September 29, 2005

9/29/05 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Shanah Tovah (Best Wishes For a Wonderful New Year)

2. D’var Torah on Jewish Teachings on Compassion and Social Justice Related to Katrina

3. My Two Letters Recently Sent to the New York Times

5. Another Letter in Yosef Hakohen’s Series on Jewish Teachings About Animals

6. World's Most Comprehensive Vegetarian Web Site,, Launched

7. Update on Saving Animals Injured or Abandoned in the Wake of Katrina

8. Organic or Free Range Animal Products?? What's the truth?

9. More Re Efforts To Stop Expansion of Horse Racing in Israel

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, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, 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. Shanah Tovah (Best Wishes For a Wonderful New Year)

a. Wishing you all a very healthy, happy, uplifting and inspiring, peaceful, environmentally sustainable, humane and compassionate, love-filled New Year. May it be a year of joy, fellowship, fulfillment, good health, growth, and wonderful, completely unexpected surprises.

Shanah Tovah U'metukah,
b. Please see my article “Rosh Hashanah and Vegetarianism” and my other holiday articles at the holiday section at
c. Suggested Inspirational Videos

1) Recommendation by author and JVNA advisor Yosef Hakohen:

I recommend a one minute film called "Starting Over" which relates to the way the upheavals in the world during the last year have caused many people to begin their lives anew. The film contains a universal and spiritual Jewish message which is especially relevant for Rosh Hashana - the New Year. In the background, one can hear the moving singing of Cantor Moshe Bazian, who is chanting an ancient Aramaic prayer for this season known as "Rachmana." The following is the translation of the prayer that he is chanting: "The Loving One Who answers the poor, may He answer us. The Loving One Who answers the brokenhearted, may He answer us."

The film can be viewed at: or go to the main site
2) Car Wash - 30 Second Movie

[I have seen both videos, and I also recommend them.]

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2. D’var Torah on Jewish Teachings on Compassion and Social Justice Related to Katrina

Katrina and Torah of Kindness
By Rabbi Saul J. Berman
Parshat Ki Tavo
September 23, 2005
19th of Elul 5765

[Thanks to Yosef Hakohen for translating the Hebrew terms.]

From the beginning of the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), every single weekly portion has contained some specific legislation for the protection of the weak, the underprivileged, the poor.

In Parshat Devarim, at Deut. 1:16-17, the demand of fairness in judicial process even to the alien. In Parshat VaEtchanan, at Deut. 5:14-15, the command that even aliens and servants be allowed to rest on the Shabbat, because we remember what it was like to be aliens and slaves.

In Parshat Ekev, at Deut. 10:19, the Mitzvah of loving the stranger, because we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

In Parshat Re’eh, at Deut. 14:29, the duty to pay the tithe for support of the poor. Also in that Parsha, at Deut. 15:7-11, the duty to lend to the poor and to provide "dei machsoro," "that which he lacks."

In Parshat Shoftim, at Deut. 20:1-9, the ceremony of expiation of communal failure of responsibility, when an anonymous victim of homicide is found outside a town. In Parshat Ki Tetze, at Deut 23:16, a runaway slave is protected; at24:10-11 a debtor is protected from intrusion into his home by the creditor; at 24:14-15 immediate payment of day laborers is demanded; and at 24:19 the poor are assured access to agricultural produce at the time of harvest. All of this is motivated by the demand thatwe remember what it felt like to be slaves in the land of Egypt.

And in Parshat Ki Tavo, at Deut 26:1-11, the Torah commands us to recite the Vidui Bikkurim (a statement made when bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the Temple), the verbal affirmation of our awareness of the Divine goodness which produced our harvest. At the conclusion of that declaration the Torah says, "And you shall rejoice with all of good which the Lord your God gave to you and your household – you and the Levite and the alien who is amongst you."

This sense of inclusiveness and sharing, out of appreciation of the gifts which God has given us, is fundamental to the Jewish understanding of individual responsibility to the poor and the dislocated.

This past week I spent from Thursday through Sunday in Houston, Texas. Itaught Torah at the United Orthodox Synagogues, led so ably by Rabbi Barry Gelman, and at the Robert Beren Jewish High School, and I visited the area of the Astrodome where the remaining evacuees from New Orleans are being housed and supported. But I learned infinitely more than I taught over that weekend.

I learned what it means for an entire Jewish community to actualize the Torah’s teachings about caring for the poor, the stranger and the dislocated. I saw a Jewish Federation at its best, able to bring together the entire community to share its resources, to house, to feed, to clothe, to counsel, to provide medical care, job opportunities, Day School placements for children, and religious support. I saw a Jewish community united in deeply cooperative spirit to fulfill the Torah’s high expectation, that we learn from our own historical experience to be sensitive to the alien and the underprivileged.

I saw Rabbis, doctors, housewives, social workers, teachers, community organization professionals, lawyers, and business men and women - all overworked to begin with - add hours to their days to provide sensitive and loving care to families and individuals who found themselves suddenly homeless and without the simplest rudiments ofnormal life. What an extraordinary Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of the Divine Name)! What an unusually broad and deep integration of the Divine quality of Chesed, kindness, into daily life!

It is striking that God identifies Himself, in the 13 Divine Attributes (Names), as Rav Chessed, great in kindness. The greatness of God’s kindness resides in its individualized nature. God, knowing the precise and true needs of every individual, is able to respond not from a single template of needs, but from an accurate assessment of the distinctive needs of each individual. The Torah commands us to do the same in our treatment of the poor when it insists, in Deut. 15:8, that we provide, "dei machsoro asher yechsar lo," "in accordance with the very thing that person lacks."

I saw the openness of heart which is necessary to fulfill the verse inparshat Ki Tavo, Deut. 26:11, which instructs us to include the alien in our rejoicing. That openness needs to be admired and nourished, and the community in which it was manifest needs to be proud of their spiritual achievement.

Rabbi Saul J. Berman, Director of Edah, teaches Jewish Law at Stern College and at Columbia University School of Law.
Rabbi Saul J. Berman, Director of Edah, teaches Jewish Law
45 West 36th Street,10th Floor
New York,NY 10018 1-212-244-7501

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3. My Two Letters Recently Sent to the New York Times

a. September 27, 2005
Editor, New Your Times

Dear Editor:

There may be some dispute about the healthiest foods ("Which of These Foods Will Stop Cancer? Not So Fast;" September 17 issue), but there can be no doubt that plant-based diets are best for the health of our imperiled planet.

The annual raising of 50 billion farmed animals worldwide (10 billion in the U.S. alone) generally under "factory farm" conditions contributes substantially to soil erosion and depletion, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habitats, rapid species extinction, global warming, and other environmental threats, and requires vast amounts of water, fuel, and other scarce resources. Over seventy percent of the grain produced in the U.S. is fed to farmed animals and more than half of our water is used to help raise feed crops for these animals, as an estimated 20 million people die worldwide annually and billions suffer from inadequate food and clean water. Hence. it is essential that there be a major shift toward plant-centered diets in order to move our planet to a more sustainable path.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz
September 28, 2005

Editor, the New York Times

Dear Editor:

Your editorial that concludes that the "worst outcomes [of global warming] may be avoided if the world takes concerted action to stabilize industrial emissions of greenhouse gases" (Time to Connect the Dots," September 28, 2005 issue)," fails to address an important way that every person can contribute.

Current intensive livestock agriculture and the consumption of meat contribute greatly to the four major gases associated with the greenhouse effect: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and chlorofluorocarbons.

The burning of tropical forests to create grazing land and land to grow feed crops for farmed animals releases tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and eliminates the ability of these trees to absorb carbon dioxide.Also, the highly mechanized agricultural sector uses an enormous amount of fossil fuel to produce pesticides, chemical fertilizer, and other agricultural resources, and this also contributes significantly to carbon dioxide emissions.Cattle emit methane as part of their digestive processes, as do termites who feast on the charred remains of trees that were burned. The large amounts of petrochemical fertilizers used to produce feed crops create significant quantities of nitrous oxides.Likewise, the increased refrigeration necessary to prevent animal products from spoiling adds chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere.

Hence, a switch toward plant-based diets is essential for the health and sustainability of our imperiled planet.

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz

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5. Another Letter in Yosef Hakohen’s Series on Jewish Teachings About Animals

The Journey to Unity - 142
Hunting Animals for Sport: A Commentary on the News

The following is an excerpt from an article in the Sunday New York Times by Pam Belluck titled, "Girls and Boys, Meet Nature. Bring Your Gun" (September 18th, 2005):
Samantha, a freckle-faced, pony-tailed fourth grader, was on a bear hunt. Not the pretend kind memorialized in picture books and summer-camp chants, but a real one for black bears that live in the woods of southwestern Vermont and can weigh 150 pounds or more.

She had won a "dream hunt" given away by a Vermont man whose goal is to get more children to hunt, and she had traveled about 200 miles from her home in Bellingham, Mass., and was missing three days of school to take him up on his offer.

"Almost everything you hunt is pretty fun," said Samantha, grinning and perfectly at home with a group of five men, the youngest of whom was nearly three times her age....The dream hunt - all expenses paid, including taxidermy - was the brainchild of Kevin Hoyt, a 35-year-old hunting instructor who quit a job as a structural steel draftsman a few years ago and decided to dedicate himself to getting children across the country interested in hunting.

His efforts reflect what hunting advocates across the country say is an increasingly urgent priority, and what hunting opponents find troubling: recruiting more children to sustain the sport of hunting, which has been losing participants of all ages for two decades.

"Forty years from now our kids will be learning about this as history," said Larry Gauthier, one of Mr. Hoyt's buddies on the bear hunt. "Hunters should be included as an extinct species because we're falling away so fast, we need to be protected."

This year, three pro-hunting groups - the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the National Wild Turkey Federation - started Families Afield, a program to lobby states to lower the age at which children can hunt or to loosen the requirements for a child to accompany a parent on a hunt.

Dear Friends,

We shall begin our commentary on the above news item with the following excerpt from "The Vison of Eden" by Rabbi David Sears:

"Where the wall paintings and bas-reliefs of ancient Assyria and Egypt extol the drama of the hunt, the Torah associates such pursuits exclusively with villains such as Nimrod and Esau. Not only is hunting for sport forbidden; to the Jewish mind, it is almost unthinkable." (Page 62).

Rabbi Sears later cites Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, the noted authority on Torah law, who writes: "Throughout the Torah, we find the sport of hunting imputed only to Nimrod and Esau. This is not the way of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Noda B'Yehudah, Yoreh Deah, no. 10)

When I was growing up in New York City during the 1950's and 60's, hunting was a popular American sport, but not among American Jews. Although the majority of American Jews did not receive a traditional Jewish education, they had a vague awareness that Judaism does not allow us to take the life of a living creature for sport.

During the early 80's, I attended a staff conference at a kosher Jewish hotel in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, and the owner was an elderly Orthodox Jewish man. He reminded us that Torah law forbids hunting for sport. Although hunting was a popular sport in his region, he told us with pride that he did not allow hunting on his large hotel estate; thus, the entire estate had become a refuge for wild animals and birds, as they sensed that they were safe there.

Although many Jews have assimilated into modern western culture, the aversion to hunting for sport is still strong among Jews who feel a bond with their spiritual tradition. For example, in Orthodox or traditional Jewish communities, parents do not take their children to wilderness areas in order to hunt; instead, they take them to wilderness areas in order to experience the "niflaos Ha-Boreh" - the wonders of the Creator.

In general, causing pain to animals for the sake of "sport" or "entertainment" is contrary to traditional Jewish teachings and laws. This is why activities such as "bull fights" or "animal fights" were unknown among Jews.As Rabbi David Sears writes:

"When Roman citizens flocked to attend animal fights in the Colosseum, such gruesome entertainments were unheard of among the Jews. According to the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 18b), animal fights epitomize the "dwelling place of scorners" so vehemently decried by the Book of Psalms (1:1). Indeed, the author of Chavas Da'as (a classic work on Jewish law) deems one who attends a bullfight or similar event "an accomplice to murder." (The Vision of Eden, pages 62, 63).

The historian Josephus writes that King Herod, who ruled the Jewish state towards the end of the Second Temple period, upset the Jewish people by bringing in Roman sports which involved animal fights:

“Herod also got together a great quantity of wild beasts, and of lions in very great abundance, and of such other beasts as were either of uncommon strength or of such a sort as were rarely seen. These were trained either to fight one with another, or men who were condemned to death were to fight with them. And truly foreigners were greatly surprised and delighted at the vast expenses of the shows, and at the great danger of the spectacles, but to the Jews it was a palpable breaking up of those customs for which they had so great a veneration.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews.)

To some extent, we are in a similar situation today, for some of the practices of modern civilization regarding the treatment of animals are not in harmony with the compassionate Jewish teachings and laws for which we had so great a veneration. As we return to our spiritual roots and begin to rediscover these ancient teachings and laws, we will gain a deeper understanding of our holistic spiritual tradition.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen(See below)


1. The above teachings should serve as a reminder to those of us who have pets that these creatures are not "toys" made for our entertainment. Having a pet is an ethical and spiritual responsibility; thus, we should be aware of the particular needs of the creatures in our possession. In addition, the Torah also teaches that we are obligated to feed them before we feed ourselves. For further study about caring for animals in our possession, you can review the following two articles which appear in the archive (lower section) on our website:
A. Emulating the Divine Nuturing
B. Caring for Animals

2. Your New Year contributions to support "Hazon - Our Universal Vision" are greatly appreciated. They can be sent to: Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen P.O.B. 16012, Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem. (The checks should be made out to Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen.) Please include your e-mail address, so I can send you a thank you note.

Hazon - Our Universal Vision:

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6. “World's Most Comprehensive Vegetarian Web Site,, Launched

Forwarded message from PETA:

Please forward this to everyone in your address book, to other lists, add a banner to your Web site or auto-signature, etc. (and feel free to send me any changes/corrections/suggestions):

We are thrilled to announce that PETA has launched the world's most comprehensive vegetarian web site, Whether you're looking for information on the latest study about meat industry exploitation of workers, government prioritizing industry over protecting the environment, or video and photos from factory farms, is the site to visit. Here are some highlights:

* Vegetarian 101: A snapshot look at why to go vegetarian, a guide on making the transition, delicious recipes, and quotes and ads from your favorite vegetarian celebrities.
* Photo Galleries-A compelling photographic account of what really happens on factory farms and in slaughterhouses.
* Video Gallery-Educational videos, undercover investigations, commercials, and more.
* Health Concerns-Current and footnoted research about the connections between animal products and heart disease, cancer, obesity, impotence, and more.
* Amazing Animals-All the latest animal behavior research on intelligence of chickens, pigs, fish, turkeys, and cows.
* The Environment-Fully cited information about the environmental impact of the meat industry, laid out in a point-by-point discussion of global warming, water pollution, resource depletion, and more.
* World Hunger-An in-depth look at the link between feeding grains to animals and starving humans in the developing world.
* Worker Rights-A thorough analysis of chicken contract workers, the "most dangerous job in America" (working in a slaughterhouse), and other ways that eating meat supports the abuse of workers.
* Poisoning Communities-Factory farms sicken and kill people in surrounding communities.
* Government Regulation-Sobering research into the ties between the meat industry and the Federal government-both executive and legislative, and how this results in bad environmental, worker protection, and public safety laws and regulations-and no protection for animals.

PLUS: Activism ideas for every schedule, an online shopping guide, health information every parent should know, scientific research into toxins in meat, book and Web site recommendations, links to our favorite vegetarian literature and merchandise, and much, much more!

You can make a difference for farmed animals by spreading the word about this amazing new resource: Forward this message to your family and friends, post a message on your listserv, and add a link to to your web site or in your e-signature.

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7. Update on Saving Animals Injured or Abandoned in the Wake of Katrina

Forwarded message:

In another seven long days on the front lines in New Orleans, PETA's team—thanks to your generous support—has rescued more than 100 additional animals, including a potbellied pig who team leader Laura Brown said" snorted with happiness" as she lapped up water in our van. At, we take you with our teamas it saves the pig and seeks out, befriends, and brings countless cats and dogs, including dogs who had obviously been used in illegal dogfights, to safety.

Dozens of Canine Survivors of Katrina Now Calling PETA Home

On Wednesday morning, we welcomed 32 dogs rescued from New Orleansto our Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters. As the recreational vehicle, driven some 1,000 miles by three PETA staff members, pulled into the parking lot, staff and local community residents who will be fostering and caring for the animals waited anxiously to greet the new arrivals. Many of the dogs are very scared and traumatized, but we found each of them a quiet, comfortable place to rest. Video of the dogs and their arrival in Norfolk can be seen here.
Thank you for your time and your compassion for animals.

Ingrid E. Newkirk

P.S. Please take a moment to donate to PETA's Animal Emergency Fundand help us ensure that no animal will ever endure the tragedy of the last three weeks again.

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8. Organic or Free Range Animal Products?? What's the truth?

Abstract: These labels may conjure up images of animals roaming freely in green pastures, but the reality of life and death for animals on organic, free-range, ACC, or SWAP farms is very different. On organic and free-range farms, most animals are mutilated without the use of painkillers; kept in filthy, disease-ridden sheds; and forced to endure long trips to slaughter without food or water. There are no humane slaughterhouses—in fact, free-range and organic animals are often sent to the same slaughterhouses that kill animals from factory farms......

Organic and Free-Range Animal Products: Fact or Fiction?

A recent Gallup poll found that 96 percent of Americans believe that animals should be protected from cruelty, yet animals on today's farms receive no protection from even the worst abuses.1 As people become more aware of the horrors of factory farming, companies are responding by adding labels to their products with comforting words such as organic, free-range, Animal Care Certified (ACC), Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP), and so on.

These labels may conjure up images of animals roaming freely in green pastures, but the reality of life and death for animals on organic, free-range, ACC, or SWAP farms is very different. On organic and free-range farms, most animals are mutilated without the use of painkillers; kept in filthy, disease-ridden sheds; and forced to endure long trips to slaughter without food or water. There are no humane slaughterhouses in fact, free-range and organic animals are often sent to the same slaughterhouses that kill animals from factory farms.

By far, the most common animal “welfare” labels are ACC and SWAP. These labels are simply fancy names for factory farming—both were created by egg and meat lobbying groups, and both simply serve to put a happy face on the absolute worst practices in today's factory farms.

ACC should be an acronym for Animal CrueltyCertified: The program allows factory farmers to burn hens' beaks with a hot blade, cram six or seven hens into a tiny cage where they cannot spread even one wing, house them in filthy sheds with more than 100,000 other hens, and use food withholding to induce physiological shock so that the birds will lay more eggs.2 Watch what happens on ACC farms.

The SWAP label shows a gentle hand cradling a pig. In reality, SWAP allows all the worst abuses, including cramming mother pigs into filthy crates so small that they can't even turn around and cutting piglets' ears, ripping out their testicles, and chopping off their tails (all without the use of painkillers). It even allows farms to kill sick piglets by slamming their heads into the pavement.3 Most people would agree that the products from animals who are abused in these ways should not be labeled “care certified” or “welfare assurance,” but the meat and egg industries have adopted these phrases to con consumers and increase their profits.

Besides usually being either little or no better for animals, animal products with labels designed to make us feel good about eating animals are almost as harmful to our health as the regular products. The only advantage that organic products have is that they will not be laced with arsenic, antibiotics, or hormones, and although flesh from these animals might be safer than that from drugged animals, the best choice is to avoid all meat. Organic, natural, and free-range flesh, milk, and eggs are devoid of complex carbohydrates and fiber and are laden with artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol, just as all animal products are. Major studies linking the consumption of animal products to heart disease, cancer, and other leading killers suggest that it's these components of animal foods: animal fat, animal protein, and a lack of fiber that cause disease. Organic and free-range animals are killed in the same filthy slaughterhouses as animals from factory farms, so their flesh is subject to the same bacterial contamination from the unsanitary conditions.

A Word on Farmed Fish

The meat industry has also been promoting farm-raised fish as a sustainable alternative to wild-caught fish. What the industry doesn't want you to know is that farm-raised fish must be fed 5 pounds of wild-caught fish in order to produce just 1 pound of meat, making aquafarming worse by a factor of five than commercial fishing, which is destroying our aquatic eco-systems.4 Fish farms cause fish to suffer too conditions on some aquafarms are so horrendous that as many as 40 percent of the fish die before farmers can kill and package them for food.5 Farmed-fish flesh contains contaminants such as mercury, dioxins, PCBs, and other toxins.

1 David W. Moore, “Public Lukewarm on Animal Rights,” Gallup News Service, 21 May 2003.
2 Animal Care Certified, “UEP's Animal Care Certified Program,” 2004.
3 National Pork Board, “Swine Welfare Assurance Program,” 2003.
4 John Robbins, The Food Revolution (Berkeley: Conari Press, 2001) p. 298.
5 “Authority Wants to Stop ‘Fish Torture,'” Aftenposten, 28 Jul. 2004.

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9. More Re Efforts To Stop Expansion of Horse Racing in Israel

Forwarded article:

Israeli animal rights group leads effort against horse racing
By Allison Kaplan Sommer
September 25, 2005

Hakol Chai is calling on Israelis and supporters of its cause abroad to write to the relevant ministers and sign its petition against bringing gambling on horse racing to Israel.

Operation Noah's Ark - Evacuating the animals

An animal rights group in Israel is working to prevent the building of a horseracing track and the introduction of the sport into Israel - the latest initiative in a wave of growing awareness and activism in the country promoting the humane treatment of animals.

"Israel as a democratic state should carry the flag of change and not follow old traditional ideas of horse racing," declared Merav Barlev, director of the animal rights and animal rescue organization, Hakol Chai (Everything is Alive).

The controversy began last year, when a high-level government panel of financial and social affairs considered the issue and recommended that government permission be given to build at least two large racetracks.

For decades, there has been a strong private lobby to allow gambling in Israel in various forms, contending that casinos and other gambling outlets they will give a crucial boost to the economy and tourism. Until now, they have been unsuccessful against the powerful religious lobby -which contends that gambling is immoral - and social welfare groups that warn of the vulnerability of those who will be susceptible to uncontrollable gambling impulses and its negative ramifications for the society, as well as the potential for strengthening criminal elements.

But Hakol Chai's concerns about horse racing focuses on the animals - they filed an appeal of the government panel's decision in Israel's Supreme Court, claiming that the "unavoidable cruelty inherent in the industry" should keep it out of Israel.

"When we first heard of the government's decision, we sent letters to the ministers involved," recounted Tali Lavie, spokesperson and lobbyist for the organization.

In the responses, received only recently, she said, "they indicated that when they weighed all of the factors for and against horse racing, animal welfare wasn't even considered - only economic and issues of tourism. We view not even considering animal welfare as a huge flaw in the process," Lavie said.

Indeed, in their petition to the Supreme Court, the group argued that "the ministers in favor of introducing horse racing only considered economic concerns - such as employment gains, and not wider animal welfare concerns - as required by law."

Lavie says that horse racing has become an item on the agenda of animal rights groups around the world.

"Until a few years ago, everyone looked at horse racing as a glamorous sport," she told ISRAEL21c. "But in the last few years, animal rights organizations all over the year are bringing it to public attention that things look very different backstage. Animal organizations in England and Australia are now recognizing the fact that the way the horses are treated very, very cruelly. In these countries, racing is a tradition, which has been going on for many years, so it is very hard to take it out it out of their system. But here in Israel, we haven't started anything yet. We need to know the consequences of entering such a cruel industry and stay away from it."

The organization is calling on Israelis and supporters of its cause abroad to write to the relevant ministers and sign its petition against bringing gambling on horse racing to Israel.

Hakol Chai is a relatively new organization in Israel, an addition to the growing array of animal welfare groups. They are affiliated with the US organization 'CHAI - US Concern for Helping Animals in Israel', based in Alexandria, VA.

In addition to their work lobbying on the horse racing issue and other legal initiatives, they have created educational programs about animal welfare for adults and children, and have set up a mobile clinic to spay and neuter cats and dogs to reduce the population of strays.

Hakol Chai was one of the organizations which were active in rescuing animals and relocating who were left behind in the disengagement process from Gaza, with a mobile unit that worked day and night to pick up abandoned, stray or animals who had escaped during the chaotic disengagement process.

At the urging of the government and with the cooperation of IDF soldiers, many of whom fed the animals with their own rations until help came for them, they took out as many animals as they could before the withdrawal was completed.

With all of its existential political and security concerns, issues like protecting the environment and animal rights have long taken a back seat in Israel, and it has been traditionally hard for advocates to strike a responsive chord with authorities and the Israeli public. But that has clearly changed.

"There's been a major shift in awareness over the past few years," says Lavie.

Political scientist Reuven Hazan attributes the increased awareness and activity in Israel regarding areas like the environment and animal rights to a combination of factors.

"First, after 57 years of fighting the existential battle, Israelis have realized that while they want secure borders, they also need to focus on what kind of an environment and society exists within those borders," said Hazan, a senior lecturer at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "At the same time, there are many people are tired of the conflict, are tired of the parties, tired of the solutions that aren't solutions - war hasn't worked and trying to make peace hasn't worked - so they are turning to issues that impact their day to day life and in which they can make a difference."

He sees it as a positive trend. "Certainly, the growth of civil society politics is good. I think it's to be praised, as I think there aren't going to be any clear solutions to our bigger problems in the next five years - so more power to them. Obviously, I would be displeased if they are focusing on animal rights only because they are turned off to all of the major political issues. But I would think the Israeli voters can work on multiple dimensions, just as Americans do."

Another recent sign of the increasing visibility and influence of the animal rights lobby occurred earlier this month when the fashion chain Castro unveiled a fall/winter 2005-2006 collection which included clothing with real fox and rabbit fur trims.

When they learned of the inclusion of fur, animal rights groups were able to mobilize rapidly, organizing demonstrations outside the company's stores in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, collecting thousands of signatures on a petition against the use of fur, and bombarding the company with E-mails and phone calls.

In just three weeks, the company's co-directors Etty and Gabi Rotter surrendered to the pressure, and issued a statement to their customers that the company would refrain from manufacturing any future garments with fur.

With so much left to improve in the treatment of animals in Israel, Lavie contends there is no reason to bring in and new and highly problematic industry like horseracing. She details the abuses in the industry.

"First of all, a very large number of racehorses are slaughtered at a young age. Thirty percent who are born are slaughtered because they aren't fast enough. In the industry many are bred so they can choose fast ones. Many suffer injuries and are euthanized as a result of their injuries. Many of the horses are drugged - so they can race even when injured and other drugging is for covering up the serious health problems.

"Ninety-fine percent of racehorses bleed in their lungs, which can be fatal, many have chronic stomach ulcers, and some have heart problems which can cause them to collapse in the track. The horses are whipped up to 30 whips in a race. They are continually transported in inhumane conditions - sometimes they can change hands five or six times within a month," she said.

"The problem here is not the racing horses and it is not the gambling. It's the combination. Gambling sacrifices the animal welfare. It's all about money - that becomes what is important: any combination of animals and gambling is very, very bad."

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