November 3, 2005

11/3/05 JNVA Online Newsletter

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

1. Article Related to Important Teachings on Controversial Statements in Genesis, Chapter One

2. Jerusalem Post Article on Foie Gras Production and Jewish Teachings on Animals

3. Canfei Nesharim Publishes Valuable Volume on Jewish Teachings on the Environment

4. Yosef Hakohen Article About the Original Vegetarian Diet in the Garden of Eden

5. Vegetarianism On a Lighter Note
6. A Call for an Action Campaign on Global Warming

7. Effects of China’s Booming Economy on the Environment

8. Interfaith Celebration of Animals

9. How would the Biblical Noah Respond to Today’s Rapid Species Extinction?

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. Article Related to Important Teachings on Controversial Statements in Genesis, Chapter One

The following article responds to misconceptions about statements in the first chapter of Genesis and shows that there need not be a dispute between the Jewish community and animal rights activists:

Religion: Friend or Foe of Animal Activism
by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. and Rabbi Dovid Sears

Many animal activists regard organized religion as an ideological opponent. Concerning Judaism, this negative presumption is largely due to the misunderstanding of two important biblical verses that, when properly conceived, actually endorse the struggle to improve conditions for animals.

The first misunderstanding is that the biblical teaching that humans are granted dominion over animals gives us a warrant to treat them in whatever way we may wish. 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' (Psalms 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.

The second error of some animal activists 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 1:27, 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 things. 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.

Critics of religion may be correct in asserting that the various religious communities are not doing enough to end the many horrible abuses of animals today. However, the correct response to this failure is not to scorn and repudiate religion altogether, but as much as possible to enlist the religious world in the common cause of eliminating the cruel misuses of animals.

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, it would be a tragic mistake for animal activists to dismiss the various religious communities as unconcerned with the plight of animals. Rather, we all should seek ways to transcend our philosophical differences, and find a common ground on which we may stand together for the benefit of animals and humankind.

Rabbi Dovid Sears is the director of the New York-based Breslov Center for Spirituality and Inner Growth. His comprehensive anthology of original translations and essays entitled “The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism,” was published by OROT in 2003. 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 , and the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and Mathematics and Global Survival. He has over 100 articles on the Internet at His e-mail address is

2. Jerusalem Post Article on Foie Gras Production and Jewish Teachings on Animals

Thanks to author Yosef Hakohen for forwarding the following article:

Jews say no to animal suffering

The recent High Court ban on force-feeding of geese and ducks to produce foie gras means that for many of Israel's fowl farmers their proverbial goose is cooked. No one can deny that forcing a long metal tube down a goose's neck and shoving two kilos of food directly into its stomach using compressed air is cruel and inhumane. The liver swells up to seven to 10 times normal size causing breathing difficulties and other health problems.

But goose livers are not chicken-feed. Foie gras (literally "fat liver") is a lucrative item - Israel was, until now, the world's third biggest exporter - bringing in some NIS 180 million per year. The farmers who have now lost their livelihood intend to claim NIS 450m. in compensation from the government.

The High Court in 2003 gave the Agriculture Ministry 18 months to come up with a more humane method for feeding, otherwise the practice would be outlawed. That time is up, and the Ministers' Committee for Legislative Affairs has now rejected Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz's plea for a respite of an additional three years. Like many other issues in Israel, things always seem to be more complicated here.

The farmers are now considering transferring their operations to Jordan, replacing the cheap foreign labor they used here with local Jordanian workers.

As well as deliberating over the animal welfare issues like in any other open, modern, Western democracy, and calculating fair damages to the farmers, we have a Jewish facet to take into account. The welfare of animals has been a Jewish concern since biblical times, and it can be a source of pride to Jews that the issue of the prevention of cruelty to animals (tza'ar ba'alei haim) has been addressed, discussed and ruled on by rabbis for many centuries.

Biblical sources not only forbid cruelty, but demand compassion and mercy toward animals. Animal owners are required to rest their animals, as they themselves rest, on Shabbat (Exodus 20:10). Acts usually forbidden on Shabbat were permitted to avoid animals' pain because of the precedence of biblical injunctions. Modern halachic technological solutions have been developed to allow milking cows on Shabbat, avoiding the cows' discomfort, while not contravening the prohibition of work. A talmudic imperative forbids an animal owner from eating before feeding his livestock.

THE RABBIS do not forbid the killing of animals for human consumption, but the exacting regulations governing the method of slaughter, such as the use of an extremely sharp knife which is repeatedly checked for the slightest nick, are interpreted as being the most painless and humane technique.

Although these principles set the tone for our attitude to animals they don't give us all the answers. We are required to unload an ass struggling under its burden (Exodus 23:5). It is clear that Judaism sanctions the use of animals for man's benefit; however, the decision of what constitutes suffering is left with us. To load up a donkey with 50 kilos is OK, but is 55 kilos too much? Where do we set the limits? I'm sure the poor donkey would rather be left alone not to carry anything at all.

Although not discussing force-feeding geese specifically, one of the most renowned contemporary halachic authorities, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, ruled on raising calves for veal. Feinstein (Even Ha'ezer IV, 92) forbade the method of raising the calves in miserable conditions in small cages which produced a very light-colored meat. However, animal activists might not be so happy with his line of reasoning (he may have even approved force feeding geese). He would have sanctioned this method of raising calves if it really led to better quality meat, but he ruled that it only improved its light appearance and this alone did not justify the animals' suffering. [Actually, this conclusion is questionable, because Rabbi Feinstein also discussed Judaism’s strong teachings on compassion to animals.]

Is the current concern for animal rights in modern Western society just a fad? The general issue of the appropriateness of using contemporary moral yardsticks compared with the Jewish ethical system which has been developing for thousands of years is too heavy a subject to be dealt with adequately in one op-ed article.

One is tempted to say that like the wearing of fur coats and stoles in their time, foie gras is on its way out, never to be seen again, and that we have progressed in our humanity. Yet wearing leather shoes and the eating of meat is all but universally accepted.

It seems that the ultimate yardstick, in both Jewish and Western ethics (although the distinction is blurred as Western ethics are largely influenced by Jewish values), is whether the animal suffers excessively. This criterion bans force feeding but doesn't force us into feeding as vegetarians.

The High Court's approach, to allow time to develop humane feeding methods, seems to have been level headed. However, the demand remains, and customers are willing to pay top prices for this luxury kosher gourmet item. We are left with the question: Has the High Court killed a goose that laid golden eggs? Or should we just treat it like water off a duck's back?

The writer, a member of Kibbutz Alumim, is senior educator in Melitz Centers for Jewish-Zionist Education.

This article can also be read here.

[ Back to the Article ]

Copyright 1995-2005 The Jerusalem Post -

3. Canfei Nesharim Publishes Valuable Volume on Jewish Teachings on the Environment

Forwarded message:

Compendium of Sources in Halacha and the Environment
Volume One

With articles on:
Bal Taschit: Do not waste
Tzaar Ba'alei Chaim: Treatment of Animals
Nature in Tefilla
On Conserving Water and Netilas Yadayim
The Unity of Creation
Ecology and Spirituality

And Including:
Source Sheets for Learning Sessions
Bibliography of Jewish Law & the Environment

Cost: $10.00 (inquire about reduced community rate)

For more information contact

4. Yosef Hakohen Article About the Original Vegetarian Diet in the Garden of Eden

The Journey to Unity - 147
Our Diet in the Garden:

Dear Friends,

As most of you know, I am taking care of four parakeets, including Georgie, the "talking" parakeet. I do not know if this was reported in your local media, but Georgie recently added a new Hebrew term to his vocabulary: "Gan Eden" - the Garden of Eden. During the last week, I have been busy studying commentaries on the diet in the Garden of Eden, and it was therefore a delight to hear Georgie crying out to his mate, "Gan Eden! Gan Eden!" (For further information about Georgie, see the article, "The Song of the Pious Parakeet," in the lower section of our archive.)

We will begin our discussion with the following Divine proclamation to the first man/woman in the Garden of Eden:

"I have given you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the surface of the entire earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; it shall be yours for food." (Genesis 1:29)

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch was a noted 19th century sage and biblical commentator. In his commentary on the above verse, Rabbi Hirsch points out that there are actually two separate statements within this verse – one at the beginning of the verse and one at the end. The first statement is, "I have given you every seed-bearing plant." The second statement is, "it shall be yours for food." Rabbi Hirsch therefore interprets these two statements in the following manner:

"I have given you every seed-bearing plant..." - These plants and trees are entrusted to you; their continued development depends on you and your care.
"It shall be yours for food" - You will therefore benefit from them when you fulfill your duty to wisely nurture and protect them.

The Divine menu offered to the human being in the Garden is a vegetarian one. And what did the other creatures eat? An answer can be found in the very next verse:

"And to every animal of the earth, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything that moved upon the earth in which there is a living spirit - all green plants for food. And it was so." (1:30)

According to the classical biblical commentator, Rashi, this verse is a direct continuation of the previous verse, and it comes to tell us that the animals and birds had the same diet as the human being. The verse concludes with the statement that this general diet for all creatures includes all green plants.

The Ramban (Nachmanides), another classical biblical commentator, disagrees with Rashi's interpretation. According to the Ramban, this verse is introducing the unique diet of the animals and birds, which is different from that of the human being. The human diet was limited to seed-bearing plants and fruits; moreover, the Ramban explains that "seed-bearing plants" refers to the seeds of plants such as the grains of wheat, barley, and pulse. The animals and birds, however, did not eat the seed-bearing plants and fruits; instead, they ate "green plants" - leaves and herbage.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch follows the view of the Ramban, and he makes the following observation:

"The human being was commanded here to 'fill the earth' (Genesis 1:28); yet, originally he was restricted exclusively to vegetarian food – grain and fruit. It must be, then, that such food was available everywhere, and the earth's climate must have been different than it is today. The fossilized remains of tropical plants, discovered in the far north, attest to this. Only after the flood was it permitted for the human being to kill animals and to eat animal flesh. For the flood also destroyed the very nature of the earth." Rabbi Hirsch adds: "Perhaps for this reason it was necessary to permit animal flesh." In other words, due to changes in the climate, vegetation was no longer plentiful in certain areas of the earth.

Rashi also explains that the above verses teach us that the Creator did not permit Adam and Eve "to put a creature to death and eat its meat." Rashi then reminds us that this prohibition existed until after the great flood, when the human survivors – Noah and his family – were given Divine permission to eat meat (Genesis 9:3). Rashi's statement about the original prohibition against eating meat is based on the Talmud's explanation of the above verses, where Rav Yehudah says in the name of Rav: "The first human being was not permitted to have meat as food" (Sanhedrin 59b).

Why were Adam and Eve not permitted to have meat as food? Through my study and research I discovered various answers to this question, and one answer can be found in the following midrashic teaching: "The Holy One, Blessed be He, did not create His creatures in order that they should die, for if the human being had not sinned, the creatures would not die" (Midrash Aggadah). According to this explanation, human beings and all creatures were originally supposed to live forever, which is why the human being could not kill an animal for food. Nevertheless, the selfish sin of the human being in the Garden caused death to enter the world.

The above midrashic teaching has profound implications, and it also raises profound questions; thus, a full discussion on this teaching would require an entire series! What we can learn from the above midrash, at this stage of our discussion, is that the Garden of Eden was meant to be a place of eternal life. Had Adam and Eve continued to fulfill the original mandate "to serve and preserve" the Garden (Genesis 2:15), death would not have come into the world. But when Adam and Eve stopped viewing the world as a place for serving and instead began to view the world as a place for self-gratification, they felt free to eat from the "forbidden fruit." And when human beings begin to feel that nothing is forbidden and that they have complete freedom to exploit the entire world for their own selfish gratification, then they have chosen a path which leads to death for themselves and all creatures. As the Midrash teaches in the name of Rabbi Akiva: The Omnipresent One set before the human being two paths - the path of life and the path of death – and the human being chose the latter. (Midrash Rabbah 21:5 – Rashi)

This tragic choice, however, is not the end of the story. For the Compassionate One has given us the Torah - a holistic spiritual path which can lead us once again to the Garden and eternal life. This is why the Torah is described in the following manner: "She is a Tree of Life" (Proverbs 3:18).

In the age when we all return to the life-giving Torah of the Compassionate One, death will suffer its own death, as the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: "He will eliminate death forever" (Isaiah 25:8).

L'Chayim – To Life!
Shalom, and a Good Month,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

1. As the above teachings indicate, the human being had a vegetarian diet in the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59b) cites an oral tradition which seems to imply that the human being did eat some meat in the Garden. According to this tradition, there were angels in the Garden that roasted meat for the first human being. The Talmud answers that this tradition is not a contradiction to the vegetarian diet given to the human being in the Garden, as this "meat" descended from heaven. In other words, this was not real meat; it was a "heavenly" food which had some of the qualities of meat. The term "meat" is therefore a metaphor and is not meant to be taken literally. Rabbi Aharon Yeshaya Roter, a noted Torah scholar in Israel, suggests that this heavenly "meat" may have been similar in nature to the plants of the field. ("Sha'arei Aharon" – An Anthology of Commentaries on the Torah)

2. It is written, "Keep My statutes and My social laws, which a human being shall carry out and through which he gains life - I am the Compassionate One" (Leviticus 18:5). This verse is reminding us that the Torah gives us life. A midrashic work known as "Toras Kohanim" points out that the verse does not refer to an "Israelite" who keeps the Torah, but a "human being" who keeps the Torah, as within the Torah we also find a universal moral code for all humanity. The Torah therefore gives life to all human beings. In this spirit, our sages teach: "Just as water is life for all human beings, so too, the words of Torah are life for all human beings" (Tana Dvei Eliyahu 18:74).

Hazon – Our Universal Vision:

5. Vegetarianism On a Lighter Note

Thanks to Pam Rice, leader of the VivaVegetarian Society. for forwarding this to me, along with the message, “Thanks. volunteer Arlen Baden, punster fiend (and friend), who passed this one along.”

Q: What vegetable might you find in your basement?
A: celery

Q: What is green and goes to a summer camp?
A: a Brussels' scout

Q: What vegetable do you need a plumber for?
A: a leek

Q: Why do potatoes make good detectives?
A: Because they keep their eyes peeled.

Q: What is small, red and whispers?
A: a hoarse radish

Q: What vegetable can tie your stomach in knots?
A .string beans

Q: Why is it not wise to tell secrets in a cornfield?
A: too many ears

Q: When is a cucumber like a strawberry?
A: when one is in a pickle and the other is in a jam

Q: What did the lettuce say to the celery?
A: Quit stalking me.

Q: What do you say to rotten lettuce?
A: You should have your head examined.

Q: Why did the tomato go out with a prune?
A: Because he couldn't find a date!
Boy melon: Honey, dew you want to run away and get married?
Girl melon: Sorry, I cantaloupe.

6. A Call for an Action Campaign on Global Warming

Forwarded message:

A Day of Action on December 3, 2005

From November 28th to December 9th representatives from 150 or more nations will be meeting at a Climate Conference in Montreal, Canada. The vast majority of those present will be signers of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. They will be discussing the latest developments with this deepening world crisis and what should be done about it.

The representatives of the United States government, however, will be present working behind the scenes to try to block any positive action. This is the role they have played for several years.

We are outraged that our government has taken this obstructionist approach to one of, if not the, most critical and urgent issues of our time. Powerful dirty energy corporations like Exxon/Mobil are calling the shots on U.S. energy policy. Resources and lives are being wasted in a tragic war instead of going into energy conservation and development of clean, safe energy that would end our reliance on Middle East oil while generating millions of new jobs.

We must stand up and take action now! This fall let's mobilize a nationwide, grassroots education and action campaign leading up to mass demonstrations in Montreal and throughout the U.S. on Saturday, December 3rd. Help gather signatures for the Peoples Ratification of the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty, which will be presented in Montreal. Join Climate Crisis, USA Join the World as we call for:

• U.S.A., Join the World by Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol
• Support and Export Clean, Safe, Non-Nuclear Energy Alternatives
• End Government Subsidies for Oil and Coal Corporations
• Dramatically Strengthen Energy Conservation and Fuel Efficiency Standards
• A Just Transition for Workers, Indigenous and Other Communities Affected by a Change to Clean Energy
• Defend the World's Forests; Support Community-Run Tree Planting Campaigns

This organizing campaign in the United States is part of an international effort. A call has been issued and organizing is underway for demonstrations on December 3rd in many other countries around the world.

There are a variety of events that we are encouraging and will help organize. Leading up to December 3rd local groups can organize house parties, forums, teach-ins, conferences or town meetings. You can circulate the Kyoto and Beyond petition. We will be putting together a listing of resources that can provide information and analysis on the climate crisis and what can be done about it.

We urge widespread participation in this urgently needed campaign!
P.O. Box 648, Lenox, MA 01240
(413) 637-2486

7. Effects of China’s Booming Economy on the Environment

China's Next Big Boom Could Be the Foul Air
NY Times Week in Review 10/30/05
Published: October 30, 2005

BEIJING — The steady barrage of statistics trumpeting China's rise is often greeted elsewhere as if the figures were torpedoes and the rest of the world a sinking ship. Economic growth tops 9 percent! Textile exports jump 500 percent! Military spending up! Manufacturing up!

Liu Jin/Agence France-Presse - Getty ImagesA cement factory clouded the skies in Qianwei, in Sichuan, China. Until recently, the government's economic concerns far outstripped its concerns for the condition of the environment.

What should the Chinese government do to control pollution? The numbers inflame the exaggerated perception that China is methodically inhaling jobs and resources and, in the process, inhaling the rest of the planet. Burp. There goes the American furniture industry. Burp. Thanks for your oil, Venezuela.

But one statistic offered last week by a top Chinese environmental official should stimulate genuine alarm inside and outside China. The official, Zhang Lijun, warned that pollution levels here could more than quadruple within 15 years if the country does not curb its rapid growth in energy consumption and automobile use.

China, it seems, has reached a tipping point familiar to many developed countries, including the United States, that have raced headlong after economic development only to look up suddenly and see the environmental carnage. The difference with China, as is so often the case, is that the potential problems are much bigger, have happened much faster and could pose greater concerns for the entire world.

"I don't think it will jump four or five times," Robert Watson, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said of the pollution prediction by Mr. Zhang. "But it could double or triple without too much trouble. And that's a scary thought, given how bad things are now."

China is already the world's second-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions and is expected to surpass the United States as the biggest. Roughly a third of China is exposed to acid rain. A recent study by a Chinese research institute found that 400,000 people die prematurely every year in China from diseases linked to air pollution.

Nor does China's air pollution respect borders: on certain days almost 25 percent of the particulate matter clotting the skies above Los Angeles can be traced to China, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental experts in California predict that China could eventually account for roughly a third of the state's air pollution.

The air problem could become a major embarrassment if, as some experts believe, Beijing does not meet its environmental targets for 2008, when the Olympic Games will be played here.

For the Chinese government, the question is how to change the country's booming economy without crippling it. President Hu Jintao has made "sustainable development" a centerpiece of his effort to shift the country from unbridled growth to a more efficient economy. Mr. Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have repeatedly mentioned environmental protection in speeches.

The political attention comes as environmental problems are begetting social and economic problems. Violent riots have erupted in the countryside over contaminated water, stunted crops and mounting health woes. In a handful of villages, farmers have stormed chemical factories to stop the dumping of filthy water. Roughly 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted. In cities, people drink bottled water; in the countryside, most people are too poor to pay for bottled water, so they boil polluted water or simply drink it.

Public anger is also rising in cities. In some, air pollution is so thick that on the worst days doctors advise, impractically, against going outside. Last week, hundreds of people living in the Beijing outskirts protested plans for a factory they fear would inundate the neighborhood with pollution.

The severity of the situation has created an opening for environmentalists in and out of the government. Environmentalism is a chic issue for college students, who have participated in garbage cleanups and joined the growing number of nongovernment organizations focused on pollution. The once-meek State Environmental Protection Administration, or SEPA, has become more aggressive in identifying and going after polluters and calling for reforms.

But the political and practical obstacles are formidable. Car ownership has become part of the Chinese middle-class dream, and the car industry has become a major contributor to tax coffers and a force in the overall economy.

Industrial pollution is difficult to control because local officials often ignore emissions standards to appease polluting factories that pay local taxes. SEPA has closed factories, only to see them reopen weeks later. To make a serious reduction in air pollution, experts say, tougher, enforceable standards are needed, and many factories would need new pollution control equipment.

"There has to be the political will," said Steve Page, director of the E.P.A office of air quality planning and standards. "The challenge they face is how will these plants be lined up and told this will happen?"

Part 1 of 2 parts

8. Interfaith Celebration of Animals

Forwarded message from: (Marian Hussenbux)

Here is what I wrote for Young Quaker –


Some sixty people attended this inspiring event at Quaker Concern for Animals committee member, Feargus O'Connor's, Unitarian church in Golders Green, London. Also present were five members of QCA.

After Feargus's welcome, Jackie Ballard, Director General of the RSPCA, lit a candle for all the world's animals.

Ayndrilla Singharay, of the BRAHMO SAMAJ faith, quoted Rabindranath Tagore, and his beautiful concept, The Stream of Life, which flows through all living creatures. She stressed that we are all part of the same great body of love and light.

Speaking for the BUDDHISTS, Venerable Sumana Nepal, reminded us that a central Buddhist belief is "not to destroy, or cause to destroy". Buddhists are encouraged to love all beings, and to constantly practise loving kindness.

Sid Dahar, for the HINDUS, talked about the harmony that exists in Nature, and implored us to live in rhythm with this harmony and to lend a helping hand to all creatures.

We next heard from Nitin Mehta, our patron, representing the JAIN faith. He told us a charming tale of Lord Mohammed and the Cobra, the moral of which was that "it is in our own interest to be compassionate to all living beings. This also tied in with individual and collective karma.

Charanjit Ajit Singh, spoke on behalf of the SIKH religion. Her particular message was that human beings have a responsibility to look after all of God's creation.

The Rev. Marcus Braybrooke (CHRISTIAN - and President of the WCF) mentioned Jesus' example of the five sparrows sold for two farthings, "and not one of them forgotten by God", and he also talked about the beautiful parable of The Good Shepherd. His wife, Mrs. Mary Braybrooke, read to us William Blake's inspirational poem 'To See a World in a Grain of Sand, and a Heaven in a Wild Flower ... the theme being Kill Not!

For the JEWISH faith, Rabbi Jacqueline Tabick (Chair, WCF) quoted Isaiah's vision of a peaceful world, with its strong message "They shall not hurt nor do harm in all my holy kingdom". She also reminded us not to forget that insects have their place, telling us a delightful story of David - before he became king - being saved by a spider, and later by a wasp.

Khalid Hussenbux spoke on behalf of MUSLIMS, in particular stressing that all creatures are sentient beings, and therefore that cruelty to all living animals must be condemned.

Jackie Ballard (RSPCA) talked about their vision of "a world where humans respect and live in harmony with animals"

Phyllis Campbell-McRae (IFAW) reminded us of how much animals do for us, and how we can learn from them.

Marian Hussenbux (QCA) reading from an article by the American animal advocate, Judy Carman, spoke of how our culture has, sadly, lost its connection with the sacred web of life. "We are mystical activists.truly blessed, because we live in awe and wonder at the miracle of our animal relations and of life itself. We know firsthand that we belong with them in this sacred family of earth. We have brothers and sisters swimming in the sea, flying above us, walking beside us and talking to us, each in their own way. This path we have taken of No Harm and Communion with All Life is. the great Path of Compassion and Joy. On this sacred path, we walk together toward the Heaven on Earth or Peaceable Kingdom prophesied by the wise optimists of all ages, in which all beings truly "love one another.

Speaking for the International Primate Protection League, Cyril Rosen told us some delightful tales of monkeys and humans living peacefully together.

Oliver Southgate, for Compassion in World Farming, gave us some shocking details of the horrors of factory farming, and reminded us that the Biblical word 'dominion' -as in "Man will have dominion over the animals" - always includes responsibility and compassion.

A collection was made for The Doctor Hadwen Trust, in memory of the Unitarian social reformer and animal protection campaigner, Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904), who, with Lord Shaftesbury, founded the world's first anti-vivisection society. (Friends will be aware that QCA began life in 1889 as the Friends' Anti-Vivisection Society.)

The address was given by Professor Timothy Sprigge, Emeritus Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, University of Edinburgh.

He began with an overview of different faiths' attitudes to animals, making the important point that, whereas all religions condemn cruelty to animals, their definitions of what actually constitutes cruelty causes some difficulty.

Are animals inferior? Do they have a sense of self? Do they have souls? These were among the questions he raised. Timothy's view is that other animals have consciousness as we do - they are not merely automata, as Descartes conveniently labelled them - they certainly feel pain (even insects), there is a non-physical dimension to their lives, and they do have moral rights.

Timothy finished by discussing current campaigns for animal protection and rights. It is perfectly legitimate to mount public protests against factory farms and vivisection labs. If some supporters of causes we share are violent, whilst we would consider this to be wrong and counter-productive, it does not nullify the cause.

After the sung Benediction, refreshments, including copious Indian food provided by a Bangladeshi friend of Feargus's, completed an inspiring event.

This article first appeared in the November issue of Young Quaker.

9. How would the Biblical Noah Respond to Today’s Rapid Species Extinction?

The article below is very timely as the Torah portion about Noah and the flood will be read this Shabbat in synagogues.

What Would Noah Do?

By Adam C. Stern
Executive Director, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

November 1, 2005

This week we read Parshah Noah in the Torah - the story of the Great Flood, the ark that saved two living creatures of each species, and the covenant God made with Noah to abide by God's laws. The story is especially relevant this year in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the other destructive storms that have followed. Many scientists now agree that the increasing frequency and intensity of these hurricanes have been at least partially caused by human activity, including burning fossil fuels and the related release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Our climate is changing on a scale bigger than even Noah could have imagined.

Responding to climate change and the warming of the planet already underway is going to require a multi-decade effort by governments, businesses, communities, and individuals. A key challenge is to build public awareness about the likely consequences of climate change, especially the injustice to people living in poverty who surely will be harmed the most. In the spirit of tikkun olam (repairing the Earth), Jewish leaders must convey the moral urgency of taking action now. Since we are all part of the problem, we must all join in developing solutions for a more environmentally-sustainable world.

One place to start is to protect the strong environmental laws already in place. For more than 30 years, the federal Endangered Species Act has served as a safety net for wildlife, fish and plants that are on the brink of extinction. During that time, of the 1,800 species protected by the law, only nine have been declared extinct - a remarkable record of the Act's positive impact. Without the Endangered Species Act, wildlife such as the bald eagle, American alligator, California condor, Florida panther and many other animals that are part of America's natural heritage could have disappeared from the planet years ago. The Endangered Species Act works because it safeguards the places where endangered animals and plants live.

But in a stunning expression of self-interest at the expense of the national interest, some members of Congress, with support from land developers, are trying to severely weaken, or even eliminate, the Endangered Species Act. In September, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill, misleadingly named "The Threatened and Endangered Species Reform Act of 2005," that would hamstring the federal government in its efforts to protect the critical habitat areas that endangered animals and plants need to survive. The legislation would also exempt the pesticide industry from the Endangered Species Act's most important provisions.

In addition to the many environmental reasons for defending the Act, Jewish and Christian leaders are stepping forward to make the religious case for preserving this vital conservation law. Forty prominent rabbis and 30 distinguished Jewish scientists - a group not seen working together everyday - have signed a statement to Congress in which they affirm that:

"...the Endangered Species Act is one of our generation's richest fulfillments of our biblical destiny as b'tselem elohim, created in the image of God (Genesis 1: 26), with the unique power and responsibility to shape, preserve, and renew creation through the work of our hands, our hearts, and our minds.

The rabbis and Jewish scientists call upon U.S. policymakers to "... emulate the forethought, self-restraint, and prodigious effort modeled by the biblical Noah - "a righteous man . . . blameless in his age" (Genesis 6: 9). The writers - describing "the Endangered Species Act as the legislative equivalent of Noah's cedar grove" - urge Congress to strengthen the law as a resource for building our environmental future.

Jewish groups are also playing a leading role in the Noah Alliance, an interfaith partnership established to defend the Endangered Species Act. Public service ads, take action steps, and materials for use in synagogues and churches can be found on the Noah Alliance web site (

The engagement of religious communities at both national and congregational levels will be crucial to protecting the Endangered Species Act when it is considered by the U.S. Senate, later this year or early in 2006. With the House having already passed an extreme measure to weaken the law, the battle in the Senate is shaping up as a key test of our nation's moral resolve to protect endangered species, and by extension, to protect ourselves.

Jewish texts clearly state that all species deserve our wonder and protection. "Of all that the Holy One created in the world, not a single thing is useless," teaches the Talmud (B. Shabbat 77b), while the Midrash elaborates, "Even those creatures that you may look upon as superfluous in the world . . . they too are part of the entirety of creation." (Genesis Rabbah 10:7). Every species of plant or animal is thus understood by Jewish tradition to occupy an ecological niche in our interdependent, living world.

In the story of Noah, God considered destroying the Earth and did not. Now with the planet's environmental well-being threatened, we mortals face the same choice.

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