February 18, 2007

2/18/07 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Press Release About the JVNA Movie

2. Chance to Do Three Positives Through One Act

3. Great Global Warming Web Site

4. Roberta Kalechofsky to Speak at NYU on “Inadmissible Comparisons”

5. Rabbi’s Article on Vegetarianism/My Comments After the Article

6. More Suggestions Re a Vegetarian Slogan

7. Another Great Article Re Diet and Global Climate Change

8. Summary of Recent Global Warming Reports

9. Israeli Vegetarian Rabbi Connects Judaism and Veganism

12. Animal Rights Groups Can Impact Congressional Debates

13. Looking For a Special Passover Seder Plate?

17. More Re the Controversy Re Working Conditions at Kosher Slaughterhouses

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. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Press Release About the JVNA Movie


[Suggestions very welcome. Please help spread the message in the press release about the movie. Thanks.]

For Immediate Release
Contact: Richard H. Schwartz, President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
718-761-5876 Cell: (917) 576-0344

Vegetarian group and award-winning filmmaker team up for film on healing the planet, Jewish-style

February 20, 2007 (New York) Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) is collaborating with multi-award winning filmmaker Lionel Friedberg to produce a documentary on how Jewish religious teachings can promote a healthier, more humane and sustainable world.

'A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Heal the World' [working title]

makes a very strong case for vegetarianism from a Jewish perspective as a major component of efforts to reduce diseases and to move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path," said Richard Schwartz, President of JVNA. "By dramatically showing that animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve our health and the environment, treat animals with compassion and feed the hungry, we hope to push some hot buttons - including meat-eating's contribution to global warming - to persuade Jews and people of all faiths to choose a more compassionate and sustainable diet."

JVNA will distribute the film free of charge to religious groups, educational institutions, the media and others to get the movie's important message to the widest possible audience.

'A Sacred Duty' will remind Jews that it is our responsibility to apply the teachings of the Torah to how we obtain our food, tap into the resources of the environment, and live among the many creatures that God created alongside us," said Friedberg. "Since this is really a universal duty for all human beings, 'A Sacred Duty' will challenge and inspire non-Jews as well."

With the film near final production, JVNA - a registered charity - is raising funds from private donors to complete and distribute the film. "We're almost there," said Schwartz, "but we need to raise another $45,000."

"A Sacred Duty" includes interviews with leading environmentalists, health professionals, vegetarians and animal rights activists in the United States and Israel.


Much more information about the movie is below.

Among the many interview subjects in the movie are:

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen -- Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa

Rabbi David Rosen -- Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and President of IJCIC (the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, that represents world Jewry to other world Religions.)

Rabbi David Golinkin - President of the Schechter Institute in


Rabbi Yonassan Gershom - A Breslov Chassid and author

Jonathan Wolf - Founder and first president of Jewish Vegetarians of

North America (JVNA)

Roberta Kalechofsky - Founder and director of Jews for Animal

Rights (JAR) and Micah Publications; author, editor and


Nina Natelson - Founder and director of Concern for Helping

Animals in Israel (CHAI)

Richard H. Schwartz - Author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism' and

president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)

Rabbi Michael Cohen - Director of the Green Zionist Alliance (GZA)

and a teacher at the Arava Institute in Israel

Rabbi Adam Frank - Rabbi of the largest Conservative synagogue in


Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - A leading author and physician who

specializes in natural healing

Israeli Environmentalists

Alon Tal - Leading Israeli environmentalist; founder of the Israel

Union for Environmental defense: author of “Pollution in a

Promised Land.

Jeremy Benstein - Co-founder and co-director of the Heschel Center for

Environmental Studies in Tel Aviv

Gidon Bromberg - Director of Jerusalem branch of Friends of the Earth/Middle East

Raanan Boral - Environmental expert for the Society of Protection of

Nature in Israel (SPNI)

Michelle Levine - Public relations person for SPNI

Yael Cohen Paran - A leader of Green Course, an Israeli student-based environmental group.

Jewish and Muslim (Jordanian and Palestinian) students at the Arava Institue for Environmental Studies were also interviewed, to help show the importance of multilateral efforts to solve Israel’s environmental problems..

Unlike many documentaries, “A Sacred Duty” will not be just a series of talking heads. Friedberg has videotaped much background material in both the United States and Israel, and he has received additional background material from many sources. This rich visual content will enliven the interviews and make for a compelling film.

While all the arguments for vegetarianism are fully presented, “A Sacred Duty” includes especially extensive coverage of the mistreatment of animals on factory farms, thanks to the powerful footage provided to us by animal rights groups. Again, these are "buttons" that can transform (and save) lives.

Although it is primarily intended for a Jewish audience, “A Sacred Duty” speaks to people everywhere about the ethics of our relationship to the natural world in which we live. The movie's universal message will appeal to anyone interested in such topics as vegetarianism, the environment, health, nutrition, hunger and resource usage, as well as Judaism and Israel.

The movie spells out how contemporary diets, lifestyles and agricultural practices are playing havoc with the environment, contributing to problems like global warming, endangering human health, and adversely affecting the myriad creatures that share our planet. Needless to say, this is a subject that resonates with many, many people today.

As a model of what is wrong with planet Earth due to human activities, A Sacred Duty hones in on the land of the Bible, on Eretz Yisrael itself. Israel is fraught with environmental problems that never make the headlines. Rivers are dirty; the Dead Sea is drying up; air pollution in metropolitan areas kill thousands every year. There is progress in these fields, but that too never makes the headlines. The movie will shed light on many of these issues while considering the environmental threats faced by the planet as a whole. Again, there is much interest by Jews and non-Jews alike in "the Holy Land" and its future.

JVNA president Richard Schwartz stated: “Recent reports about the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other groups and additional reports from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on the major contributions that 'livestock' agriculture has on global warming and other environmental threats demonstrate the great importance of the movie. Regrettably, in spite of the severity of the global environmental crisis and Judaism's powerful teachings on environmental stewardship, the Jewish establishment largely continues to ignore the issue. 'A Sacred Duty' aims to help end this state of denial.”

There are many quotations in the movie from the Torah and other Jewish sacred texts, including the Talmud, since these texts are full of lessons and laws prescribing how we should live mercifully, efficiently, compassionately, and remain responsible custodians of this magnificent, yet highly imperiled world that God has bequeathed to us.

Though powerful and challenging, “A Sacred Duty” does not issue decrees or lecture its audience. It offers information on a wide variety of sensitive issues and food for thought. The net effect is a very positive message for all age groups.

For more information about the movie, including donation opportunities, contact Schwartz at President@JewishVeg.com.

SNIP [If interested in Lionel Friedberg’s bio, awards and letters of recommendation, please let me know. These were presented in several previous newsletters and other messages.]

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2. Chance to Do Three Positives Through One Act

By making a tax deductible donation toward our movie, you can:

1. perform the important mitzvah of giving tzedakah (charity);
2. play an important role in helping move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path;
3. provide yourself with a good response when your children and grandchildren ask what you did to try to prevent a catastrophe from global warming and other current environmental threats. In view of the very dire predictions of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and similar reports, and projections by some climate scientists of a possible “tipping point” when global warming spirals out of control in a decade unless major changes are soon made, can we continue with “business as usual” at this time?

Tax deductible donations to JVNA can be made by credit card via Paypal at the bottom of http://JewishVeg.com/action, or by sending a check made out to Jewish Vegetarians of North America or JVNA to our treasurer:

Israel Mossman
6938 Reliance Road
Federalsburg, MD 21632


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3. Great Global Warming Web Site

Here's what Farm USA has on their website re global warming http://www.farmusa.org/environment/

There is much valuable information that can be very helpful for letters to editors, articles and talking points.

Congratulations Alex Hershaft and everyone at FARM.

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4. Roberta Kalechofsky to Speak at NYU on “Inadmissible Comparisons”

Forwarded message from Roberta:

On March 24-25, Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D. will give a talk on the inappropriate comparison between animal suffering and the Holocaust at the conference at the NYU Law school on "Inadmissible Comparisons." The conference will be held at Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, Rm. 210.

This conference arose out Ms. Kalechofsky's objection to PETA's exhibit, Holocaust on Your Plate," about which she wrote a short book, "Animal Suffering and the Holocaust: The Problem With Comparisons." She has been asked to be a participant in this conference and to defend her position. Below is a short abstract of her talk and a short autobiography. If you wish more information about this conference, inquire from karen@upc-online.org

If you wish more information about Ms. Kalechofsky's part in this conference, email micah@micahbooks.com.

Below is a brief abstract ;

Talk for Conference on Inadmissible Comparisons
Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D.
Title: Animal Suffering and the Holocaust: The Problem with Comparisons

Comparisons can be made among any thing or event, nails and screws, horses and zebras, but comparisons should be appropriate to scale, cause, and consequences.

The roots of the Holocaust lay in the Christian doctrine of the deicide charge. Hitler’s purpose was the extermination of every Jew. He considered his mission historical, but the consequence of his policy has been intense religious reflection by Christians of Christianity’s role in the Holocaust.

Animal suffering is horrific, but its causes and consequences share little with the Holocaust.

Roberta Kalechofsky is the author of seven works of fiction, a monograph on George Orwell, poetry and two collections of essays. She was the recipient of Literary Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, and some of her fiction has been published in Italy.

She has been an animal rights activist for twenty-five years, and runs Micah Publications which publishes vegetarian and animal rights books, in addition to fiction and poetry. Her publications can be viewed at www.micahbooks.com

Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D., fiction writer, speaker, essayist, publisher. Micah Publications (www.micahbooks.com) is the source for Jewish vegetarian and animal rights books. See website for these and other titles.

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5. Rabbi’s Article on Vegetarianism/My Comments After the Article

by Professor Benjamin Blech

Millions of Americans are embracing the dietary laws.

Okay, maybe not the same dietary laws found in the Bible, but the eating habits of the whole country have changed almost overnight. Forget Pepsi, we’re the No-Carb Generation. Stick to the meat part of meat-and-potatoes, and you’re golden. Have steak every day, even for breakfast if you’re so inclined, and America’s most popular diet promises you’ll live close to the proverbial 120. Dr. Atkins spread the gospel: Thou shalt not eat carbs.

Beef prices have skyrocketed, so that non-Jewish consumers are starting to pay the kind of money for meat that used to distinguish Kosher food. This is the Wimpy Age—Popeye’s friend Wimpy, that is—the meat-crazed mooch who famously offered to “pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Vegetarians, obviously, aren’t very happy with this trend. (A clever ad for one prominent chain of steakhouses used to boast, “Horrifying Vegetarians Since 19__.”) Many vegetarians believe that it is a sin to take an animal’s life in order to lengthen our own. All of G-d’s creatures, they contend, have the same right to live out their years. A noble thought, ethically motivated, and yet—supremely un-Jewish!

Jews do eat meat. In fact, the Talmud teaches, that’s what transforms an ordinary meal into a Sabbath or holiday feast. Simchah, true joy, can be attained only with bassar v’yayin, meat and wine. Animals, says the Midrash, were created before Adam so that they would be available for his table, just as a king prepares food in advance for his most favored guest.

The eating habits of the whole country have changed almost overnight. Forget Pepsi, we’re the No-Carb Generation. But before you tear into that rib-eye, there’s something else you should know. Judaism agrees with the meat of the vegetarian argument: Life, whether human or animal, shouldn’t be taken lightly; we don’t have the right to kill other life forms simply because we have the power to do so.

Perhaps the most profound dietary law is one that’s relatively unknown. In fact, if it were put into practice it’s quite conceivable that a lot of us would no longer know the delight of devouring a steak or polishing off a couple of burgers. You see, Judaism doesn’t really give us carte blanche to kill animals for food. It allows us to eat meat only on one condition: that the animal whose life is taken serves to feed someone whose life has more meaning than simple bestial existence.

“Am ha’aretz assur le’echol bassar.” A boor, whose life is devoid of Torah, is forbidden to eat meat! That’s the Talmud’s conclusion based on a simple equation: For any life ended to support another, there must be a qualitative difference between the life that is taken and the life that will be sustained. Animals live, as Sigmund Freud put it, to get and to beget. They eat and they procreate. They simply exist. Human beings are meant to strive for more. Our years are supposed to be imbued with a spiritual quest for holiness. Life is not merely getting and begetting, but being and becoming. Created in the image of G-d, we have an obligation to imitate our Divine Maker. It is only our efforts in pursuit of this goal that permit us to turn animal flesh into the food that fuels us.

This adds a whole new dimension to the Atkins Diet. Piling on meat may keep you thin—but it might be a sin. It all depends on whether you deserve the meat.

So here’s the new diet plan that gives equal weight (no pun intended) to both your body’s need to be slim and your soul’s longing for spiritual fulfillment: Live your life with the constant awareness that you are meant to be much more than an animal, and in that way you’ll earn the right to enjoy as many prime cuts of meat as your heart desires.

Republished with permission from www.chabadstanford.org.

Editor’s comments:

This article shows why it is so important to have a respectful dialogue. Like many other articles (and talks) of this type, the author fails to address many issues, Including:

* the very negative effects of animal-based diets on human health;

* the major contributions of animal-based agriculture to global climate change and many other environmental problems;

* the fact that the production and consumption of meat and other animal products contradict basic Jewish teachings on treating animals with compassion, preserving human health, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, helping hungry people and pursuing peace and justice.

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6. More Suggestions Re a Vegetarian Slogan

a. From JVNA advisor Rabbi Hillel Norry:

slogan suggestions:

Pass the flame not the meat.
Eatin' eden.
Eden was a garden, not a slaughter house.
"Thou shalt eat your veggies!" God.

b. Long-time vegetarian activist Patti Breitman suggestion:

Eat Plants, not Meat

Comments on these suggestions and further suggestions are very welcome. Thanks.

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7. Another Great Article Re Diet and Global Climate Change Connections

A Few More 'Inconvenient Truths'
February 2, 2007
The Huffington Post
Kathy Freston

The report released today by the world's leading climate scientists made no bones about it: global warming is happening in a big way and it is very likely man-made. So, if we are indeed the bulk of the problem, we ought to step up and start doing things differently. Now.

My last post ("Vegetarian Is the New Prius") got a lot of traction, and I think it's because there is a realization that being "part of the solution" can be a whole lot simpler -and cheaper - than going out and buying a new car.

We can make a huge difference in the environment by eating a plant based diet instead of an animal based one. Factory farming pollutes our air and water, reduces the rainforests, and goes a long way to create global warming. And although the vast majority of responses to the piece were positive, there were some environmentalists for whom the idea of giving up those chicken nuggets was impossible to swallow.

My favorite movie of last year was Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth (Al Gore for the Nobel Peace Prize!), but I have to admit that when I speak with environmentalists about the obvious waste and pollution involved in the totally unnecessary activity of meat consumption, I feel a lot like Mr. Gore trying to convince the U.S. Congress to take the issue of global warming seriously during his first term in the Congress. I thought I might discuss a few of the key concerns that were posted to the blog and that my meat-eating friends offer in defense of their continued meat consumption. So here we go:

Some were worried about thriving, physically, on a vegetarian diet.

Now this just does not make sense. Half of all Americans die of heart disease or cancer and two-thirds of us are overweight. The American Dietetic Association says that vegetarians have "lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; ... lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer." Vegetarians, on average, are about one-third as likely to be overweight as meat-eaters.

And I've just learned from the brilliant Dr. Andrew Weil that there is something called arachidonic acid, or AA, in animal flesh which causes inflammation. AA is a pro-inflammatory fatty acid. He explains that "heart disease and Alzheimer's - among many other diseases - begin as inflammatory processes. The same hormonal imbalance that increases inflammation increases cell proliferation and the risk of malignant transformation." They are finding out that inflammation is key in so many of the diseases that plague us. So when you eat meat, you ingest AA, which causes inflammation, which fires up the disease process. It doesn't matter if the chicken is free range or the beef is grass-fed because the fatty acid is natural and inherent in the meat.

As for having strength and energy on a vegetarian diet, some of the world's top athletes are vegetarian. A few examples: Carl Lewis (perhaps the greatest Olympian of all time), Robert Parish (one of the "50 Greatest Players in NBA History"), Desmond Howard (Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP), Bill Pearl (professional bodybuilder and four-time "Mr. Universe"), Jack La Lanne (Mr. Fitness himself) and Chris Evert (tennis champion). Vegetarian athletes have the advantage of getting all the plant protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber they need without all the artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated animal fats found in meat that would slow them down. In fact, Carl Lewis says that "my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet."

One response pointed out that the rain forest is being cut down to grow soy, not meat.

Actually, much of the rain forest is being chopped down for grazing, but also yes, the rain forest is being chopped down to grow soy--but not for human consumption. Americans and Europeans can't raise all the feed domestically that is needed to sustain their meat addictions, so agribusiness has started cutting down the rain forest. Ask Greenpeace or any other environmental group and they'll tell you that the overwhelming majority of soy (or corn or wheat, for that matter) is used to feed animals in factory farms. In fact, Greenpeace recently unveiled a massive banner over an Amazon soy field that read, "KFC-Amazon Criminal," to accentuate the point that large chicken and other meat companies like KFC are responsible for the destruction of the Amazon. It takes many pounds of soy or other plant foods to produce just 1 pound of animal flesh--so if you're worried about the rain forests being chopped down for grazing or to grow soy, your best move is to stop eating chickens, pigs, and other animals. If more people went vegetarian, we would need far less land to feed people, and we wouldn't have to destroy the few natural places that this world has left.

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8. Summary of Recent Global Warming Reports

Food for Thought on Global Warming

Despite the wave of frigid air that swept in with the new year, 2006 was the warmest year on record in the United States. The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scien tific panel that met recently to discuss global warming, reported that climate change is "very likely" caused by human activities, including burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests.

The IPCC predicts that temperatures might increase by as much as 7.2°F and sea levels may rise by 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century.

It's a stark message. We've obviously messed up our planet:¯scientists foresee floods, melting ice caps, devastating droughts, and stronger hurricanes and tropical storms. Wildlife will struggle to survive. It's not something to be proud of. But then, just when it seems like the best option would be to leap off the nearest melting iceberg, the panel reassures us that global warming could be substantially blunted if people would take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gases.

Here's what they didn't explain: Switching to a vegan diet is a simple, effective way to shrink greenhouse gas emissions .

The digestive processes of the billions of animals raised to become sandwiches and snacks each year, as well as the 87,000 pounds of excrement that they produce every second, release enormous amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

A November 2006 report published by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions¯18 percent¯than transportation. The FAO also reported that the livestock industry is responsible for 37 percent of anthropogenic (generated by human activity) methane and 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, both of which have a higher "global warming potential" than carbon dioxide. The FAO also blamed the livestock sector for heavy deforestation, and according to the World Resources Institute , deforestation is responsible for approximately 20 percent of all global warming emissions.

The FAO report http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/06/060413.diet.shtml

followed an April 2006 study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, who compared the amount of fossil fuel necessary to produce various foods, taking into account the fuel needed to run machinery, provide food for animals and irrigate crops. They found that the typical U.S. meat-eater is responsible for nearly 1.5 tons more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan (pure vegetarian), simply because of the difference in food choices. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report by David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel indicated that i t takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make a calorie of animal protein as it does to make a calorie of plant protein.

What is the "payoff" for polluting the planet and using fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow? Greasy chicken nuggets and hamburgers. In other words, cholesterol medication, doctor visits and Weight Watchers meetings.

I may not be a scientist, but I think the answer is obvious: Having meat to eat is not worth changing the world's climate, killing animals¯both pigs and polar bears¯and ourselves.

Check out PETA's 30-day VegPledge, with recipes and transitional information, at www.GoVeg.com.

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9. Israeli Vegetarian Rabbi Connects Judaism and Veganism

What's Jewish about a Vegan Diet?

By Rabbi Adam Frank

[Rabbi Frank is a JVNA advisor and spiritual leader of the largest Conservative synagogue in Israel. He participated in many of my lecture tour events several years ago, by showing videos about and discussing the mistreatment of animals in Israel.]

Again I was asked:

"Rabbi, why are you vegan (abstinence from eating foods that contain animal products)?"

I grew up non-religious, but I had a strong Jewish identity founded on an appreciation for the dignified history of our people and for the religion's value-driven contributions to humanity. Long before my acquisition of a serious Jewish education, I took great comfort and pride in the knowledge that Judaism pioneered the idea of respectful responsibility of interaction between humans and the animal world. At an early age I was taught that the laws of Jewish slaughter reflect the concern for minimizing an animal's pain at the end of life. In my adult studies toward rabbinic ordination, the Jewish texts and sources affirmed the teachings of my childhood. Then, BAM!!! In 2003, the realities of the entire food industry hit me like as closed fist.

Two years ago, I attended my first animal rights conference. Like the seeming majority of Americans, I considered myself an animal lover. This conference was the single most sobering and important wake-up-call to my nearsighted understanding of what it means to have concern for animals. My eyes and mind were exposed to the realities of modern animal husbandry, and I received an invaluable education. As a Jew, I was particularly impacted by my evaluation that the treatment of animals to fulfill human food desires is an appalling violation of the Jewish law prohibiting the unnecessary infliction of pain on an animal. Additionally, though the animal rights industry is disproportionately represented by a large number of Jewish activists, with the exception of one speaker I was the only observant Jew participating in the conference.

At the conference, I was able to meet with folks who were at one time on the front lines of animal agriculture. That is, many animal welfare activists are people who previously worked in the animal-food based industry and whose experiences led them to work to alleviate/eliminate the abuses they witnessed. These abuses are documented by hours of films, scientific data and research, and hundreds of testimonials. Critical thinking can help the reader better understand the issues: in the U.S., over 9 billion animals are killed each year for our food supply – the number equates to over 25 million animals a day. It is not possible to breed, raise, handle, transport and slaughter this number of animals in a non-abusive way. Cruelty to animals is the industrial norm and not the exception.

How was I to reconcile Jewish teachings of human responsibility toward animals with the reality of modern factory farming? As an observant Jew, I believe that Jewish law which governs Jewish life is intended to shape a character of sensitivity, kindness, passion and compassion. Not only does my observance of Jewish law craft my character, it constructs my vehicle of relationship with Gd. To ignore the religiously unlawful atrocities inflicted by humans onto the co-inhabitant animals of the world would be devastating to the integrity with which I approach my observance of Jewish obligations. It would also taint the relationship of sincerity that I desire to have with Gd.

The wealth of knowledge we have about the realities of modern animal husbandry forces the critically-thinking, compassionate person to conclude that modern society's appetite for personal pleasures and comforts through food comes at the expense of a voiceless other, namely the animals. As a Jew who has spent years learning Jewish sources that indicate that part of the mission of an ethical, value driven society is to protect its weakest members, the decision to abstain from foods directly related to animal abuse is a mandate.

I do not want to be misunderstood: Jewish teachings affirm that humans have the privilege to use animals for our needs. Alas, were it not for the utilization of animals as instruments of labor communities could not have developed and succeeded as they did before the advent of fuel-driven machines. However, Judaism also legislates that human use of animals must be done with a concern for the animals' physical welfare and dignity. To be clear: we humans are permitted to use animals for our needs only in concert with adherence of concern for animal suffering. It must be pointed out that the end user of a product knowingly derived by cruel means is a participant in the cruelty.

I will use a pronounced example to illustrate the point. It is unlawful to poach the elephant. For years elephants were hunted and killed for the sole purpose of harvesting the ivory of their tusks. Today, the illegal poaching of elephants still occurs. Not only are the elephant poachers criminals, but those who purchase the ivory of the hunted elephants have also committed a crime. Were there no consumer willing to buy the tusks, there would be no incentive for the hunters to poach elephants.

Modern societies permit atrocious living conditions and heinous mistreatment of animals for the food industry. The reasons for this abuse are economic – produce vast quantities of product at the least possible expense. Modern, secular thinking allows for sentient creatures to be treated like inanimate objects, but Jewish tradition which expresses the concepts of humility and responsible stewardship does not. Unarguably, Jewish law legislates human interaction with animals. Unarguably, adherents to Jewish law view observance of the law as a medium of relationship with Gd. A holistic reading of Jewish law prohibits modern factory farming practices. My decision to abstain from the consumption of animal products is an expression of my adherence to Jewish law, and it expresses my disapproval and disdain for the cruel practices of the industry.

When we are children, we are taught to trust the police, the judicial system, and the government. Only with intellectual maturity do we understand that corruption makes these institutions imperfect. Similarly, we trust that Westernized governments have adequate laws and law enforcement to protect animals from painful abuses. As children we grow up with images of pastoral farms and happy animals and caring stewards. Intellectual maturity, that is, the critical thinking to which I referred earlier, should dispel our beliefs that societal rules protect animals from torturous conditions. Mounds of evidence prove that both the government and the food industry, and even Jewish leadership, have betrayed our trust in the prevention of animal cruelty and suffering.

Judaism does not make the claim of moral superiority; rather, it makes the demand for responsibility of actions. Judaism starts from a place of concern for justice and tries to protect all members of community, both local and global, from abuses of power and privilege. Thus, Judaism's critique of a social system that fails to protect all of its inhabitants is that the system needs repair. Importantly, within Judaism there is a self-correcting mechanism for its own failures. This mechanism depends on its members voicing concern and condemnation at a societal leadership that fails them. The decision not to oppose the systemic animal abuse in the food industry is to condone this abuse – and, it is the wrong decision for the serious Jew and the compassionate person. As Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel writes, "The mission of the Jewish people has never been to make the world more Jewish, but to make it more human."

Rabbi Adam Frank received rabbinic ordination from the Conservative Movement’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, where he also earned an MA in Jewish Studies. He is spiritual leader of Congregation Moreshet Yisrael in Jerusalem and teaches at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Adam is married to Lynne Weinstein and they have two children, Nadav and Ella, and Zoe.

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12. Animal Rights Groups Can Impact Congressional Debates

Animal-rights groups could impact upcoming debates
Sun Feb 11, 2007 6:35 am (PST)

WASHINGTON — Used to be that farmers only watched the debates over a farm bill to see how much money they would get out of it.

This year, some producers have reason to watch a little nervously. Flush with cash, animal-welfare groups will be pushing to use this year's farm bill to stop practices they consider inhumane.

Among the measures Congress is likely to take up:

# A requirement that the federal government, including the school lunch program, buy meat or dairy products from producers that meet certain animal-welfare standards, including adequate space in barns for hogs and poultry. Pork from producers who keep their sows in crates, the common practice in the industry, could no longer be sold to the government.

# A permanent ban on slaughtering "downer" cattle or hogs, animals that are lame or ill.

# A requirement that the U.S. Agriculture Department set standards for the humane slaughter of chickens and turkeys. Rules already in place set slaughter standards for cattle and hogs.

"We need to see the farm bill not just as a producer bill but as a producer bill and a consumer bill," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. "This is important to the public. The public cares about the humane treatment of animals."

A lot has happened since the last farm bill was written in 2002.

The Humane Society, now the most influential animal-rights group, has more than doubled its membership, merged with several smaller organizations and expanded its staff. Between 2002 and 2005, the

organization's annual revenue jumped from $76 million to $141 million.

The group also formed a new political arm that was used to target campaign spending against several key lawmakers in last fall's election.

full story

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13. Looking For a Special Passover Seder Plate?

Forwarded message from Suzanne Herzberg suzanne.herzberg@verizon.net:


Zel and Reuben Allen forwarded me your e-mail address as someone who might have some ideas about spreading the word re: my vegetarian seder plate.

I designed and had the seder plate produced for my own purposes and would like to make it available to others.

You can view the seder plate at: http://www.vegetarianseder.com

This vegetarian seder plate is the only one of its kind. Featuring a beet, instead of a shankbone, it provides the opportunity for vegetarians to celebrate Passover without leaving a blank space on their seder plates. The gorgeous photographic image seen here has been reproduced on tiles of Italian Botticino tumbled marble. Carved from large blocks, each tile contains the veining and texture that occur only in natural marble.

The seder plate comes with 5 small glass dishes to hold the seder items. A matching trivet is available, as well.

Vegetarian seder plate: $120.00

Free shipping and handling in the United States!

(Shipping to other countries available for an additional charge).

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17. More Re the Controversy Re Working Conditions at Kosher Slaughterhouses

From Kosher Nexus, the publication of the Union for Traditional Judaism


General TopicsThe so called controversy caused by the Conservative movement's announcement that they were going to create a Tzedek Hechsher has been way out of proportion. What does it say about us as Jews that we issue a huge "shrei" of "gevalt" at the thought that some agency might be looking over our collective shoulder at our moral practices?

Here is an article from this week's Kosher Today. Our comments will follow"

“Tzedek Hechsher” Not a Kosher Issue, Many Rabbis Assert

New York… Reacting to an article in the weekly Forward, “Orthodox Slam Effort To Monitor Conditions at Kosher Factories” (February 9, 2007), many rabbis reached by KosherToday did not consider the new proposed Conservative “Tzedek Hekhsher” to be an issue for kashrus. The Forward piece turned the issue of a proposed new certification on the basis of social issues to be the latest spat between Conservative and Orthodox rabbis. But even the Conservatives said that their proposed new hechsher would not deal with kashrus but rather with working conditions at plants producing kosher. The Conservative position followed an earlier article in the Forward that reported on alleged unsafe working conditions at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, a fact that was later disputed by Rabbi Asher Zeilingold of Minneapolis who traveled to the plant with a Spanish speaking congregant of his. Rabbi Zeilingold certifies the non-glatt kosher meats at the plant.

"It's not that we don't care about those issues, but we rely on the federal government," said Rabbi Menachem Genack, who heads the kashrus division at the Orthodox Union (OU). He noted that agencies such as the Department of Labor and Occupational Safety & Health Administration already keep watch on workers' pay and working conditions. “We don't want to impose more on those companies than is required by law," Genack said. Other rabbis also saw the new certification as more of an oversight on the already considerable protection offered to workers by government.

Many of the kashrus officials felt that a new certification that broadened the definition of kashrus would only lead to more confusion in the marketplace. Rabbi Yosef Wikler, publisher of Kashrus Magazine, told KosherToday that the Tzedek Hekhsher “has nothing to do with kosher certification and standards,” which is why he would not include the certification on his widely heralded annual list of kosher symbols and certification that numbered nearly 750 in 2006. Rabbi Wikler, who lists Conservative and Reform certifications on his list, agreed that the Tzedek Hekhsher would only lead to more confusion for consumers. One rabbi complimented the concern of the Conservatives but suggested that they “first should have visited non-kosher plants “which are basically no different than kosher ones” and in any event should be issuing their hekhsher for any Jewish businessman who employs workers, and not just a meat plant in Iowa.”

Ok, let's get this out of the way first: The Tzedek Hechsher is not a kosher certification. We get it. But it is a certification that workers are treated in a way consistent with halacha. It addresses the issue of proper working conditions. So what could be bad? Maybe they should have called it a Tzedek Certification and not a hechsher. In fact, upon reflection, we agree that calling it a hechsher will confuse people, but that in no way obviates the need for our community to improve itself in the realm of bein adam l'adam (between man and man).

We are not happy about the response from Rabbi Genack (of the OU). First of all, when halacha has a higher standard than Federal regs, halacha must be served! Second, what is so terrible about demanding that Jewish owned businesses operate on a higher moral level?

As for Rabbi Wikler's comments, what can we say? Yes, he is technically correct. However, he could have suggested a different name for the idea (as we did above) and indicated his support for a proposal to bring another spot light on practices that might not be shining examples of halachic and moral integrity.

The anonymous rabbi quoted at the end of the Kosher Today story is on to something. We agree- the people on the Tzedek commission should indeed visit other kinds of plants, too. What goes on in other plants? And they certainly should not restrict themselves to the meat business- all Jewish businesses should be run in an ethical manner. After all, no one complains when certain segments of our community assert that a business is "heimishe," implying a certain level of religious comittment and practice on the part of the owners.

Finally, we have to ask: why all the "shrei-ing?" Why is this not being welcomed? After all, who can be opposed to a righteousness rating? Hmm, could it be that "they" (who ever they are) are afraid of something?

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