July 24, 2006

7/24/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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


1. Campaign to Ban Foie Gras Sales in New York City

2. Rabbi Yonassan Gershom Creates Web Site To Make Cruelty-Free Feathers Available

3. Response from Al Gore Communications Director in Response to My Letter Urging Linking Animal-Based Diets to Global Warming

5. Recent Article Re Investigations of Agriprocessors’ Glatt Kosher Slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa/Two Letters to Editors From Me and Lewis Regenstein

6. Interested in Helping Plan JVNA Events or a Conference?

7. DVD "If This Is Kosher" Now Available

8. Canfei Nesharim Introduces Sukkot Environmental Project

11. Quotations Worth Considering

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.



We are deeply saddened by the recent horrible events in Israel. I have 2 daughters living in Israel with their husbands and all of my grandchildren. Thankfully, they are not in areas being hit by rockets from Lebanon. One of my daughters is putting up a family that had to flee from the northern part of Israel. I also am in touch with many vegetarian and animal rights activists in Israel and I pray that they are also ok. I am sure I express the feeling of others on this list in hoping and praying for a just, peaceful, long lasting resolution of the present situation, so that Israel and all the nations of the world can focus on addressing the many current environmental and other threats to humanity.

Due to some computer problems, I may have lost some material that was sent to me for this newsletter. Also, I may have missed some email address changes. I apologize for any inconvenience.

As I indicate from time to time, if you would like to be removed from this list for any reason, please let me know. No questions asked. On the other hand, if you know of people who might like to be added to the list to get free JVNA newsletters, please contact them and ask them to contact me if they would like to get the newsletters. Thanks.

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1. Campaign to Ban Foie Gras Sales in New York City

I have been approached by some vegetarian activists with the possibility to try to get the NY City Council to ban sales of foie gras in NY City, just as the Chicago City Council did. While there has not been any follow-up on this on the part of the activists who contacted me, I modified a previous press release to make it applicable to the NY City Council situation. As always, comments and suggestions are very welcome.


For Immediate Release:
July 24, 2006
Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
Rschw12345@aol.com Phone: (718) 761-5876

The Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) urges that the sale of foie gras, which is produced by the force-feeding of massive amounts of grain down the throats of geese and ducks, be banned by the New York City Council. The JVNA position is based on Jewish teachings on compassion to animals and on several recent events:

* Recently, the Chicago City Council banned the sale of foie gras in Chicago restaurants.

* On August 11, 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court made a landmark decision that banned the force-feeding of geese and ducks, for the production of foie gras, as a violation of Israel’s animal cruelty laws. This ruling conforms to the position of major Ashkenazic and Sefardic rabbinical authorities in Israel, including Rabbis Zvi Pesach Frank and Eliezer Waldman of the previous generation, and Rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Shear Yashuv Cohen, among today's chief rabbis. As the judges indicated, to produce this pâté “delicacy,” the birds are force fed enormous amounts of grain through a pressurized pipe shoved down their throats. As a result the birds develop degenerative diseases of the liver.

* California Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, introduced a measure in February, 2004, that would ban foie gras from being produced and consumed in California. The state would be the first in the nation to ban the product, though it has been outlawed in
several other countries, including Israel. Burton stated: "We just shouldn't be cramming a tube down a duck's throat and forcing in food to make foie gras. It's an inhumane process that other countries have sensibly banned. I'm please California will be next on the list."

Since California and New York are the only states that produce foie gras, the JVNA urges members of the New York City Council to follow the lead of Israel, Chicago and California by addressing the cruelty involved in producing foie gras, and by passing legislation that would ban its production. This would be consistent with Judaism’s teachings on tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, the Torah mandate to avoid causing pain to animals, and with teachings about compassion in Judaism and other religions.

Rabbi David Rosen, a contemporary Israeli Orthodox rabbi and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, stated:
“It should be obvious that pate de foie gras is produced in a manner that is in complete contravention of the Torah's prohibition of causing tsa'ar ba'alei chayim - pain to animals (see Maimonides, Yad Chazakah, Hilchot Rozeah, Ch. 13, M. 8). Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, the Noda Bi-Yehuda, clarifies that causing any cruelty to an animal while alive is a desecration of this prohibition (Noda Bi-Yehuda, Yoreh Deah, Response No. 10) and that if food can be obtained in a manner that does not involve additional pain and one chooses to obtain such through causing pain to an animal, one desecrates a Torah prohibition. Pate de foie gras is obtained through the willful desecration of a Torah prohibition and any truly God-revering Jew will not partake of such a product which is an offense against the Creator and His Torah.”

More information on Jewish vegetarianism is available at JewishVeg.com. The JVNA will send a complimentary copy of Richard Schwartz’s book “Judaism and Vegetarianism,” and a related cassette tape, to anyone who contacts us and tells us how he or she will use the materials to make people more aware of Jewish teachings on these issues.

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2. Rabbi Yonassan Gershom Creates Web Site To Make Cruelty-Free Feathers Available

Forwarded message from Rabbi Gershom, author, scholar, book reviewer, hobby farmer and JVNA advisor:


I thought you might like to know that I created a Web page about a month ago called "Do You Know Where Your Feathers Come From?"


This page is on the site of my ebay store, The Happy Rooster, where I sell cruelty-free feathers from my geese and chickens. Of course, this isn't just about selling feathers, although people do buy them. But mostly it's about general education -- eBay pages get a lot of priority on the search engines. Animal Liberation Front liked the page so much they linked to it on their site -- without me even telling them about it! And if you Google "cruelty-free feathers," both these pages are on the top of the links list. Not to brag -- just showing another way to be creative in getting our message out there! (My page has a plug for JVNA too!)

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3. Response from Al Gore Communications Director in Response to My Letter Urging Linking Animal-Based Diets to Global Warming

Dear Dr. Schwartz,

Thank you for your correspondence. I will make sure to provide the Gore's with more information from the websites you suggested.

Cheers, Kalee
Kalee Kreider
Communications Director
Office of the Honorable Al Gore & Mrs. Tipper Gore
2100 West End Avenue, Suite 620
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-327-2227
Fax: 615-327-1323

Please also write to the address above and urge Al Gore to stress the importance of a shift to plant-based diets in order to reduce global warming. Thanks.

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5. Recent Article Re Investigations of Agriprocessors’ Glatt Kosher Slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa/Two Letters to Editors From Me and Lewis Regenstein

Kosher Meat Plant Accused Of Abuses
By Nate Herpich
Religion News Service
Saturday, July 15, 2006; B09

An investigation by a leading Jewish newspaper has uncovered abusive working conditions at the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States -- a facility that was already under investigation over allegations of unethical treatment of livestock.

Now, two Conservative Jewish organizations have created a task force to investigate the abuses and what they might mean for the nation's kosher meat supply.

According to the Forward, a national Jewish weekly newspaper, Iowa-based AgriProcessors Inc. -- owned and managed by Hasidic Jews -- is guilty of shorted paychecks, little or no safety training and accidental amputations, all affecting its largely undocumented workers.

A month after the piece ran May 26, the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism launched a fact-finding study to find out what wrongs, if any, are being committed at the plant in Postville, Iowa.

For meat to be declared kosher, or fit for eating, Jewish law requires that animals be killed quickly and humanely, and the processes must be approved by supervising rabbis.

The Forward reported that the company's "kosher seal gives it an apparent moral imprimatur in a business that is known for harsh working conditions and labor violations. But even in the unhappy world of meatpacking, people with comparative knowledge of AgriProcessors and other plants say that AgriProcessors stands out for its poor treatment of workers."

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited AgriProcessors for six safety violations this year, or more than half of Iowa's meatpacking plant violations, the newspaper reported.

AgriProcessors, whose product is sold in stores under the brand name Aaron's Best, did not respond to several calls seeking comment. A spokesman for the plant wrote to the Forward, saying all employees must provide the proper documentation required by the federal government.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has also campaigned against the slaughterhouse in recent years, alleging that workers, including rabbis, ripped the tracheas and esophagi out of the throats of fully conscious cows, which were left trying to stand three minutes after their throats were slit.

PETA cites a 2004 videotape it says was obtained by an undercover cameraman for the group. In the video, cows that have had their throats slit are shown writhing on the ground of the plant in pools of their own blood. AgriProcessors denied charges of inhumane slaughter then, telling PETA that its practices complied with kosher law.

Temple Grandin, a designer of livestock handling facilities and the author of several books on animal handling, welfare and facility design, saw the PETA tape but has not been allowed to visit the facilities.

"During my career I have visited over 30 kosher beef plants in the U.S., Canada and other countries . . .," she writes on her Web site. "Kosher slaughter without stunning can be done with an acceptable level of welfare when it is done correctly. When shehita [Jewish ritual slaughter] is performed correctly with the long knife, the cattle appear not to feel it. This tape shows atrocious procedures that are NOT performed in any other kosher operation."

In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report finding that AgriProcessors had indeed violated provisions of the Humane Slaughter Act. The USDA did not, however, pursue criminal charges.

PETA recently released a new video documenting the situation at AgriProcessors. It has joined the Humane Society of the United States in asking federal prosecutors to enforce state and federal humane slaughter laws.

Bruce Friedrich, vice president of international grass-roots campaigns at PETA, said AgriProcessors had agreed to stop ripping the throats out of cows and to curb some of its practices. But, he said, the company has refused to allow inspectors to verify that such changes have been made.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

My letter to the Washington Post, in response to the article:

July 16, 2006

Editor, Washington Post

Dear Editor:

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I read with much interest your July 15 article, “Kosher Meat Plant Accused Of Abuses,” which discussed alleged violations of laws on the proper treatment of workers and animals at the kosher slaughterhouse at Postville, Iowa. Whatever current investigations of these reported abuses find, it is important to consider that the product that the facility produces is having devastating effects on human health and the sustainability of our imperiled planet, and violates basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz

Lewis Regenstein’s letter in response to the article:

Lewis G. Regenstein

3691 Tuxedo Road, N.W.
(404) 814-1371 Tel
Atlanta, Georgia
(404) 814-0440 Fax
30305-1061 Regenstein@mindspring.com

16 July, 2006

The Washington Post
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:

It is truly ironic, and shameful, that cruel animal slaughter methods are being undertaken in the name of Jewish law, as pointed out in your 15 July article by Nate Herpich, " Kosher Meat Plant Accused of Abuses.”

Revelations of shocking and illegal abuse of animals at this kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa have largely overlooked a fundamental fact: the Jewish religion has strict laws and teachings forbidding cruelty to animals. In fact, there is an entire code of laws (the requirement "to prevent the suffering of living creatures") mandating that other creatures be treated with compassion.

Indeed, the Jews invented the concept of kindness to animals some 4,000 years ago, and it is mandated throughout the Bible and Jewish law. Even the holiest of our laws, The Ten Commandments, requires that farm animals be allowed to enjoy a day of rest on the Sabbath. So the Almighty must have felt that kindness to animals was not a trivial matter.

Indeed, the first commandments given by the Lord (Genesis 1:22-28) concern the welfare and srurvival of animals, and human responsibilities toward them.

Jews are not allowed to pass by an animal in distress or to ignore animals being mistreated, even on the Sabbath. Yet this is exactly what we do when we certify as kosher products from animals that are treated cruelly.

It is truly a shanda, a shameful thing, that we endorse the massive abuse and suffering of billions of factory farmed creatures, many of which spend their entire lives in misery, fear, and anguish, in addition to the cruel way they are killed.

Sincerely yours,

Lewis Regenstein

The writer is the author of Replenish the Earth: The Teachings of the World's Religions on Protecting Animals and Nature, and president of The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature.

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6. Interested in Helping Plan JVNA Events or a Conference?

Vegetarian activist Dr. Douglas Graham has suggested the possibility of the JVNA having an evening event or an all-day conference in New York City.

He wrote:

“One [possibility] would be a one-day event where you bring in an assortment of presenters and educators to give their ideas on a theme of your design.

Another would be to offer an evening event, (much lower risk) and bring in one speaker who would present on an appropriate topic for the evening.

Either way it would be a fund raiser for JVNA...
If you would like to help in organizing such events, please let me know. Doug has indicated that he has contacts in NY City which could be helpful.


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7. DVD "If This Is Kosher" Now Available

'IfThis Is Kosher' DVD
Narrated by Jonathan Safran Foer, author of “Everything Is Illuminated”

The New York Times described PETA's undercover investigation at the world's largest glatt kosher slaugherhouse as "grisly” in its news coverage of our breaking story of animal abuse.

The story broke in November 2004, but remains the biggest scandal in the kosher meat industry in recent memory. For many in the Jewish community, the seriousness of these abuses and kosher authorities’ failure to denounce them have raised fundamental questions about the consumption of meat.

This video contains footage of what was revealed during our investigation.
Price from PETA: $5.00
Run time: 30 minutes.

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8. Canfei Nesharim Introduces Sukkot Environmental Project

Forwarded message from Canfei Nesharim

This Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres, join Canfei Nesharim in appreciating water and the connections between Torah, nature, and our responsibility to protect the environment.

On Sukkos, we celebrate water through the Simchas Beis Hashoeva (Celebration of the Water Drawing Ceremony). It is said that anyone who has not participated in this celebration has not known true joy. (Sukka 51a)

On Shemini Atzeres, we continue recognizing the value of water through tefilas geshem, the beginning of our prayers for rain. We compare and connect our forefathers and teachers with water, and we ask for rain in their merit, “for plenty and not for curse, for life and not for death, for plenty and not for scarcity.”

What did our rabbis and ancestors understand about water that filled them with joy during the Simchas Beis Hashoeva, and with dread and hope when davening for rain? They knew that water is essential for life, and that we rely on Hashem to provide all our needs.

This year, take the time on Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres to reflect on our natural resources and our dependence on Hashem’s blessing of rain.

Canfei Nesharim has organized resources for families and synagogues to celebrate Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres with an appreciation for water, including:
Ø Sukkah decorations
Ø Text materials for shiurim
Ø Science-based fact sheets on water resources
Ø Sukkos Stickers
Ø Activity Suggestions for Simchas Beis Hashoeva Parties
Ø Seventh Generation™ recycled paper plates and napkins (for an eco-friendly celebration in your community)

Individual packages are available for families and communities. For more information and to reserve your package, visit www.canfeinesharim.org/sukkos.shtml.
Deadline for orders: August 15. (Please note that this deadline is required for products to arrive on time for Sukkos.) Invite your community to participate today!

Canfei Nesharim is dedicated to educating the Orthodox community about protecting the environment, from the perspective of Torah and halacha.

Canfei Nesharim expresses our gratitude to Seventh Generation for financial and product support for this program.

Canfei Nesharim is grateful to Targum Shlishi for a generous grant to support for this program.

Canfei Nesharim expresses its sincere gratitude to Bikkurim, a joint project of JESNA, UJC, and the Kaminer Family, for taking us into their incubator for new Jewish ideas beginning in the Spring of 2004.

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11. Quotations Worth Considering

"It's not about doing everything, it's about doing something" - Laurie David, producer of "An Inconvenient Truth" and co-founder of the virtual march against global warming with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

"Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives." -Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, physician, musician, Nobel laureate (1875-1965)

Thanks to Israeli vegetarian activist Jonathan Danilowitz for sending us the Albert Schweitzer quote above.

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