June 18, 2006

6/18/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Two Articles: “Tisha B'Av and Vegetarianism” and “Relating Tisha B'Av to Today’s Environmental Crises”/Suggestions Welcome

2. Major “Beyond Oil” Campaign Begun by Shalom Center

3. Ten Valuable Reasons To be a Vegetarian

4. More positive Reviews and Messages re the Al Gore Global Warming Movie “An Inconvenient Truth”

5. New Forward Editorial re the Working Conditions at The Postville, Iowa Kosher Slaughterhouse

6. NY Times Op-d Article Re Working Conditions for Workers at Slaughterhouses

7. Do We Need a Modern Day Biblical Joseph to Warn About Future Famines?

8. Program on Torah and the Environment Held

10. Chicago Tribune Picks VegNEws Magazine as 18th Best Magazine

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. Two Articles: “Tisha B'Av and Vegetarianism” and “Relating Tisha b’Av to Today’s Environmental Crises”/Suggestions Welcome

Since Tisha B’Av is about 6 weeks away, I am planning to soon send the articles below to the Jewish media. If you have any suggestions for improving the articles, please let me know. I think that it is important that we connect the destruction that Tisha B’av commemorates to the potential destruction involved in today’s environmental crises. In both cases, important warnings failed to produce results. Thanks.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

There are many connections between vegetarianism and the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av:

1. Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Today the entire world is threatened by destruction by a variety of environmental threats, and modern intensive livestock agriculture is a major factor behind most of these environmental threats.

2. In Megilat Eichah (lamentations), which is read on Tisha B'Av, the prophet Jeremiah warned the Jewish people of the need to change their unjust ways in order to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem. In 1992, over 1,700 of the world's most outstanding scientists signed a "World Scientists Warning to Humanity", stating that 'human beings and the natural world are on a collision course", and that "a great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated." Vegetarians join in this warning, and add that a switch toward vegetarianism is an essential part of the "great change" that is required.

3. On Tisha B'Av, Jews fast to express their sadness over the destruction of the two Temples and to awaken us to how hungry people feel. So severe are the effects of starvation that the Book of Lamentations (4:10) states that "More fortunate were the victims of the sword than the victims of famine, for they pine away stricken, lacking the fruits of the field.". Yet, today over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as 15 to 20 million people worldwide die annually because of hunger and its effects.
4. During the period from Rosh Chodesh Av to Tisha B'Av known as the "nine days", Jews do not eat meat or fowl, except on the Sabbath day. After the destruction of the second Temple, some sages argued that Jews should no longer eat meat, as a sign of sorrow. However, it was felt that the Jewish people would not be able to obey such a decree. It was also believed then that meat was necessary for proper nutrition. Hence, a compromise was reached in terms of Jews not eating meat in the period immediately before Tisha B'Av.

5. The word "eichah" (alas! what has befallen us?) that begins Lamentations comes from the same root as the word "ayekah" ("Where art thou"), the question addressed to Adam and Eve after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Vegetarians are also asking "where art thou". What are we doing re widespread world hunger, the destruction of the environment, the brutal treatment of farm animals, etc.? Perhaps failure to properly hear and respond to "ayekah" in terms of stating "hineni" - here I am, ready to carry out God's commandments so that the world will be better - causes us to eventually have to say and hear "eichah".

6. The book of Lamentations was meant to wake up the Jewish people to the need to return to God's ways. Since vegetarianism is God's initial diet (Genesis 1:2(), vegetarians are also hoping to respectfully alert Jews to the need to return to God's preferences with regard to diet.

7. Rabbi Yochanan stated "Jerusalem was destroyed because the residents limited their decisions to the letter of the law of the Torah, and did not perform actions that would have gone beyond the letter of the law" ('lifnim meshurat hadin') (Baba Metzia 30b). In the same way, perhaps, many people state that they eat meat because Jewish law does not forbid it. Vegetarians believe that in this time of factory farming, environmental threats, widespread hunger, and epidemics of chronic degenerative diseases, Jews should go beyond the strict letter of the law and move toward vegetarianism.

8. Tisha B'Av has been a time of tears and tragedy throughout Jewish history. Animal-based diets are also related to much sorrow today due to its links to hunger and environmental destruction.

9. Tisha B'Av is not only a day commemorating destruction. It is also the day when, according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will be born, and the days of mourning will be turned into joyous festivals. According to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, the Messianic period will be vegetarian. He based this view on the prophecy of Isaiah, "The wolf will dwell with the lamb . . .the lion will eat straw like the ox . . . and no one shall hurt nor destroy in all of God's holy mountain" (Isaiah 11: 6-9).

10. The readings on Tisha B'Av help to sensitize us so that we will hear the cries of lament and change our ways. Vegetarians are also urging people to change their diets, to reduce the cries of lament of hungry people and animals.

11. The first Temple was destroyed because the people committed three cardinal sins: idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed (Yoma 9b). Animal-based diets today have links to these sins; (1) we have made our stomachs an idol and will do almost anything to appease it; (2) a diet that wastes so much grain and other agricultural resources while millions of people lack adequate food can be considered immoral; (3) there is much bloodshed from the 9 billion farm animals that are slaughtered annually in the United States alone to satisfy people's appetites for meat.

12. After the destruction of the second Temple, the Talmudic sages indicated that Jews need not eat meat in order to rejoice during festivals. They stated that the drinking of wine would suffice, (Pesachim 109a)

13. More than a day of lamentation, Tisha B'Av is also a day of learning - learning essential lessons about our terrible past errors so that they will not be repeated. Vegetarians believe that if people learned the incredible realities related to the production and consumption of meat, many would change their diets so as to avoid continuing current errors.

14. After the destruction of Jerusalem, while sighing and searching frantically for food, the people proclaimed, "Look God and behold what happened to me because I used to be gluttonous!" (Lamentations 1:11). Today too, gluttony (excessive consumption of animal and other products) is leading to widespread hunger and destruction.

15. The Book of Lamentations ends with "Chadesh yamenu k'kedem - make new our days as of old." We can help this personal renewal occur by returning to the original human diet, the vegetarian diet of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), a diet that can help us feel renewed because of the many health benefits of plant-based diets.

16. On Tisha B'Av, Jews do not wear leather shoes; one reason is that while commemorating events that involved so much death, we do not want to wear something manufactured from animal skin, a product derived from the deaths of another.

17. The Book of Lamentations has many very graphic descriptions of hunger. One is: "The tongue of the suckling child cleaves to its palate for thirst. Young children beg for bread, but no one extends it to them." Today, major shortages of food in the near future are being predicted by the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and others, and one major reason is that people in China, Japan, India, and other countries where affluence has been increasing are moving to animal-centered diets that require vast amounts of grain.

In view of these and other connections, I hope that Jews will enhance their commemoration of the solemn but spiritually meaningful holiday of Tisha B'Av by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral values and teachings, and one important way to do this is by moving toward a vegetarian diet.

Richard H. Schwartz

Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) which we commemorate this year (2006) on August 3, reminds us that over 2,000 years ago Jews failed to heed the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah, with the result that the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

Today there are many “Jeremiahs” warning us that now it is the entire world that faces destruction from global warming and its effects, species extinction, droughts, destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habitats, and many other environmental threats. For example, in 1992, over 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including 104 Nobel Laureates, signed a "World Scientists Warning to Humanity," stating that 'human beings and the natural world are on a collision course", and that "a great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated." This year, Academies of Science in the United States and other industrialized countries warned of severe consequences if immediate steps are not taken to reduce the threats of global warming.

On Tisha B'Av, Jews fast to express their sadness over the destruction of the two Temples and to awaken us to how hungry people feel. So severe are the effects of starvation that the Book of Lamentations (4:10) states that "More fortunate were the victims of the sword than the victims of famine, for they pine away stricken, lacking the fruits of the field." Yet, today over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as an estimated 20 million people worldwide die annually because of hunger and its effects.

Jewish sages connected the word "eichah" (alas! what has befallen us?) that begins Lamentations and a word that has the same root "ayekah" ("Where art thou?"), the question addressed to Adam and Eve after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Perhaps failure to properly hear and respond to "ayekah" in terms of stating "Hineni" - here I am, ready to carry out God's commandments so that the world will be better - causes us to eventually have to say and hear "eichah".

The reading of the book of Lamentations on Tisha B’Av is meant to wake up the Jewish people to the need to return to God's ways, by showing the horrors that resulted when God’s teachings were ignored. The readings on Tisha B'Av help to sensitize us so that we will hear the cries of lament and change our ways. Rabbi Yochanan stated "Jerusalem was destroyed because the residents limited their decisions to the letter of the law of the Torah, and did not perform actions that would have gone beyond the letter of the law" ('lifnim meshurat hadin') (Baba Metzia 30b. in this time of factory farming, environmental threats, widespread hunger, and epidemics of chronic degenerative diseases, perhaps it is necessary that Jews go beyond the strict letter of the law.

This Tisha B’Av, I hope that we will begin to heed its basic lesson that failure to respond to proper admonitions can lead to catastrophe. The Jewish people must make tikkun olam (the repair and healing of the planet) a major focus in Jewish life today, and consider personal and societal changes that will start to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a more sustainable path. By doing this, we would be performing a great kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s Name) by working to meet our mandate to be a light unto the nations.

All of us can and must contribute to this new stewardship, even with modest changes to our lifestyle. In 1999, the UCS wrote: "Just as we don't claim that people need to stop driving their cars completely, we don't argue that they need to stop eating meat entirely. But reductions in both areas - driving and meat consumption - will certainly benefit the environment.”

In view of the many threats to humanity today, I hope that Jews will enhance their commemoration of the solemn but spiritually meaningful holiday of Tisha B'Av by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral values and teachings. One important way to do this is by working to shift our precious, but imperiled, planet to a more sustainable path.

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2. Major “Beyond Oil” Campaign Begun by Shalom Center

The following message was forwarded from the Shalom Center. I believe that this is a very important campaign, one that we should get behind. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any recognition that a shift toward vegetarianism could reduce oil consumption. I have volunteered to be involved and to present material on potential reductions in oil consumption due to shifts to vegetarian diets, but so far no response. So, please contact the Shalom Center using the contact information below and urge that a shift toward vegetarianism be put on their agenda.

Dear Friends and Co-workers,

The Shalom Center held a successful kick-off strategy meeting on May 25 to begin the Beyond Oil grass-roots organizing campaign. You wrote us that although you couldn’t come, you want to be involved. So --

Russ Agdern's report on the meeting is below. Out of that meeting, The
Shalom Center is exploring going forward with a campaign in the following
basic framework.


1) The Goal: By 2020, cut US oil consumption by seven-eighths and replace oil as an energy source by conservation and by use of non-fossil, non-CO2-producing, non- nuclear sources of renewable, sustainable energy.

Why specifically 7/8? Because it would make an enormous difference, because it is do-able by taking steps sketched below, and because it fits the symbolism of Hanukkah.

The action focus for Beyond Oil's work in the Jewish community: Hanukkah:
One Day's Oil for Eight Days Work. This draws on the traditional explanation of why we light eight candles: One day’s consecrated oil lasted eight days for rededication of the Temple. Make Hanukkah the festival of energy conservation and shift to renewable energy sources.

(Experts we have consulted say that the seven-eighths reduction by 2020 is possible, though not easy to achieve. It requires major but quite possible changes in the US transportation system: use of cellulosic ethanol, plug-in hybrids, public transit, use of wind power and other renewable, non-nuclear, non-CO2-producing sources of electricity).

Use Hanukkah both for public-policy and lifestyle action: Visits to city, state, and Federal legislators, public candle-lighting vigils and demonstrations at key Big Oil corporate HQ and key congressional offices, and completing or announcing steps forward in greening synagogues, retirement homes, schools, similar institutional buildings and auto fleets (new furnaces, hybrid cars, etc.).

2) Special lifestyle focal points for the Beyond Oil campaign: Organizing
"Oiloholics Anonymous" groups in synagogues and other congregations for people to help each other "kick the Oil habit" in their household and congregational lives; rabbis and other communal leaders urge all congregants to make their NEXT car purchase a hybrid or other high-mileage car (Kosher Kars).

3) Public and corporate policy focus: Carbon Tax on various energy sources according to their effective production of CO2, high enough to push users to seek other energy sources, with proceeds of the tax to be channeled to lower-income and middle-income people through any of various ways. (For example, possibly direct tax rebates, or drastic reduction in Social Security taxes on workers, or payment of costs of universal health insurance.) The Shalom Center works with energy and tax experts to craft a bill that embodies Jewish values in this direction, and builds support for that bill.

4) Though Hanukkah becomes the yearly focal point, other festivals and
life-cycle ceremonies also become times for moving Beyond Oil (and other
CO2-producing fuels). Possible examples: Sh'mini Atzeret, playing on the pun between "shemen" ("oil") and "shmini ("eighth'); Bar/ Bat Mitzvah and confirmation / affirmation ceremonies pick up on the Prophetic passage: "I will send you Elijah the prophet to turn the hearts of parents to children and the hearts of children to parents, lest the earth be utterly destroyed." Make this a time for intergenerational covenant to heal the earth.

Please note that we have focused on areas where we would be bringing our unique outlook and approaches. We would of course, where our concerns dovetail, work with other organizations - especially with Jewish environmental ones like Teva, Hazon, COEJL, etc., and with Jewish groups concerned by US attachments to oil-rich governments in the Middle East;
with interfaith and secular renewable-energy and environmental groups like Interfaith Power & Light, Climate Crisis Coalition, Price of Oil, Global
Exchange, Campus Climate Challenge, etc; and with other groups like religiously rooted opponents of the Iraq war that see it as in part caused by desire to control oil resources; groups focused on ashthma and other diseases connected with oil pollution; etc. All the groups named above had reps at the May 25 meeting; we value their input then and will continue to.

Arthur Waskow at Awaskow@aol.com
Russ Agdern at Ragdern@gmail.com
Russ Agdern, Project Organizer

We had 30 participants with a great diversity of talents, approaches, and backgrounds in the room: representatives from leadership on social action in the Jewish community, Jewish educators, synagogue leadership, environmental organizers, community activists, economists, people with legal and finance backgrounds.

Everyone brought a unique voice to the discussion. The goal was to begin building a seamless set of strategies to engage the American Jewish community on Oil consumption and move the American Jewish community to action on this critical issue.

We also received an ironic reminder of the importance of organizing for
Beyond Oil, particularly around building support for public transit, as
Rabbi Waskow was delayed in arriving by the power outage on the New York bound Amtrak trains.

The first portion of the day focused on Jewish communal centers and practices. How can we work within local Jewish and interfaith communities to move people's own life-styles and life-paths beyond the addiction to oil that afflicts us all - beyond our own current energy practices?

Liz Galst spoke about the Green Team at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, how it began as an idea to plant trees to offset carbon and grew to a whole campaign which has the shul and more than 10 percent of its membership switched to green energy for the electricity for their homes.

Cantor Eric Schulmiller spoke about the greening process at the
Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore -- how the impetus for the campaign started with his own personal greening, switching to a hybrid car and putting solar panels on his home. He then was able to take this issue, which he believed in personally, and get the community interested and involved. RSRN has not only greened their building, but have also started convincing their membership to switch to green power as well.

Both Liz and Eric spoke of the importance of getting key members of the community involved in the project. They reported that because of that key involvement and the progressive nature of their communities, it was fairly easy to move the greening project forward.

Kevin Kleinman, a rabinnical student at Hebrew Union College and former educator with Teva, presented ideas about building a multifaceted curriculum that could be adapted to day schools, Sunday schools and other programs. He spoke some about how the Teva model uses retreats to bring the importance of nature home to kids and uses pledges for classes and individual students to get them invested in the programming.

Rabbi Waskow spoke about incorporating commitment to protect the earth into religious and life cycle practice. He brought forward two examples: Focusing Hanukkah on Sacred Oil and the conservation of energy (One day's oil for eight days' energy), and focusing Bar / Bat Mitzvah services around the text of the return of Elijah the prophet Elijah: "Turning the hearts of parents and children to each other lest the earth be utterly destroyed."

Barbara Lerman-Golomb from COEJL spoke about COEJL's involvement in greening four synagogues in New Jersey, and about some of the programs and ideas that COEJL has put together using the holidays as organizing tools to move forward environmental concerns.

From there, we broke into small working groups to discuss how we can move this project forward:

Our education group began brainstorming ways to move education forward, and how we can do this in communities that are not as progressive as CBST and RSNS. They noted that suburbia has their own set of issues, and felt that the congregation needed to be behind the educational process. There are some programs already out there, but began to think about how something could go deeper and focus more specifically on energy consumption.

Our religious/life cycle group talked about different particular ideas to
craft energy messages around the holidays, including building on an idea to make Shmini Atzeret (punning on "shmini = eighth and shemen=oil) a wind-power themed holiday.

Our greening congregations and interfaith working group talked about how important local policy is to this work and making sure we address environmental justice in addressing this issue, particularly when building coalitions in local communities that if possible should include communities of poverty and color.

After lunch, our discussion shifted towards the importance of public policy at local, state, corporate and federal levels, and different ways that religious communities and congregations can get involved in this struggle.

First, Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener spoke about Connecticut Interfaith Power and Light, and how their programs were building a statewide consciousness in houses of worship around this issue, including setting up trainings for members of congregations to do their own energy audits. Rabbi Cohen-Kiener also spoke about the rule of five, the importance of really bringing together several people to make the campaign strong, and how this rule was being used to start building local CT coalitions to go after local energy consumption.

Mike Hudena from Global Exchange spoke about the history of their corporate campaigns, how they target the worst company on a specific issue and are able to bring them down. He then went into specifics on the Jumpstart Ford campaign, as well as some of the details on how greening has been moving forward at college campuses.


All told, people feel excited about this project and ready to start moving it forward. We want to continue the working group discussions from the meeting, including the voices of whoever wants to help build in the areas below: Write Russ at Ragdern@gmail.com letting him know which groups you would like to work with.

Congregation Greening

Jewish Education
Jewish Festival & Life-Cycle events
Interfaith Green work
Local and Statewide initiatives
Federal Initiatives
Corporate Policy.

Thanks again to everyone who participated. And thanks to all who couldn't make it but want to be a part of this conversation. Look out for email discussions, conference calls, events in DC and more events in New York in the not too distant future.

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3. Ten Valuable Reasons To be a Vegetarian

Forwarded message from Nutrition Action Healthletter, a publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Ten Reasons To Eat More Like A Vegetarian
Author: Bonnie Liebman

Evidence is mounting that the healthiest diets are loaded with plant foods (vegetables, fruits and beans) and short on animal foods (meat, fish, poultry and dairy products), especially those with a high fat content.
"A diet rich in fruits and vegetables plays a role in reducing the risk of all the major causes of illness and death," says Walter Willet, Head of the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health.
To many people, vegetarian is a loaded word. It typically refers to people who never eat meat, fish or poultry for ethical, religious or health reasons. Vegans also avoid all dairy products and eggs. But scientists are more interested in how often - not whether - people eat animal foods. And much of their research points to the same conclusion: people should eat fewer animal foods and more plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Why? Here are 10 reasons - some related to health, some not.

1) Cancer
"The scientific base is very strong suggesting that fruits and vegetables are protective elements for all gastrointestinal cancers and all smoking-related cancers," says Tim Byers, professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. That includes cancers of the lung, colon, stomach, mouth, larynx, esophagus and bladder. And a recent study found that lycopene - a carotenoid in tomatoes and tomato sauce - may protect against prostate cancer.

It's not clear how fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. It could be their phytochemicals - things like carotenoids, vitamins C and E, selenium, indoles, flavonoids, phenols and limonene.

There is also evidence that high-fibre grains like wheat bran can reduce cancer risk. "Fibre has a beneficial effect in preventing colon cancer," says David Jenkins, a fibre expert at the University of Toronto. And pasta, rice and other grains can replace the animal foods - red meat, in particular - that may increase the risks of some cancers.

"Men who eat red meat as a main dish five or more times a week have four times the risk of colon cancer of men who eat red meats less than once a month," says Edward Giovannucci of Harvard Medical School. Heavy red-meat eaters were also twice as likely to get prostate cancer in his study of 50,000 male health professionals.

That's just one study. Looking at others, says Lawrence Kushi of the University of Minnesota, "the evidence is quite consistent that red meat is associated with a higher risk of colon - possibly prostate - cancer".

But even lean red meat seems to increase the risk of colon cancer. "It could be the carcinogens created when meat is cooked or meat's highly available iron, or something else in meat," speculates Willett.

2) Heart disease

A plant-based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease. For the last 20 years, heart experts have emphasized cutting saturated fat and cholesterol intake, but plants may protect the heart in other ways. Among them:

* Soluble Fibre: "To reduce your risk of heart disease, you may want to eat more beans, peas, oats, and barley," says Jenkins, because their "sticky" soluble fibre seems to help lower blood cholesterol.

* Folic Acid: "The evidence that folic acid reduces the risk of heart disease is pretty strong," says Willet. Folic acid, a B-vitamin, lowers blood levels of a harmful amino acid called homocysteine. "And fruits and vegetables are a major source of folic acid," he adds.

* Antioxidants: a growing body of evidence suggests that LDL ("bad") cholesterol damages arteries only when it has been oxidised (combined with oxygen). That's why researchers believe that antioxidants like vitamin E may protect the heart. And many of the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are antioxidants.

* Squeezing Out Saturates: if you eat lots of plant foods, there's simply less room for the saturated animal fats that clog arteries.

3) Stroke

There's a lot of evidence showing that fruits and vegetables are beneficial for reducing the risk of stroke," says Willet. For example, in a 20-year study of 832 middle-aged men, the risk of stroke was 22 per cent lower for every three servings of fruits and vegetables the men ate each day. Again, no one's sure if it's the potassium, magnesium, fibre or other components of fruits and vegetables that prevent arteries from clogging in the brain.

4) Diverticulosis & Constipation

High-fibre grains - especially wheat bran - can help prevent constipation. That's not trivial in a country like the US that spends millions a year on laxatives.

Diverticulosis is also common. About 30 to 40 per cent of people over 50 have it, though most have no symptoms. Others experience bleeding, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, pain, or diverticulitis (that's when the pouches - or diverticula - that form in the walls of the colon get inflamed).

"In our studies, it's clear that fibre both from bran and from fruits and vegetables is protective," says Willet. Men who ate the least fibre (13 grams or less a day) were almost twice as likely to get diverticulosis as men who ate the most fibre (at least 32 grams of fibre a day).

5) Other diseases

Plant-rich diets may prevent other illnesses:

* Macular Degeneration: a carotenoid called lutein - which is found mostly in leafy greens - may help prevent the deterioration of the retina that causes blindness in older people. "In our study, people who ate spinach or collard greens two to four times a week had half the estimated risk of macular degeneration compared with those who ate them less than once a month," says Johanna Seddon of Harvard Medical School.

* Neural Tube Defects: folic acid supplements can reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube birth defects. Folic acid from foods (mostly fruits and vegetables) may also cut the risk.

* Diabetes: "We found a lower risk of adult-onset diabetes in people who ate more whole grains," says Willet.

6) Safer food

Some of the deadliest food-borne illnesses enter the body via animal foods. "Ground beef is the most likely source of E. Coli 0157:H7. Poultry carry Salmonella and Campylobacter, and the consumption of raw shellfish has caused infection with Vibrio vulnificus," says David Swerdlow of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Any raw food - including fruits or vegetables - can carry harmful bacteria. "For example, recent outbreaks of Salmonella have been associated with cantaloupe, tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts," says Swerdlow. But meat, seafood and poultry are the most likely culprits in food-borne illness.

7) The environment

"Our eating habits have a tremendous effect on the planet," says Jenkins. "Eating animals wouldn't harm the environment if it were done on a much smaller scale," explains Alan Durning, Director of North-west Environment Watch in Seattle.

"Modern meat production involves intensive use - and often misuse - of grain, water, energy and grazing areas," says Durning. He cites the following examples:

* Water pollution: the manure and sewage from stockyards, chicken factories, and other feeding facilities can pollute water supplies.

* Air pollution: thirty million tons of methane - a gas that contributes to global warning - comes from manure in sewage ponds or heaps.

* Soil erosion: nearly 40 per cent of the world's - and more than 70 per cent of US - grain production is fed to livestock. For each pound of meat, poultry, eggs and milk we produce, farm fields lose about five pounds of topsoil.

* Water depletion: an estimated half of the grain and hay that's fed to beef cattle is grown on irrigated land. It takes about 390 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef.

* Energy Use: it takes almost ten times more energy to produce and transport livestock than vegetables.

* Overgrazing: about 10 per cent of the arid West of the US has been turned into a desert by livestock. But some of that land couldn't be used for much else. "That's why my argument isn't for vegetarianism, but for people to reduce the consumption of animal products," maintains Durning.

8) Cost

Sure, you can spend $7.99 a pound on mesclun or other gourmet foods. But from squash to sweet potatoes, most plants are a downright bargain. And the lower price of plants shows up when you eat out. On Chinese, Indian, and most other restaurant menus, the vegetarian selections are usually cheaper than the meat, seafood and poultry.

9) Animal welfare

It's unpleasant to think about, but before we slaughter them, the animals we eat are often raised and transported under inhumane conditions.

10) Taste
The number-one reason for eating a plant-rich diet is that it tastes good. The five vegetables that Americans eat most are French fries, tomatoes (mostly as sauce or ketchup), onions, iceberg lettuce, and other potatoes.

But if most Americans shrink the meat, seafood and poultry on their dinner plates, they - or many of their favourite restaurants - wouldn't know what to replace them with. You have to go to ethnic restaurants to get interesting plant-based dishes. It's no coincidence that ethnic restaurants know how to make vegetable dishes taste good. "Fortunately, there's a wealth of experience around the world because almost all traditional diets are plant-based," says Willet.

Yet many Italian, Mexican and other ethnic restaurants have become so Americanised that their vegetables have been largely replaced by meat and cheese. And that's a shame. In Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, cooking fruits and vegetables is an art form. The Italians don't put tremendous amounts of meat and cheese on pizza, for example. I had a thin-crust pizza at a traditional restaurant recently with no cheese - just fresh basil, tomatoes and garlic. It was totally wonderful.

Copyright 1996 CSPI.
Reprinted/Adapted from
Nutrition Action Healthletter
(This is a non-profit effort to promote a more healthy and loving lifestyle through vegetarian diet.)

4. More positive Reviews and Messages re the Al Gore Global Warming Movie “An Inconvenient Truth”

a. Message re Roger Ebert Review of the movie:

Forwarded message:

Never in 39 years of reviewing films has Roger Ebert grabbed America by the collar and said: See this film now! Your life depends on it

Visit www.earthbeatradio.org for an amazing 14-minute interview with Roger Ebert in which he says Gore's film changed his life and the way he views the world. He says he had no idea global warming was already so severe and getting worse by the minute. He says he can accept his own inevitable death as a mortal on this planet, but the possible death of human civilization -- of art and great cities and organized culture -- is just too much to bear. We must act now, he says. We have perhaps ten years before it could be too late.

Listen to the full interview, conducted by Mike Tidwell of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council and recorded June 13th at the studio of WPFW in Washington, D.C. Forward this link to family and friends. Go see "An Inconvenient Truth" today! Learn more at www.climatecrisis.net

"In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here
they are: 'You owe it to yourself to see "An Inconvenient Truth".

If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.' "

-- Roger Ebert

Mike Tidwell
Director, U.S. Climate Emergency Council
Takoma Park, MD
b. Message from Al Gore:

If you are concerned about global warming and want to help solve it, I would like to personally invite you to see the new Paramount Classics movie -- “An Inconvenient Truth” -- now playing at a theater near you.

The film lays out the latest, up-to-date, most compelling facts about this unprecedented climate crisis in a forecful presentation. It is filled with startling images and dramatic pictures showing clearly what is happening to our Earth and why global warming is now being called a “Planetary Emergency.”

I have tried to tell this story for 30 years. I’m sending you this email now because I feel so passionately that we simply do not have any more time to waste. This crisis is unlike anything we have ever faced. The debate among scientists is over!

According to the experts, the climate crisis could – if unchecked – literally destroy the habitability of the Earth and bring civilization to a halt.

This really is not a political issue. It is a moral issue! Here’s what the Fox News reviewer wrote about the movie: “Not to be missed. It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative....your mind will be changed in a nanosecond.”

Learning about this crisis is the first step toward solving it. Then, we all have to turn knowledge into action and concern into commitment.

My wife Tipper and I feel so strongly about the need for action, we are giving 100% of whatever profits we receive from the movie and the accompanying book by the same name, to a bipartisan educational effort.

Last weekend, the movie broke the all-time per screen record for any documentary movie in history – and, incredibly, according to Variety, broke the all-time per-screen record for any movie opening on Memorial Day weekend. (Incidentally, that record was set by The Shining, back in 1980.)

To learn more, find showtimes at theaters near you and buy tickets to the movie online, go to www.StopGlobalWarming.org.

I sincerely hope you will take the time to see this movie. Thank you.

Al Gore
StopGlobalWarming.org Virtual Marcher
/*Your email ID. --*/
c. Forwarded message from the U.S. Climate Emergency Council

Dear Friends,

Around the country various groups have been doing outreach at the showing of "An Inconvenient Truth," passing out literature and signing up people onto petitions or organizational sign-up lists. It's been great to see this happening over the past week and a half.

We in the U.S. Climate Emergency Council feel that this movie is giving all of us a wonderful opportunity to reach lots of new people and to connect them with our organizing efforts. Toward that end, and due to some recent fund-raising success, we are prepared to pay money to people who gather names and contact information at local showings in their area and send them to us to help us build our list of supporters.

We'll pay $10 for every 30 people signed up on our sign-in sheets, a copy of which we'll send you. You can and should keep copies of filled-in sheets yourself to use for local organizing as well as sending us a copy. We'll send you a check for the appropriate amount based upon the number of
signatures you collect.

This could be a great way to do the right thing and raise some money for yourself or your group. On the first weekend of the film being shown, a person in Maryland, using techniques that we will share with anyone who is interested, was able to collect 400 names, or over $130 worth.

This coming weekend, An Inconvenient Truth opens at over 150 theatres around the country, and it's continuing to be shown in many score more where it's already been showing. It opens at over 150 more the last two weekends in June. You can find out if a theatre is showing it in your area and when it opens by going to www.movietickets.com or www.moviefone.com.
It is possible that you can find information on the "Find a Theatre" tab at www.climatecrisis.net.

We hope to hear from you soon about this win-win proposal.

For the earth,

Mike Tidwell

Ted Glick

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5. New Forward Editorial re the Working Conditions at The Postville, Iowa Kosher Slaughterhouse

A Kosher Storm

[There were also 5 letters re the issue, with several calling for further investigations.]

It seems the Forward has kicked up quite a storm with our May 26 report from Postville, Iowa, describing working conditions at AgriProcessors, the world's largest kosher meatpacking plant. Our Letters page this week and last carries a sampling of the response we've gotten from readers across the country, most of them wondering how a religious inspection system that they thought guaranteed a standard of ethical excellence could sanction what appears to be rank exploitation.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. We've heard by phone, fax and e-mail from consumers, rabbis and ordinary folks from coast to coast, in tones ranging from shock and sadness to anger over Nathaniel Popper's account of low pay, questionable safety measures and abusive supervisors. Local community newspapers around the country have reported on our investigation and gotten their own readers riled up. The blogosphere, the town square of the wired generation, is alight with furious debate, dissecting the rights and wrongs of AgriProcessors' behavior, our reporting and the proper role of kashrut inspection.

We've heard from groups of families in several states who have discussed our report and met with their own rabbis to explore ways that they can act to ensure the ethical integrity of their kosher food supply. We've heard from people who want to express their indignation but live in small communities where AgriProcessors' products are the only kosher food around. We've also heard of discussions going on in communities of Jews who aren't traditionally observant but are now taking a fresh look at kashrut, seeing its potential as a vehicle for living out moral values in daily life. That's what happens when people and communities step back and take stock of their behavior. It's not a bad thing.

Perhaps most significant, we've learned of earnest discussions now under way within major institutions of Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, looking for ways to address the concerns of their members about ethical treatment of workers.

Their task isn't a simple one. Rabbinic laws of kosher slaughter have evolved over centuries into a highly specific set of rules and standards, administered by a crazy-quilt network of competing and overlapping authorities. Supervising rabbis gain their authority by virtue of their reputation for adhering to tradition. The system doesn't lend itself to sudden changes.

The first thing we've been asked by officials at agencies charged with supervising kashrut is whether we have any evidence of illegal activity. That's the easiest question to ask, but it's the wrong one. AgriProcessors is an efficient, modern company, run by individuals who think of themselves as upstanding citizens. Their labor practices are under the scrutiny of state and federal regulators, and our report does not claim that they are out of compliance with the law.

The trouble is that the law doesn't work. American labor law has been gutted over the past quarter-century, turning what was supposed to be a safety net for workers into a flimsy shred. Government agencies that were created in the middle of the last century to protect the powerless from exploitation have come to be seen at best as referees in a fair fight between the powerless and the powerful. The current administration has gone a step further, taking supposedly impartial regulatory agencies and packing them, one after another, with representatives of industry.

The question hanging over AgriProcessors' behavior is not whether it's legal. The question is whether that's enough to receive a certificate of moral fitness. If a company operates just inside the limits of the acceptable, under a legal system that has defined acceptability steadily downward for a generation, should that satisfy a standard that is manifestly religious? What does that say about religion and its relevance to the burning questions adherents expect it to answer?

In the swirl of debate, a few respondents have questioned our facts or attacked us for publishing them. That's to be expected. Some rely on a self-described eyewitness account from the plant that's been circulating on the Internet, written by a rabbi who happens to perform kosher inspections for AgriProcessors. Others have been impressed by an attack on the Forward's integrity, written by a distinguished constitutional lawyer who has represented the company in the past. In fairness, both of the individuals in question are respected figures in their communities, and regardless of their financial relationships to AgriProcessors, their words deserve a hearing.

For the record, we have not received evidence that causes us to doubt our previous reporting. Much of the so-called rebuttal we've seen in various media consists of disproving charges that we never made, or claiming we overlooked facts that actually appear in black and white in our story. For the most part, our facts speak for themselves. As we noted, AgriProcessors accounted for more than half of all slaughterhouse complaints submitted to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration so far this year in Iowa, a state with scores of meatpacking plants.

But a newspaper article isn't an indictment. If community institutions are going to take action — and we believe they should — they need more information. Many of our readers feel the same way; they want to know more before they judge. We'll be following up, and we expect others to do so as well.

The Forward
Published Weekly in New York Since 1897

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6. NY Times Op-d Article Re Working Conditions for Workers at Slaughterhouses

Where the Hogs Come First
Published: June 15, 2006

Think pork. Sizzling bacon and breakfast sausage. Juicy chops and ribs and robust holiday hams.

The pork capital of the planet is this tiny town in the Cape Fear River basin, not far from the South Carolina border. Spending a few days in Tar Heel and the surrounding area — dotted with hog farms, cornfields and the occasional Confederate flag — is like stepping back in time. This is a place where progress has slowed to a crawl.

Tar Heel's raison d'être (and the employment anchor for much of the region) is the mammoth plant of the Smithfield Packing Company, a million-square-foot colossus that is the largest pork processing facility in the world.

You can learn a lot at Smithfield. It's a case study in both the butchering of hogs (some 32,000 are slaughtered there each day) and the systematic exploitation of vulnerable workers. More than 5,500 men and women work at Smithfield, most of them Latino or black, and nearly all of them undereducated and poor.

The big issue at Smithfield is not necessarily money. Workers are drawn there from all over the region, sometimes traveling in crowded vans for two hours or more each day, because the starting pay — until recently, $8 and change an hour — is higher than the pay at most other jobs available to them.

But the work is often brutal beyond imagining. Company officials will tell you everything is fine, but serious injuries abound, and the company has used illegal and, at times, violent tactics over the course of a dozen years to keep the workers from joining a union that would give them a modicum of protection and dignity.

"It was depressing inside there," said Edward Morrison, who spent hour after hour flipping bloody hog carcasses on the kill floor, until he was injured last fall after just a few months on the job. "You have to work fast because that machine is shooting those hogs out at you constantly. You can end up with all this blood dripping down on you, all these feces and stuff just hanging off of you. It's a terrible environment.

"We've had guys walk off after the first break and never return."
Mr. Morrison's comments were echoed by a young man who was with a group of Smithfield workers waiting for a van to pick them up at a gas station in Dillon, S.C., nearly 50 miles from Tar Heel. "The line do move fast," the young man said, "and people do get hurt. You can hear 'em hollering when they're on their way to the clinic."

Workers are cut by the flashing, slashing knives that slice the meat from the bones. They are hurt sliding and falling on floors and stairs that are slick with blood, guts and a variety of fluids. They suffer repetitive motion injuries.

The processing line on the kill floor moves hogs past the workers at the dizzying rate of one every three or four seconds.

Union representation would make a big difference for Smithfield workers. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been trying to organize the plant since the mid-1990's. Smithfield has responded with tactics that have ranged from the sleazy to the reprehensible.

After an exhaustive investigation, a judge found that the company had threatened to shut down the entire plant if the workers dared to organize, and had warned Latino workers that immigration authorities would be alerted if they voted for a union.

The union lost votes to organize the plant in 1994 and 1997, but the results of those elections were thrown out by the National Labor Relations Board after the judge found that Smithfield had prevented the union from holding fair elections. The judge said the company had engaged in myriad "egregious" violations of federal labor law, including threatening, intimidating and firing workers involved in the organizing effort, and beating up a worker "for engaging in union activities."
Rather than obey the directives of the board and subsequent court decisions, the company has tied the matter up on appeals that have lasted for years. A U.S. Court of Appeals ruling just last month referred to "the intense and widespread coercion prevalent at the Tar Heel facility."

Workers at Smithfield and their families are suffering while the government dithers, refusing to require a mighty corporation like Smithfield to obey the nation's labor laws in a timely manner.

The defiance, greed and misplaced humanity of the merchants of misery at the apex of the Smithfield power structure are matters consumers might keep in mind as they bite into that next sizzling, succulent morsel of Smithfield pork.

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7. Do We Need a Modern Day Biblical Joseph to Warn About Future Famines?

Forwarded message:

Earth Policy News – World Grain Stocks Fall to 57 Days of Consumption: Grain Prices Starting to Rise

Eco-Economy Indicator – GRAIN HARVEST
June 15, 2006

Eco-Economy Indicators are the twelve trends the Earth Policy Institute tracks to measure progress in building an eco-economy.

Grain production is the best indicator of the adequacy of the food supply. On average, half the calories we consume come directly from grain and a large part of the remainder come from the indirect consumption of grain in the form of meat, milk, eggs, and farmed fish.

Grain Prices Starting to Rise

Lester R. Brown

This year’s world grain harvest is projected to fall short of consumption by 61 million tons, marking the sixth time in the last seven years that production has failed to satisfy demand. As a result of these shortfalls, world carryover stocks at the end of this crop year are projected to drop to 57 days of consumption, the shortest buffer since the 56-day-low in 1972 that triggered a doubling of grain prices.

World carryover stocks of grain, the amount in the bin when the next harvest begins, are the most basic measure of food security. Whenever stocks drop below 60 days of consumption, prices begin to rise. It thus came as no surprise when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projected in its June 9 world crop report that this year’s wheat prices will be up by 14 percent and corn prices up by 22 percent over last year’s.

With carryover stocks of grain at the lowest level in 34 years, the world may soon be facing high grain and oil prices at the same time…

For entire text see http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Grain/2006.htm
For data see http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Grain/2006_data.htm

For an index of Earth Policy Institute resources related to Food and Agriculture see http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Grain/index.htm

And for further reading on food security, see Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures by Lester R. Brown (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005), posted on-line for free downloading or for purchase at http://www.earthpolicy.org/Books/Out/index.htm

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8. Program on Torah and the Environment Held

CONTACT: Evonne Marzouk [Director, Canfei Nesharim]

June 16, 2006

"We are the Stewards of Our Environment"

Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon Hosts Evening Program on Torah and Environment

Sharon, MA- Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, MA, hosted a "Yom Orchim" (visitors' day) on Torah and the environment on May 25. Canfei Nesharim ("The Wings of Eagles"), an organization dedicated to educating the Orthodox Jewish community about protecting the environment from the perspective of Torah and Jewish law, assisted with the program and participated in the evening.

Entitled, "We are the Stewards of Our Environment," the program included interactive activities organized by each of the school grades. The classes developed activities about recycling; "Shmirat Hasviva" (guarding nature and preventing pollution); "tzar ba'alei chaim" (humane treatment of animals); the value of trees; and connecting the Ten Plagues to natural and man-made disasters. The sixth graders also made a scale representation of the Tabernacle which they identified as a "spiritual biosphere."

The event included complimentary gift bags (made of cloth instead of paper). Three hundred Sharon community members attended the event. Canfei Nesharim Executive Director Evonne Marzouk, and local steering committee member Marty Bauman, also participated in the event.

"Canfei Nesharim was so pleased to help develop this event with Striar Hebrew Academy," said Marzouk. "The children's programs represented the critical environmental challenges facing us today, and demonstrated the importance of educating youth about this important issue."

Canfei Nesharim develops programs for Orthodox schools and synagogues to help Orthodox Jews understand the Jewish laws that are relevant to environmental protection and the significant environmental challenges being faced in the world, and to empower them to take actions which will make a difference in addressing those challenges. The Striar materials will be made available to other schools, and additional curriculum modules are forthcoming.

"Striar was proud to develop programs on the importance of protecting the environment. It is an important issue with Torah implications, and we want our students to understand their responsibility," said Eliot Strickon, a teacher at the school who helped organize the program.

Canfei Nesharim looks forward to developing additional community activities with the Sharon community, to be coordinated by Bauman, president of a local public relations, marketing and event management firm.

"Sharon and all communities can benefit greatly from the programs developed by Canfei Nesharim. We look forward to working together to engage the Sharon community on this important Torah issue," said Bauman.

For more information about Striar Hebrew Academy, visit http://www.striarhebrew.org. For more information about Canfei Nesharim, please go to www.canfeinesharim.org.

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10. Chicago Tribune Picks VegNews Magazine as 18th Best Magazine

June 15, 2006

[I subscribe and I agree that it an excellent magazine, probably the best vegetarian magazine.]

#18. VegNews. This hard-hitting, political and entertaining vegetarian staple should be on every magazine fan's plate. We love the fantastic roundup of stories that informs readers of everything from which ballparks serve veggie dogs and burgers to a forthcoming KFC in India with vegetarian dishes.

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