, Haman. Despite the interpretation popular at the last Purim party I attended, this is not just a call to drink heavily. Rather, it invites us to laugh at what we think constitutes good and evil and to reevaluate our moral habits. The diet God ordained for humanity in the Genesis story was vegetarian (1:29), and, even without kosher pork, a vegetarian diet makes sense on Purim and everyday.

Pork—it’s what’s for Purim.
Aaron Gross holds a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. He has been active as an educator and lay-leader in Reform and trans-denominational Jewish communities for more than a decade. He opened and headed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) Indian office in 2000 and consults for PETA on religious issues.

2. Is it Already Too Late to Prevent Horrific Effects of Global Warming?

Forwarded article:

Time to prepare for inevitable effects of our ill-fated future
San Francisco Chronicle
by Mark Hertsgaard
Sunday, February 13, 2005

At the core of the global warming dilemma is a fact neither side of the debate likes to talk about: It is already too late to prevent global warming and the climate change it sets off.

Environmentalists won't say this for fear of sounding alarmist or defeatist. Politicians won't say it because then they'd have to do something about it. The world's top climate scientists have been sending this message, however, with increasing urgency for many years.

Since 1988, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comprised of more than 2,000 scientific and technical experts from around the world, has conducted the most extensive peer-reviewed scientific inquiry in history.

In its 2001 report, the panel said that human-caused global warming had already begun, and much sooner than expected. What's more, the problem is bound to get worse, perhaps a lot worse, before it gets better.

Last month, the climate change panel's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, upped the ante. Although Pachauri was installed after the Bush administration forced out his predecessor, Robert Watson, for pushing too hard for action, the accumulation of evidence led Pachauri to embrace apocalyptic language: “We are risking the ability of the human race to survive,” he said.

Until now, most public discussion about global warming has focused on how to prevent it -- for example, by implementing the Kyoto Protocol, which comes into force internationally (but without U.S. participation) on Wednesday. But prevention is no longer a sufficient option. No matter ho many “green” cars and solar panels Kyoto eventually calls into existence, the hard fact is that a certain amount of global warming is inevitable.

The world community therefore must make a strategic shift. It must expand its response to global warming to emphasize both long-term and short-term protection. Rising sea levels and more weather-related disasters will be a fact of life on this planet for decades to come, and we have to get ready for them.

Among the steps needed to defend ourselves is quick action to fortify emergency response capabilities worldwide, to shield or relocate vulnerable coastal communities and to prepare for increased migration flows by environmental refugees.

We must also play offense. We must retroactively shrink the amount of warming facing us by redoubling efforts to remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and sequester them where they are no longer dangerous. One way is to plant trees, which absorb carbon dioxide via photosynthesis.


Mark Hertsgaard is the author most recently of “The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World;” and “Earth Odyssey: Around the World In Search of Our Environmental Future.”

3. Update on the ‘McLibel’ Trial/Victory for Plaintiffs Against McDonald’s

Published on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 by http://news.independent.co.uk/

'McLibel' Campaigners Win Legal Aid Battle
by Geoff Meade

Two environmental campaigners who took on hamburger chain McDonald's and lost today won their claim that the libel trial was unfair.

The European Court of Human Rights said the UK legal system breached the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression.

Britain's David Morris(R) and Helen Steel stand outside McDonald's restaurant in central London, February 15, 2005. Morris and Steel, two activists found to have libeled the U.S. fast food chain after the longest court case in English legal history, did not have a fair trial, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday. (Kieran Doherty/Reuters)

The verdict from the Strasbourg court is a last-minute victory for Helen Steel and David Morris - and could force the Government to change libel laws which they claimed stifled their free speech and favored the rich.

Today's result signals the end of a David and Goliath struggle which pitted the impoverished campaigners from Tottenham, north London, against the power of a huge multi-national company.

McDonald's launched the libel action after Ms Steel and Mr Morris took part in a leafleting campaign against the company.

They had been handing out leaflets called "www.mcspotlight.org What's Wrong with McDonald's", accusing the company of paying low wages, cruelty to animals used in its products and dozens of other malpractices.

McDonald's won and the High Court awarded the company £40,000 in libel damages.

But the so-called "McLibel Two" refused to pay at the end of the 314-day libel trial - the longest civil or criminal action in English legal history.

Instead they went to the Strasbourg Human Rights Court, claiming the UK libel laws operated heavily in favor of companies like McDonald's.

They said the system breached their human rights because they were denied legal aid and because they were obliged to justify every word of the allegations against McDonald's.

The Human Rights judges agreed today, saying the lack of legal aid effectively denied the pair the right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the Human Rights Convention, to which the UK is a signatory. It also breached their right to freedom of expression.

A Department for Constitutional Affairs spokeswoman said: "We are studying the judgment very carefully."

The pair might now qualify for legal aid. Changes introduced in the Access to Justice Act in 2000 means people can sometimes qualify in libel actions under "special measures".

In the original libel trial Ms. Steel and Mr. Morris, with no legal training, found themselves up against a crack legal team appointed by McDonald's.

In their submissions to the Human Rights Court they declared: "The contrast and inequality (between the legal expertise) could not have been greater. McDonald's were represented by a QC specializing in libel law, a junior barrister, two or three solicitors and the resources of a large firm of solicitors.

"All (Steel and Morris) could hope to do was keep going, two inexperienced, untrained and exhausted individuals who were pushed to their physical and mental limits."

Unable to get legal aid, the pair could not expect a fair trial nor the right to freedom of expression, the Human Rights judges were told.

Being made to prove the absolute truth of every claim made in the leaflet protesting against McDonald's business practices contravened the basic principle of free speech Ms Steel and Mr Morris argued.

At the hearing last September Ms Steel, an unemployed gardener, said she wanted large powerful companies to be restricted from suing for libel in the same way as governmental bodies could not do so.

"Ordinary people should be able to make criticisms that they think are valid about a company without having the fear of being sued for libel."

As he awaited today's verdict Mr. Morris said both he and Ms. Steel already felt completely vindicated - and they would never pay the £40,000 libel damages imposed on them.

"We have already won because there is growing public concern and debate about the activities of the fast-food industry and multinational corporations in general.

"We shouldn't have had to fight the longest case in legal history just to challenge a multinational corporation and put our point of view over."

The director of the human rights and law reform group Justice, Roger Smith, said: "This is a wonderful victory for the sheer perseverance of two litigants who have just stuck to the task and insisted upon justice. I think it's also a victory for human rights and a recognition of legal aid as a basic human right which should be available in all types of cases where it is absolutely necessary."

© 2005 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

4. Kyoto Protocal Becomes International Law

Forwarded message from Greenpeace:

People around the world are celebrating today as the Kyoto Protocol becomes international law. Kyoto is the international treaty, signed by 141 nations that limits global warming pollution around the world.

Kyoto: New Dawn for the Climate

Notably, the largest worldwide polluter, the United States, is not part of the treaty. In 2001, President Bush reneged on his campaign promise to address global warming and withdrew the United States from the Protocol. However, states and regions around the country refused to let Bush block efforts to protect the climate, and have moved ahead with strong action to curb global warming. From limiting global warming pollution to mandating a certain amount of energy needs come from renewable sources like wind and solar - states are moving past the president's inaction. Last week, Senators McCain and Lieberman introduced legislation that would limit pollution across the country.

At the same time, Americans are demanding those responsible for global warming pollution be held accountable for their actions. Greenpeace has currently teamed up with Friends of the Earth, and the cities of Boulder, Colorado and Oakland, California to demand two
government banks stop financing overseas projects that lead to global warming.

Read more at: http://climatelawsuit.org

Read more about the Kyoto Protocol. Go to:

5. An Example for Jews?/Statement of the National Council of Churches USA on Global Warming

TODAY at the National Council of Churches USA


People of faith reject 'false gospel' on the environment, hail enactment of Kyoto Protocol, demand U.S. government accountability

For more on these and other stories. . . Go to: www.councilofchurches.org

Please forward this communication to interested friends and colleagues.

Your comments are welcome: mlyris@ncccusa.org

'God's Earth is Sacred'
In Open Letter, Theologians Warn of 'False Gospel' on the Environment, Call Christians to Repent of Sin

In an effort to refute what they call a “false gospel” and to change destructive attitudes and actions concerning the environment, a group of theologians, convened by the National Council of Churches USA, released an open letter Feb. 14 calling on Christians to reject teachings that suggest humans are “called” to exploit the Earth without care for how our behavior impacts the rest of God’s creation. The statement, “God’s Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States,” points out that there is both an environmental and a theological crisis that must be addressed. Read more about development 'God's Earth is Sacred.'.

Grassroots Campaign Issues 'God's Mandate: Care for Creation;' Call-In Day to Fete Kyoto Accord

The "God's Earth is Sacred" statement was released on the heels of a grassroots campaign that last week issued “God’s Mandate: Care for Creation,” signed by more than 1,000 clergy and laypeople from Catholic, Protestant and Jewish traditions. And it comes just before a broad-based effort on Feb. 16 to lift up the international Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Faith communities are encouraged to use the Kyoto Bulletin Insert and Minute for Mission and to participate in February 16's National Day of Prayer and Call-In Day to remind elected officials of our moral obligation to protect creation.
God’s Earth is Sacred:
An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States

God’s creation delivers unsettling news. Earth’s climate is warming to dangerous levels; 90 percent of the world’s fisheries have been depleted; coastal development and pollution are causing a sharp decline in ocean health; shrinking habitat threatens to extinguish thousands of species; over 95 percent of the contiguous United States forests have been lost; and almost half of the population in the United States lives in areas that do not meet national air quality standards. In recent years, the profound danger has grown, requiring us as theologians, pastors, and religious leaders to speak out and act with new urgency.

We are obliged to relate to Earth as God’s creation “in ways that sustain life on the planet, provide for the [basic] needs of all humankind, and increase justice.” Over the past several decades, slowly but faithfully, the religious community in the United States has attempted to address issues of ecology and justice. Our faith groups have offered rich theological perspectives, considered moral issues through the lens of long-standing social teaching, and passed numerous policies within our own church bodies. While we honor the efforts in our churches, we have clearly failed to communicate the full measure and magnitude of Earth’s environmental crisis-religiously, morally, or politically. It is painfully clear from the verifiable testimony of the world’s scientists that our response has been inadequate to the scale and pace of Earth’s degradation.

To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly; it is sin. As voiced by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for creation: “To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation . . . for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands . . . for humans to injure other humans with disease . . . for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances . . . these are sins.” We have become un-Creators. Earth is in jeopardy at our hands.

This means that ours is a theological crisis as well. We have listened to a false gospel that we continue to live out in our daily habits-a gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our own ends alone. This false gospel still finds its proud preachers and continues to capture its adherents among emboldened political leaders and policy makers.

The secular counterpart of this gospel rests in the conviction that humans can master the Earth. Our modern way of life assumes this mastery. However, the sobering truth is that we hardly have knowledge of, much less control over, the deep and long-term consequences of our human impacts upon the Earth. We have already sown the seeds for many of those consequences. The fruit of those seeds will be reaped by future generations of human beings, together with others in the community of life.

The imperative first step is to repent of our sins, in the presence of God and one another. This repentance of our social and ecological sins will acknowledge the special responsibility that falls to those of us who are citizens of the United States. Though only five percent of the planet’s human population, we produce one-quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, consume a quarter of its natural riches, and perpetuate scandalous inequities at home and abroad. We are a precious part of Earth’s web of life, but we do not own the planet and we cannot transcend its requirements for regeneration on its own terms. We have not listened well to the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

The second step is to pursue a new journey together, with courage and joy. By God’s grace, all things are made new. We can share in that renewal by clinging to God’s trustworthy promise to restore and fulfill all that God creates and by walking, with God’s help, a path different from our present course. To that end, we affirm our faith, propose a set of guiding norms, and call on our churches to rededicate themselves to this mission. We firmly believe that addressing the degradation of God’s sacred Earth is the moral assignment of our time comparable to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, the worldwide movement to achieve equality for women, or ongoing efforts to control weapons of mass destruction in a post-Hiroshima world.

Ecological Affirmations of Faith

We stand with awe and gratitude as members of God’s bountiful and good creation. We rejoice in the splendor and mystery of countless species, our common creaturehood, and the interdependence of all that God makes. We believe that the Earth is home for all and that it has been created intrinsically good (Genesis 1).

We lament that the human species is shattering the splendid gifts of this web of life, ignoring our responsibility for the well being of all life, while destroying species and their habitats at a rate never before known in human history.

We believe that the Holy Spirit, who animates all of creation, breathes in us and can empower us to participate in working toward the flourishing of Earth’s community of life. We believe that the people of God are called to forge ways of being human that enable socially just and ecologically sustainable communities to flourish for generations to come. And we believe in God’s promise to fulfill all of creation, anticipating the reconciliation of all (Colossians 1:15), in accordance with God’s promise (II Peter 3:13).

We lament that we have rejected this vocation, and have distorted our God-given abilities and knowledge in order to ransack and often destroy ecosystems and human communities rather than to protect, strengthen, and nourish them.

We believe that, in boundless love that hungers for justice, God … acts to restore and redeem all creation (including human beings). …

We confess that instead of living and proclaiming this salvation through our very lives and worship, we have abused and exploited the Earth and people on the margins of power and privilege, altering climates, extinguishing species, and jeopardizing Earth’s capacity to sustain life as we know and love it.

We believe that the created world is sacred-a revelation of God’s power and gracious presence filling all things. This sacred quality of creation demands moderation and sharing, urgent antidotes for our excess in consumption and waste, reminding us that economic justice is an essential condition of ecological integrity. We cling to God’s trustworthy promise to restore, renew, and fulfill all that God creates. We long for and work toward the day when churches, … , will respond to the "groaning of creation" (Romans 8:22) and to God’s passionate desire to “renew the face of the Earth" (Psalm 104:30). We look forward to the day when the lamentations and groans of creation will be over, justice with peace will reign, humankind will nurture not betray the Earth, and all of creation will sing for joy.

Guiding Norms for Church and Society

These affirmations imply a challenge that is also a calling: to fulfill our vocation as moral images of God, reflections of divine love and justice charged to “serve and preserve” the Garden (Genesis 2:15). Given this charge and the urgent problems of our age -- from species extinctions and mass poverty to climate change and health-crippling pollution -- how shall we respond? What shall we be and do? What are the standards and practices of moral excellence that we ought to cultivate in our personal lives, our communities of faith, our social organizations, our businesses, and our political institutions? We affirm the following norms of social and environmental responsibility:

Justice-creating right relationships, both social and ecological, to ensure for all members of the Earth community the conditions required for their flourishing. Among human members, justice demands meeting the essential material needs and conditions for human dignity and social participation. In our global context, economic deprivation and ecological degradation are linked in a vicious cycle. We are compelled, therefore, to seek eco-justice, the integration of social justice and ecological integrity. The quest for eco-justice also implies the development of a set of human environmental rights, since one of the essential conditions of human well being is ecological integrity. These moral entitlements include protection of soils, air, and water from diverse pollutants; the preservation of biodiversity; and governmental actions ensuring the fair and frugal use of creation’s riches.

Sustainability-living within the bounds of planetary capacities indefinitely, in fairness to both present and future generations of life. God’s covenant is with humanity and all other living creatures “for all future generations” (Genesis 9:8-17). The concern for sustainability forces us to be responsible for the truly long-term impacts of our lifestyles and policies.

Bioresponsibility-extending the covenant of justice to include all other life forms as beloved creatures of God and as expressions of God’s presence, wisdom, power, and glory. We do not determine nor declare creation’s value, and other creatures should not be treated merely as instruments for our needs and wants. Other species have their own integrity. They deserve a “fair share” of Earth’s bounty- a share that allows a bio-diversity of life to thrive along with human communities.

Humility-recognizing, as an antidote to arrogance, the limits of human knowledge, technological ingenuity, and moral character. We are not the masters of creation. Knowing human capacities for error and evil, humility keeps our own species in check for the good of the whole of Earth as God’s creation.

Generosity-sharing Earth’s riches to promote and defend the common good in recognition of God’s purposes for the whole creation and Christ’s gift of abundant life. Humans are not collections of isolated individuals, but rather communities of socially and ecologically interdependent beings. A measure of a good society is not whether it privileges those who already have much, but rather whether it privileges the most vulnerable members of creation. Essentially, these tasks require good government at all levels, from local to regional to national to international.

Frugality- restraining economic production and consumption for the sake of eco-justice. Living lives filled with God’s Spirit liberates us from the illusion of finding wholeness in the accumulation of material things and brings us to the reality of God’s just purposes. Frugality connotes moderation, sufficiency, and temperance. Many call it simplicity. It demands the careful conservation of Earth’s riches, comprehensive recycling, minimal harm to other species, material efficiency and the elimination of waste, and product durability. Frugality is the corrective to a cardinal vice of the age: prodigality - excessively taking from and wasting God’s creation. On a finite planet, frugality is an expression of love and an instrument for justice and sustainability: it enables all life to thrive together by sparing and sharing global goods.

Solidarity-acknowledging that we are increasingly bound together as a global community in which we bear responsibility for one another’s well being. The social and environmental problems of the age must be addressed with cooperative action at all levels-local, regional, national and international. Solidarity is a commitment to the global common good through international cooperation.

Compassion-sharing the joys and sufferings of all Earth’s members and making them our own. … From compassion flows inclusive caring and careful service to meet the needs of others.

A Call to Action: Healing the Earth and Providing a Just and Sustainable Society

For too long, we, our Christian brothers and sisters, and many people of good will have relegated care and justice for the Earth to the periphery of our concerns. This is not a competing “program alternative,” one “issue” among many. In this most critical moment in Earth’s history, we are convinced that the central moral imperative of our time is the care for Earth as God’s creation.

Churches, as communities of God’s people in the world, are called to exist as representatives of the loving Creator, Sustainer, and Restorer of all creation. We are called to worship God with all our being and actions, and to treat creation as sacred. We must engage our political leaders in supporting the very future of this planet. We are called to cling to the true Gospel - for “God so loved the cosmos” (John 3:16) - rejecting the false gospels of our day.

We believe that caring for creation must undergird, and be entwined with, all other dimensions of our churches’ ministries. We are convinced that it is no longer acceptable to claim to be “church” while continuing to perpetuate, or even permit, the abuse of Earth as God’s creation. Nor is it acceptable for our corporate and political leaders to engage in “business as usual” as if the very future of life-support systems were not at stake.

Therefore, we urgently call on … all people of good will, to join us in:

Understanding our responsibilities as those who live within the United States of America - the part of the human family that represents five percent of the world population and consumes 25 percent of Earth’s riches. We believe that one of the surest ways to gain this understanding is by listening intently to the most vulnerable: those who most immediately suffer the consequences of our overconsumption, toxication, and hubris. The whole Earth is groaning, crying out for healing-let us awaken the “ears of our souls” to hear it, before it’s too late.

Integrating this understanding into our core beliefs and practices surrounding what it means to be “church,” to be “human,” to be “children of God.” Such integration will be readily apparent in: congregational mission statements, lay and ordained ministries, the preaching of the Word, our hymns of praise, the confession of our sins, our financial stewardship and offerings to God, theological education, our evangelism, our daily work, sanctuary use, and compassionate service to all communities of life. With this integrated witness we look forward to a revitalization of our human vocation and our churches’ lives that parallels the revitalization of God’s thriving Earth.

Advocating boldly with all our leaders on behalf of creation’s most vulnerable members (including human members). We must shed our complacency, denial, and fears and speak God’s truth to power, on behalf of all who have been denied dignity and for the sake of all voiceless members of the community of life.

…, we call out with broken yet hopeful hearts: join us in restoring God’s Earth-the greatest healing work and moral assignment of our time.



6. Article by a Rabbi re the JVNA’s Teachings on Vegetarianism

PETA and the Jewish Question
[written April, 2004; material in bold for emphasis is by the article’s author]

Last week I distributed to my congregational e-mail list a message which directed interested readers to the website of PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to view an astonishingly offensive comparison between Holocaust victims and caged chickens awaiting slaughter. It was the opening salvo in a new shock campaign by PETA which they have named “The Holocaust On Your Plate” and which is centered around a traveling exhibition of large photos and text which juxtapose the Nazis’ victims and animals slaughtered for food.

Naturally the Jewish community was outraged by this offensive campaign and PETA was quickly deluged with angry e-mails (mine among them) condemning the organization for its callousness and for the inference that humans are, at all times and in all situations, to be equated with other species. PETA’s stock response was to inform us that the exhibit and campaign were created and backed by Jews, some of whom are reported to be supporters of Holocaust memorial institutions, as if to say, “Because some Jews were involved in this project it can’t possibly be considered offensive to Jews!” More realistically, I suspect that PETA’s leaders believe that any publicity is good publicity.

Sadly, this effort will serve to deflect attention from what is of growing interest to many in the Jewish community, namely the wealth of teachings and commentaries within Judaism which support, for many reasons, the choice of a vegetarian diet or one in which animal flesh occupies a diminishing portion of the whole.

Prof. Richard Schwartz is the foremost contemporary proponent of Jewish vegetarianism. He has written extensively on the subject and, in this recent PETA imbroglio, has found himself uncomfortably squeezed on both sides of the vociferous debate. As a Jew, he understands Jewish outrage over the comparison between death camp victims and poultry, yet he strives to keep the larger subject–the impact on our world of raising and eating animals–from getting lost in the heat of the debate.

In an article found at www.jewishveg.com (the Jewish Vegetarian website.) , Prof. Schwartz cites six major Jewish reasons for vegetarianism [emphasis by the article’s author]:

1. The creator of the world first commanded humans to eat only from that which grows (Genesis 1:29) and this interpretation is agreed to by the major Torah commentators as well.

2. Permission to eat meat was granted to Noah and his descendants after the flood on a temporary basis only due to human frailty. The Bible connects meat eating with uncontrollable appetite (Deuteronomy 12: 20). In the days of the Messiah, all creatures will be vegan (based on "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb…… the lion will eat straw like the ox ……", Isaiah, 11:6-9).

3. The commandment not to cause grief to living creatures comes from the Torah and is therefore of greater significance than the ensuing commandments given by the Rabbis. The permission granted in the Bible to eat meat does not include abusing animals before they are slaughtered. Since modern animal farming severely abuses animals, meat eating constitutes [....] a transgression against the prohibition concerning animal abuse.

4. Care of the spirit and the concurrent care of one’s physical health that is a component of it, is an important Jewish commandment. Research testifies that consumption of meat and meat products increases the likelihood of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic degenerative diseases.

5. The prohibition against destroying the environment ("thou shall not destroy," bal tashchit) is a commandment from the Torah. It is based on Deuteronomy 20:19-20 which prohibits the destruction of fruit-bearing trees during wartime, and [on] extensions of the sages. Livestock agriculture causes pollution and destruction of the environment. It requires large agricultural plots, and huge amounts of water, energy, and other resources.

6. Aiding the hungry is another important mandate in Judaism. Farmers are required to leave the corners of the fields and the gleanings of their harvests for the hungry. However, 70% of the grain produced in the West is consumed by animals raised by the food industry. Part of the resources that are channeled to the meat industry could be utilized to feed the hungry in third world countries.

These citations are but the proverbial tip of the iceberg of information Prof. Schwartz has amassed on the subject of Judaism and vegetarianism. To the extent that we take our commitment to Judaism seriously and understand the demands it places upon us to be God’s partners in stewardship of this planet, this is a subject we should not and cannot avoid. I encourage you to visit Prof. Schwartz’s website [JewishVeg.com/schwartz] or to read his book Judaism and Vegetarianism. (New York City: Lantern Books, 2001)

[Rabbi Lieberman’s added note: In the interests of full disclosure, let me note that I am not a strict vegetarian. I do eat fish but eliminated all meat from my diet some years ago. My dietary choices do reflect, however, a serious commitment to the principles of kashrut.]

On a final note, Jewish vegetarians or those interested in the subject, might wish to track down a Passover haggadah entitled Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb (Roberta Kalechofsky).

Have a ziesen (sweet) Pesach!

Reb Elias Lieberman
The Falmouth Jewish Congregation

7. Some Republican Leaders Joining the Battle Against Global Warming

On the Right Track
New Republican leaders emerging in battle against climate change
By Amanda Griscom Little
04 Feb 2005

Last week, an international task force co-chaired by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) predicted a fast-approaching "point of no return" for climate change -- possibly in as few as 10 years -- after which the crisis and its symptoms will be irreversible.

You probably didn't read about it in the U.S. papers, which largely ignored the findings -- just as you probably haven't been reading much about the Kyoto Protocol, though the treaty will go into effect in less than two weeks, with the conspicuous noncooperation of the world's most heavily polluting nation.

But, even as the Bush administration tries its darndest to pretend that nothing fishy is afoot with the climate, a handful of Republicans in the Senate are emerging as leaders in the fight against global warming -- and we don't just mean John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Take, for instance, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who led the congressional fight to reject Kyoto in 1997, opposes the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, and consistently supports the Bush administration's stance (or lack thereof) on global warming. Not an impressive record -- and yet Hagel is now declaring climate change a "top-tier issue," says his spokesperson Mike Buttry, and is preparing to introduce "one of the most comprehensive climate bills that have been proposed to date. It will have a domestic piece, an international piece, and a tax piece."

Hagel told his home-state paper, the Lincoln Journal Star, that his bill, which will be introduced in February, is compatible with the new climate strategy being cooked up by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. These remarks came soon after the senator met with Blair to discuss an idea for an international agreement dubbed by some insiders "Kyoto-lite," which the P.M. is reportedly crafting with the hope that President Bush will get on board. The agreement as envisioned would require the administration to acknowledge the scale of the climate crisis and commit to developing the technology necessary to manage it. No mention thus far of mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions -- presumably that's why Blair thinks Bush might go for it. Likewise, Hagel's bill includes no compulsory emissions caps -- rather, it's "incentive-based," says Buttry.


8. Amazon Forests Not Doing Well

Forwarded item from Grist magazine:

If Amazonian rainforests are, as the old saying goes, the lungs of
the world, then our respiratory outlook is not good. The forests
face a trio of threats. There are fire and logging, as poor farmers,
cattle ranchers, and agribusinesses clear land for crops or cattle.
Then there's "dieback," whereby the forest vegetation dies from lack
of water, which is driven by drought, which is driven by climate
change, which is driven by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,
which is exacerbated by fire, logging, and dieback in the Amazonian
rainforest. Ah, such tangled webs we weave. Attempts to break the
cycle have been inauspicious. Last year, Brazil's Workers' Party,
led by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, suspended logging
licenses in an attempt to slow deforestation of the Amazon. In
response, loggers and their allies rioted, blockaded a major highway,
burned buses, threatened to seize an airport and dump poisonous
chemicals in rivers, and promised that "blood will flow." The
government vowed not to "cave into blackmail," and then, uh, caved
into blackmail, restoring the licenses last week. And so the world's
lung cancer progresses, untreated.

straight to the source: The Boston Globe, Associated Press, Charles
J. Hanley, 12 Feb 2005

straight to the source: The New York Times, Larry Rohter, 13 Feb 2005

9. Article in Los Angeles Times on the Postville Slaughterhouse Issue

Practices at kosher slaughterhouses stir debate
By Stephanie Simon
Los Angeles Times
Posted February 18 2005

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 United States' 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."

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

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 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 sent a team in December 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.

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