December 8, 2005

12/8/05 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Update Re JVNA Video

2. Major Article Re “Judaism and Vegetarianism”/My Responses Interspersed/My Letter to the Editor

5. Are Free-Range and Organic Farms a Good Compromise?

6. Raising Veal Calves in Israel

8. Number of Kosher Jewish Vegetarians Increasing Sharply

11. Letters About the Recent Increase in Jewish Vegetarians

12. Letter Re the Potential 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. Update Re JVNA Video

I had a marvelous experience with award winning photographer and filmmaker Lionel Friedberg in Israel. We videotaped interviews with 6 rabbis, 2 animal rights activists, about 20 environmentalists, one wholistic health doctor, and one vegetarian restaurant owner. And Lionel got some great background footage of Israel, its environment, its supermarkets and restaurants, its natural areas. and much more. Please be on the lookout for a special JVNA newsletter soon on our progress and plans and how you might help.

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2. Major Article Re “Judaism and Vegetarianism”/My Responses Interspersed/My Letter to the Editor

For a long time, I have tried to start respectful dialogues in the Jewish community re Jewish teachings on the environment. Unfortunately, this has been difficult. Hence, I have decided to start our own dialogues by respectfully responding to articles on vegetarianism by rabbis and others, with the hope that the authors of the articles will respond to my comments.

The first example is below. The article is very thoughtful and I wish to commend the authors. However, I believe that there are factors that deserve respectful comments. The complete article can be found at the Aish Hatorah web site. Please see the URL below.

My responses below are quick initial reactions to the material in the article. If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, please let me know. Thanks.

4 Cheshvan 5766 / 6 November 2005
Torah reading: Lech Lecha
Forwarded message from Weekly Email (of Yeshiva Aish HaTorah)- Over 140,000 subscribers

Where's the beef? Examining the pros and cons.
by Rebbetzin Feige Twerski and Rabbi Shraga Simmons

[*** My comments will be preceded and ended with *** and included in brackets, like the ones beginning and ending this statement.***]

The vegetarian diet enjoys a degree of popularity in the West. Some choose to be vegetarian for aesthetic reasons: they don't like the taste of meat, or they regard a meat-based diet as less healthy. Others are vegetarians because they find it morally wrong to kill an animal for food.
What does Judaism say about all this?

[*** Please note that there is no mention here of the environmental arguments for vegetarianism nor the horrible mistreatment of animals on factory farms, which is briefly discussed later. Also, note the implication that it is only a theory that animal-based diets are unhealthy. ***]

First, some background on the Jewish worldview:

Ideally there should be no barriers between one's physical and spiritual existence. Life should be a seamless expression of connecting to the Master of the Universe, the Author of our being. From the Jewish perspective, activities that present themselves as mundane -- eating, sleeping, conducting business, relationships, etc. -- are part of serving God, no less than the ritual observance of prayer, study and giving charity.

[*** This is good because it indicates that concerns about eating are important. ***]

The act of eating should be a ladder to heaven - a means of bringing sanctity into our lives.
Earthly activities are the bridge through which we access higher realms. Therefore, the act of eating is not a meaningless, sensual indulgence, nor even a necessary means of maintaining our physical well being. It can and should be the proverbial ladder to heaven -- a means of bringing holiness and sanctity into our lives.

[*** Very well put. But can one bring holiness and sanctity into one’s life by partaking in a diet that involves the severe mistreatment of animals, major negative health effects, and major negative environmental effects? ***]

The Talmud says that at the end of one's life, the first question God asks is: "Did you taste every fruit that I put on Earth?" We are enjoined to appreciate all of life's bounty. Indeed, Maimonides deems it a mitzvah to partake of meat on the holidays, in order to increase one's pleasure and rejoicing. (In practice, this does not apply to those who do not enjoy these foods.)

[*** Please note that the Talmudic statement refers to fruit, not meat. Also, Maimonides statement omits the Talmudic qualifier, “In the time of the temple.” After the destruction of the Temple, according to a statement in the Talmud (Pesachim 109a), one can rejoice with wine, and meat is not required. ***]

In general, Judaism permits the eating of meat, provided that the animal: is a species permitted by the Torah (Leviticus chapter 11); is ritually slaughtered (shechita) (Deut. 12:21); has the non-kosher elements (blood and certain fats and sinews) removed (Leviticus 3:17; Genesis 32:33); is prepared without mixing meat and milk (Exodus 34:26); and that appropriate blessings are recited (Deut. 8:10).

By eating in the Torah-prescribed manner, and with the proper focus and intent, says the Talmud, one's table can become a virtual altar in the service of God.

[*** Yes, Judaism permits the eating of meat and thus Jews have a choice. But, shouldn’t that choice be based on a recognition of the realities involved in the production and consumption of animal products and how they violate basic Jewish teachings re preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and helping hungry people? ***]


At the same time, the Torah stresses compassion for animals. Indeed, the Jewish forefathers are known affectionately as the "Seven Shepherds," and the Talmud describes how God chose Moses for Jewish leadership based on his tender care for flocks of sheep.
Here are some examples of Jewish legislation regarding the ethical treatment of animals:

a. It is prohibited to cause pain to animals - tzaar ba'alei chaim. (Talmud - Baba Metzia 32b, based on Exodus 23:5)

[*** There are many cases on factory farms where this prohibition is violated. ***]

b. One is obligated to relieve an animal's suffering (i.e. unburden it), even if it belongs to your enemy. (Exodus 23:5)

[*** Yet animals suffer daily on factory farms where animals are raised for slaughter. ***]

c. If an animal depends on you for sustenance, it is forbidden to eat anything until feeding the animal first. (Talmud - Brachot 40a, based on Deut. 11:15)

d. We are commanded to grant our animals a day of rest on Shabbat. (Exodus 20:10)

[*** According to the outstanding Torah commentator Rashi, this means that animals should be free to move freely in the fields and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation on the Sabbath day. This certainly does not happen on factory farms, ***]

e. It is forbidden to use two different species to pull the same plow, since this is unfair to the weaker animal. (Deut. 22:10)

[*** Fairness to animals on factory farms is seldom, if ever, considered. ***]

f. It is a mitzvah to send away a mother bird before taking her young. (Deut. 22:7)

[*** According to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, true compassion would involve not taking the young or the mother. ***]

g. It is forbidden to kill a cow and her calf on the same day. (Leviticus 22:28)

[*** Today, most calves are removed from their mothers almost immediately after birth. ***]

h. It is prohibited to sever and eat a limb off a live animal. (Genesis 9:4; this is one of the "Noachide" laws that apply to Jews and non-Jews alike.)

i. Shechita (ritual slaughter) must be done with a minimum of pain to the animal. The blade must be meticulously examined to assure the most painless form of death possible. ("Chinuch" 451; "Pri Megadim" - Introduction to Shechita Laws).

[*** Yes, but we should also consider the many months of mistreatment on factory farms prior to slaughter. ***]

j. Hunting animals for sport is viewed with serious disapproval by our Sages. (Talmud - Avoda Zara 18b; "Noda BeYehuda" 2-YD 10)

[*** This is an argument to support the Jewish teaching that an animal can only be killed in order to meet a basic human need, and when there is no easily available way to meet that need. ***]

To deal casually or cavalierly with the life of an animal is antithetical to Jewish values. This sensitivity is illustrated by the following story:

In a small European village, a shochet (ritual slaughterer) fetched some water to apply to his blade in the preparation process. At a distance, he observed a very old man, watching him and shaking his head from side to side disapprovingly. Finally, the young shochet asked the old man for an explanation.

The old man replied that as he watched him prepare his blade, it brought back memories from many years earlier when, as a young man, he had observed the saintly Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (founder of the chassidic movement) doing the same thing. But the difference, he explained, was that Rabbi Israel did not need to fetch water in order to sharpen the blade -- rather the tears that streamed from his eyes were adequate.

[*** A wonderful story. But this thoughtful article fails, except briefly near the end, to address the many inconsistencies between Judaism’s beautiful teachings on compassion for animals and the realities of how most animals are treated on factory farms. ***]


While Jewish law protects the ethical treatment of animals, Judaism also maintains that animals are meant to serve mankind, as it says: "Let man dominate the fish, birds and animals" (Genesis 1:26). There is a clear hierarchy of creation, with man at the pinnacle.

[*** Yes, but Judaism views people as responsible stewards and as guardians. It certainly does not give people the right to so severely mistreated farmed animals. ***]

Maimonides identifies four levels in the hierarchy of creation, in which every creature derives its sustenance from the level beneath it:

Level 1: Domaim -- the silent, inanimate realm (i.e. earth and minerals) constitutes the lowest existence, and is self-sustaining.
Level 2: Tzomey'ach -- vegetation is nurtured by the previous level, earth.
Level 3: Chai -- the animal kingdom eats mostly vegetation.
Level 4: Medaber -- human beings (lit.: the speaking being) derive nourishment by eating both vegetation and animals.

[*** But modern nutritional science has shown that there is no need to eat animals. ***]

When food is consumed, its identity is transformed into that of the one eating it. Thus the Talmud (Pesachim 59b) regards it as morally justified to eat animals only when we are involved in holy and spiritual pursuits. It is only then that the human actualizes his highest potential, and the consumed animal is, so to speak, elevated to the level of "human."

In Jewish consciousness, the highest level an animal can achieve is to be consumed by a human and used in the service of God. A chicken on a Shabbos table is a very lucky chicken! (see "Tanya" ch. 7)

[*** Considering how the chicken has been treated prior to slaughter, I wonder if the chicken would agree. ***]

If, however, the person is acting like an animal, then by what right may he consume his "peer"? What spiritual improvement can he confer upon this animal by eating it?

[*** Agreed. ***]

Therefore, before eating meat, we must ask ourselves the very sobering question of whether in fact, given who we are, are we indeed benefiting this animal?

[*** How many people ask this question today? ***]

When eating is not merely an act of "mindless consumption," but rather an act with clear intent that the strength and energy one derives from the food will be utilized to benefit the world, then eating has been sublimated to an act of worship.

[*** This does not consider the many negative effects of animal-based diets which often reduce a person’s energy and strength. ***]


Animal rights can be a double-edged sword: While the animal kingdom is important and must be treated ethically, we must recognize that there is no equivalence of species. Among all living things, humankind alone is created in the "image of God" (Genesis 1:26).

[*** Hence, should we not imitate God’s positive attributes of compassion, justice, and mercy? ***]

When the lines are blurred, when both human and animal life is considered equally sacred, this can trigger a dangerous philosophy that regards killing a human being as no more heinous than killing an animal.

[*** The next paragraphs expand on the above statement, as this is perhaps the strongest argument for continuing to eat meat. But, how many people today regard “killing a human being as no more heinous than killing an animal?” ***]

Rabbi Yosef Albo (14th century) asserts that this philosophy has its roots in the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Genesis chapter 4 describes how Cain brought a sacrifice of grain, while his brother Abel offered animals. Rabbi Albo explains that Cain regarded humans and animals as equals and, accordingly, felt he had no right to kill them.

Cain then extended this misguided logic: If people and animals are inherently equal, then just as one could permit taking the life of an animal, so too could one permit taking the life of his fellow man. Thus Cain was able to justify the murder of his brother.

The Nazis passed laws protecting animals, while relegating Jews to the status of "sub-human."

In modern times, the radicalized extension of Cain's philosophy came afore during the 1930s, when the Nazis passed a number of laws protecting animals, e.g. restricting the use of live animals in biomedical experiments ("vivisection"). All the while, the Nazis were killing off millions of humans. (Actually, Jews were legally relegated to the status of "sub-human.") The lines between human and animal had been totally obscured.

Today this radical vegetarianism is expressed by the organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). As one example, PETA's shocking multi-media display, "Holocaust on Your Plate," juxtaposes photos of Nazi concentration camp victims with photos of chicken farms, drawing a gross moral equivalence. (see

In academia, too, Princeton Univ. philosopher Peter Singer has written and lectured extensively on how the welfare of animals supercedes that of ill babies; he also calls for society to accept human-animal domestic partnerships. (see

Judaism's permitting animals for food serves as a pragmatic hedge against such extremism: constantly reminding man of his unique status among God's creation. The 18th century kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzatto, explains that all living things -- humans and animals -- have souls. However, not all souls are created equal. Animals have a soul which animates them and carries within it the instincts for survival, procreation, fear, etc. Only humans, with a Divine soul, have the ability to forge a relationship with God, the transcendent dimension. Only humans have the ability to choose higher "soul pleasures" -- like helping the poor, even at the expense lower "body pleasures" like hoarding more food for ourselves. You'll never see a hungry dog say to his friends, "Let's not fight over this," or "Let's save some for the other dogs who aren't here."

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (purportedly a vegetarian) writes that man was granted dominion over animals in order to underscore our spiritual superiority and heightened moral obligations. Were man to accord animals the same rights as humans, then just as we don't expect high moral standards from animals, we would, tragically, lower our expectations of humans as well.

[*** I believe that this argument is a stretch today as very few people equate people and animals. ***]


Historically, Adam and Eve were vegetarians, as it says: "vegetables and fruits shall be your food" (Genesis 1:29). God only permitted meat to Noah and his descendents after the Flood (Genesis 9:3; Talmud - Sanhedrin 59b).

Why the shift?

Some commentators explain that before the Flood, man was above the food chain, given the responsibility to take care of the world and everything in it. After the Flood, man sunk a level and became linked with the food chain, albeit at the top of it. Mankind had fallen in its ability to influence the animal world through actions and deeds, and it thus became necessary to influence the animal world more directly by ingesting them.

[*** Are we really influencing the animal world by eating them today? ***]

After the Flood, mankind had fallen in its ability to influence the animal world through actions and deeds.

Rabbi Yosef Albo, mentioned earlier, asserts that Cain's misguided philosophy was adopted by succeeding generations, and meat was permitted to Noah in order to emphasize the superiority of humanity over the animal kingdom.

[*** This seems to be the basic argument for eating meat, while seemingly ignoring the many ways that animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish teachings. Certainly there are also problems with plant-based agriculture, but they are relatively minor compared to those associated with animal-agriculture. ***]

Another commentator, the Malbim, explains the shift from a physical perspective: The post- diluvian era was marked by a general weakening of the human condition. As the quality of produce became nutritionally inferior, and as mankind became geographically dispersed and subject to varying climates, it became necessary to supplement the human diet with animal products.

[*** This appears to be inconsistent with modern nutritional science, which indicates many health problems associated with consuming animal products. ***]

Some cite the precedent of Adam and Eve as indication that in a perfect world, i.e. in the future time of the Messiah, humans will return to universal vegetarianism. The vast majority of rabbinic scholars, however, maintain that animal offerings will be resumed in the Messianic era. Indeed, the Talmud (Baba Batra 75a) declares that when the Messiah arrives, God will prepare a flesh-based feast for the righteous.

[*** Most commentators regard this Talmudic statement as an allegory. ***]


In conclusion, Judaism accepts the idea of a vegetarian diet, though dependent on one's intention:

[*** This is an important concession. ***]

Vegetarianism based on the idea that we have no moral right to kill animals is not an acceptable Jewish view.

[*** This leaves many other Jewish teachings that indicate that Jews can be vegetarians. Several Israeli and other Chief Rabbis are vegetarians. ***]

Vegetarianism for aesthetic or health reasons is acceptable; indeed, the Torah's mandate to "guard yourselves carefully" (Deut. 4:15) requires that we pay attention to health issues related to a meat-centered diet.

[*** It is good that this is now mentioned. But, since the preservation of our health is such an important mitzvah, overriding most other mitzvot, shouldn’t the negative health effects of animal-based diets be on the Jewish agenda to a much greater extent than at present? ***]

Some points to consider include the contemporary increase in sickness in animals created by factory farm conditions, and the administration of growth hormones, antibiotics and other drugs given to animals. All of these may be possible health risks to humans.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, forbade raising veal in cramped and painful conditions.

In addition, there is the possible violation of tzaar baalai chaim (causing pain to animals) resulting from mass production methods of raising, transporting and slaughtering animals.

[*** It is good that these issues are now being raised. But I believe that there should be far greater attention to them in the Jewish community (and others). ***]

The great 20th century American sage, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, forbade raising veal in cramped and painful conditions, and forbade feeding animals chemicals in place of food, since this would deprive them of the pleasure of eating. ("Igros Moshe" EH 4:92)

Jewish consciousness requires constant attention to preserving and protecting our natural world.

Rabbi Benzion of Bobov was strolling with a disciple, deeply engrossed in scholarly conversation. As they passed a tree, the student mindlessly pulled off a leaf and unconsciously shredded it into pieces.

Rabbi Benzion stopped abruptly. The student, startled, asked what was wrong. In response, the rabbi asked him why he had picked the leaf off of the tree.

The disciple, taken aback, could think of no response.

The rabbi explained that all of nature -- birds, trees, even every blade of grass -- everything that God created in this world, sings its own form of praise to its Creator. If they should be needed for food and sustenance, they are ingested and become part of the song of the higher species. But to pull a leaf off a tree for no purpose at all is to wastefully silence its song, giving it no recourse, as it were, to join any other instrument in the symphony of nature.

[*** Another nice story, but the many negative environmental effects of animal-based diets are not addressed. ***]

Yes, Judaism permits the eating of meat, provided that proper intent and mindfulness are present: to elevate the Divine energy contained in meat to a higher human level; to use energy derived from eating to discharge spiritual and moral responsibilities; and to serve God through the pleasures of His world.

[*** Please see my letter to the editor below. And please consider adding your comments at the Aish Hatorah web site. Thanks. ***]

For further reading: "Vegetarianism and Judaism" by Rabbi J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Volume III.
Published: Sunday, June 22, 2003 [*** and republished in September 2005. ***]

[*** Please note that my book and Roberta Kalechofsky’s book on Jewish vegetarian teachings are not mentioned. ***]


My letter to the Aish HaTorah web site responding to the above article:

As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I was pleased to see your article “Where's the beef? Examining the pros and cons” by Rebbetzin Feige Twerski and Rabbi Shraga Simmons. It is important that greater attention be placed on the mass production and widespread consumption of meat, since these activities conflict with Judaism in at least six important areas:

* While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.

* While Judaism forbids tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, most farm animals -- including those raised for kosher consumers -- are raised on "factory farms" where they live in cramped, confined spaces, and are often drugged, mutilated, and denied fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and any enjoyment of life, before they are slaughtered and eaten.

* While Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord’s" (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God's partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes substantially to soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, global warming, and other environmental damage.

* While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, that we are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, and that we are not to use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, animal agriculture requires the wasteful use of grain, land, water, energy, and other resources.

* While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million people worldwide die because of hunger and its effects each year.

* While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that eventually lead to instability and war.

In view of these important Jewish mandates to preserve human health, attend to the welfare of animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, help feed hungry people, and pursue peace, and since animal-centered diets violate and contradict each of these resposibilities, I believe that committed Jews (and others) should sharply reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products.
One could say "dayenu" (it would be enough) after any of the arguments above, because each one constitutes by itself a serious conflict between Jewish values and current practice that should impel Jews to seriously consider a plant-based diet. Combined, they make an urgently compelling case for the Jewish community to address these issues.

Some other factors to consider are:

* God's first dietary regimen was strictly vegetarian (Genesis 1:29); * * Manna, a vegetarian food "like corriander seed" kept the Israelis in good health for 40 years in the wilderness and when the people cried out for flesh, many died at "the Graves of Lust," while eating the quails that God reluctantly provide;

* The Messianic Period will be vegetarian according to Rav Abraham Isaac hakohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, based on Isaiah's prophecy of the wolf dwelling with the lamb and the lion eating straw like the ox.

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5. Are Free-Range and Organic Farms a Good Compromise?

Sustainable, Free-Range Farms and Other Tall Tales
Factory Farming’s Not the Problem -- It's Animal Farming
by Lee Hall
November 18, 2005

Large health care corporations are doing it. Trendy groceries are doing it. Environmental advocacy groups are doing it. Suddenly, it’s all the rage to tout animal-based farming that’s sustainable and healthful.

Kaiser Permanente, the largest U.S. health maintenance organization, is co-sponsoring FoodMed 2005, “the first conference on healthy food in health care.” Registrants will learn how they can avoid growth hormones when purchasing milk products, thereby supporting a “step in the restoration of a healthy dairy system.”

Trader Joe’s has announced plans to “improve its laying hen welfare policy” by marketing house brand eggs that aren’t from “cruel cages.” The implication is that there will be more space for hens who lay Trader Joe’s eggs. Male and worn-out female birds don’t get a mention; but competitive market value does. As CEO Dan Bane says, “Customers looking for cage-free eggs will need to look no further than the Trader Joe's label. We expect this change will help further boost the proportion of sales of cage-free eggs at Trader Joe’s.”

The Sierra Club now vaunts tours arranged by an organic dairy business, and lauds Buchmayer's Dairy for “continually offering exceptional products” and “encouraging our youth to be involved in agriculture and teach sustainable methods that will leave future generations with a farm and family lifestyle that will be attractive and profitable.”Machetta's Organic Meats win praise that strongly suggests that health benefits will accrue to customers. And the Sierra Club calls Larry Sansom’s grass-fed cattle “a success” because Sansom has run out of cattle every year.

What if we took such models of agribusiness seriously? We’d still be in a heap of trouble. Of course, the heap would be spread about over a lot more pasture.

The elite meat

Even if eating animal products could make us healthy -- and that’s not a particularly persuasive proposition -- animals fed an all-organic diet would make for an end product that’s beyond financial means of most of the world’s households.

And if corporations were to take free-range seriously -- not just removing cages, but buying access to pasture -- then it's a matter of finding those communities able to pay for the bodies of animals who, when living, took up the most space. That flunks the straight-face test. From both an animal rights and an environmental perspective, space for animal agribusiness doesn't need to be expanded; it needs to be phased out.

Already, most of the landmass of the contiguous United States is taken up by agriculture --primarily for resource-guzzling animal processing. Worldwide, the demand of six billion humans for physical space is vastly expanded as animals are bred into existence to be food commodities. These domestic animals now outnumber us by an estimated factor of three to one. There is nothing sustainable, let alone kind, about animal agribusiness.


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6. Raising Veal Calves in Israel

Message forwarded from Anonymous for Animal Rights Web Site

to Reduce the Suffering of Veal Calves in Israel

On Tuesday, November 15th 2005 the Israeli parliament's education committee approved regulations prohibiting some of the serious abuses of veal calves. The new regulations make keeping calves in solitary confinement and the denial of drinking water illegal. In addition, the regulations specify a minimal level of hemoglobin in the blood and a minimal intake of fiber in the calves' nutrition. They also include requirement with regard to ventilation and footing material. The new regulations are similar to the EU directive laying down the minimum standards for the protection of calves, and in several respects (such as minimal cell dimensions) they are even superior to it.

This achievement is a result of a campaign initiated by Anonymous for Animal Rights in May 2001. The organization's investigation team secretly documented the harsh conditions in which the calves were kept. The disturbing images were spread by the media, and Anonymous filed an animal abuse complaint against owners with the police. As a result of this complaint, a committee was appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture to formulate recommendations for keeping standards. Its recommendations were submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture in June 2002.

However, the recommendations were left to gather dust by the Ministry of Agriculture, which was reluctant to act on them. In September 2003, a demonstration organized by Anonymous took place in a veal farm in protest of the foot dragging on the part of the ministry. During this demonstration the dehydrated calves were given drinking water. The demonstration was widely covered by the media, including by the most widely viewed television news show.

In June 2005 the Ministry of Agriculture submitted draft regulations to the parliament's education committee, which allowed a 10 year transition period before the change to the confinement facilities was to take place. The lobbying on the part of Anonymous with committee members secured a rejection of the draft, and the Ministry of Agriculture was required to shorten the transition period as a prerequisite for the endorsement of the regulations. The ministry promised to submit revised regulations within a month, but again resorted to foot dragging. In October 2005 an online petition was launched by Anonymous in protest of the foot dragging, which was signed by about 8000 individuals. In the end of the month demonstrations in six major cities across the country took place. On November 15 the revised regulations, shortening the transition period to 3 years, were finally submitted. The requirement to provide the calves with drinking water without limitation (an extremely important requirement given the hot Israeli weather) came into force immediately.

Reut Horn, Anonymous spokeswoman: "The regulations approved by the education committee do reduce significantly the suffering of the calves – no more dehydration and solitary confinement – and Anonymous, which has fought for these changes naturally regards them favorably. However, this industry still causes immense suffering to these calves and denies them basic rights, like other animal-based industries."

Anonymous for Animal Rights is thankful to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) who has sponsored the campaign and made this important achievement possible.

Pictures of veal calves in Israel
Pictures of the Anonymous demonstration in a veal farm

For comments and further information please use the following to contact us:
Anonymous for Animal Rights
P.O. Box 11915, Tel-Aviv 61119, Israel
Tel +972-36204878, Fax +972-36204717

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8. Number of Kosher Jewish Vegetarians Increasing Sharply

Forwarded material from “Kosher Today”:

Ranks of Kosher Vegetarians Soars as Industry Meets the Needs

(Jerusalem) The Shabbat meal at the home of a prominent attorney of international law in Jerusalem did not include the usual gefilte fish, cholent, kugel (potato pudding) and more. Instead the meal featured vegetarian quiches, imitation meat loaf, cabbage filled with rice and many fruits and vegetables. That weekend there was an invitation in the Jerusalem Post by The International Jewish Vegetarian Society to a session on Vegetarianism in Israel, with emphasis on Jewish teachings on vegetarianism. Although there are no specific numbers, industry officials in Israel and the US say the ranks of vegetarians are growing, some due to health, some out of concern for animal rights but many as part of an adopted lifestyle of living a more natural lifestyle.

Rabbi Simcha Hakohen Kook of Rehovot, a guest at Kosherfest, is said to be a vegetarian, as was his father Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel. Rabbi David Rosen, the former chief rabbi of Ireland, was also an avowed vegetarian. Many rabbis invoke various biblical references to justify vegetarianism despite the fact that the Torah is dominated by sacrifices of animals that date back to the First Temple.

Supermarket executives say that an increasing number of kosher consumers are asking for vegetarian replacement kosher foods, ranging from hotdogs to patties. One store manager said: “I can snuff them out from a mile away. They are always buying grains and other natural ingredients and checking out the foods that say pareve, hoping they are vegetarian, contain no animal ingredients including milk and eggs.”

It may not be enough of a segment to warrant increased attention, but there is evidence that vegetarianism is growing, both in the US and Israel. Vegetarians in general say that they have an easier time keeping a kosher diet than conventional kosher adherents, largely because they eat many ingredients and products that do not need kosher certification in the first place.

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11. Letters on the Increase in Jewish Vegetarians

Go vegetarian

Kudos for highlighting how mainstream vegetarianism has become in the Jewish community and how consistent a humane, plant-based diet is with Jewish teaching. (“Kosher vegetarians,” Ledger, Nov. 11)

The key reason for Jews to go vegetarian is to stop supporting and perpetuating animals' unnecessary suffering (tsa'ar ba'alei chayim). On factory farms, sentient animals are debeaked, dehorned, tail-docked, and/or castrated, all without pain-killers. Egg-laying hens are confined five apiece to battery cages where they'd be unable to flap a wing if there were no other birds present, and veal calves are kept anemic and live in crates so narrow that they can't even turn around. These animals are devalued of life and deprived of basic welfare considerations.

As Jews, we must ask ourselves not what is barely acceptable, but what diet God prefers for mankind. When we have the choice to support institutionalized cruelty to God's creatures or to eliminate mass suffering, let us keep meat, eggs, and dairy products off our plates.

Michael Croland

Food choices

As a Jew, I believe that our food choices have far reaching consequences that shouldn't be ignored ("Kosher Vegetarians," Nov. 11). Judaism has a proud tradition of respect towards animals, yet our treatment of farm animals is far from honorable.

There are many [Jewish] laws mandating compassion toward animals, yet most farm animals are raised in massive factory farms where abuse is the norm. Egg-laying hens are crammed into tiny cages too small for them even to spread their wings. Chickens raised for meat are bred to grow so quickly that their hearts, lungs, and legs can't keep up with their unnaturally rapid growth. Cattle are castrated, branded, and de-horned without any painkiller.

By leaving factory farm products off our plates and eating more vegetarian meals, we can truly follow God's wish of compassion toward all of His creatures.

Josh Balk
Outreach Coordinator
Factory Farming Campaign
The Humane Society of the United States
Washington, D.C.

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12. Letter Re the Potential Expansion of Horse Racing in Israel

To the Editor:

Re Adi Katz’s November 1 article "Bet of Their Lifetime" about the controversial proposal to bring horseracing to Israel, the image of the horses’ fates depicted by the Israeli Jockey Club President is inaccurate.

Mr. Froilich has a compelling need to persuade Israelis to welcome this activity that he hopes will provide enormous profits for individuals and organizations such as his. However, retiring horses to stud or to pastures with doting wealthy owners is limited to a miniscule fraction of horses bred for racing. Even the successful racers--not to mention the excessive numbers of young horses found unsuitable for the sport--are disposed of in huge numbers via abandonment or slaughterhouses. There are not enough homes for all the unwanted animals in Israel or in any other country. Sympathetic "rescuers" often find they lack sufficient resources for the 20-plus years remaining in an unwanted race horse's life.

Mr. Foilich also denies the probability of equine slaughter since there is no demand for horsemeat in Israel. In the U.S., there is also no demand for horsemeat and enormous popular opposition to equine slaughter, yet thousands of horses are slaughtered annually for the European and Japanese markets.

His depiction of race horse owners as privileged and wealthy members of society again only applies to a small fraction of those involved. In every country in which it is practiced, most owners and trainers see their charges as income-generating objects, not sentient beings. Proper horse care is prohibitively expensive and decisions about their charges' fates are based on harsh economics.

Israel has the opportunity to serve as a beacon for humane animal care if it prohibits the development of this industry. As it did with the ban on foie gras production, Israel may provide inspirational leadership for the rest of the world by banning horse racing within its borders. I fervently hope that it will do so.

Holly Cheever, DVM, USA - One of the veterinarians quoted in the article

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