August 20, 2007

7/25/07 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. JVNA Condemns Orthodox Union Event Celebrating the Eating of Many Animals/Demonstration Being Planned/My Letter/Letter From Rabbi Adam Frank

2. Latest Re Recent Rubashkin’s Scandal

3. Improving Working Conditions at Slaughterhouses

4. Information About Dietary/Global Warming Connections Spreading/Three Articles

5. Magazine Considers “God’s Green Earth” (Religion/Environment Connections

6. Vegetarian-Related Cartoons

7. Jewish Group Plans Environmentally-Centered “Make a Difference Day”

8. Study: Americans are Gaining More Weight

9. How to Lie With Statistics/Recent Study on Diet and Breast Cancer Very Misleading

10. Update on Global Warming-Related Movie “Arctic Tale”

11. More Reports Indicating the World is Heading Toward a Catastrophe From Global Warming

12. “Bringing Moos and Oinks Into the Food Debate” (Major NY Times 7/25/07 Article)

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 the kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances, 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. JVNA Condemns Orthodox Union Event Celebrating the Eating of Many Animals/Demonstration Being Planned/My Letter/Letter From Rabbi Adam Frank

The press release below was sent to the Jewish media on July 24, 2007. Please use the information in the press release to compose letters to editors. I think it is important to have a peaceful, respectful demonstration protesting the event discussed in the newsletter. If you would like to help organize such a demonstration, please let me know. We also have a volunteer Janine Bransome who has been active for many years in Jewish vegetarian activities in the Los Angeles area, and she has agreed to help organize the event. Please see the statement about a possible demonstration from our movie producer Lionel Friedberg below.

I think that groups like the Orthodox Union feel that they can safely ignore us because we are unable to organize effective responses and protests. Here is our chance to prove them wrong. Also, if you have contacts in the Los Angeles area who might be interested in the demonstration, please let them know. More details to follow. Thanks.

Also, with regard to this issue and that in item #2 below, I think that we should keep in mind that it is essential that we use these events to help get vegetarianism onto the Jewish agenda, because animal-based diets are significantly contributing to global climate change and other threats to humanity, an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish and other communities and the massive mistreatment of farmed animals and they seriously violate at least six basic Jewish mandates.


July 24. 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact person: Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) (; Phone (718) 761-5876; web site:; articles at


The Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) today expressed disappointment and sadness at the plans of the Orthodox Union (OU) to hold a “Halachic Seudah” on August 5, 2007 (5:45 to 10 PM), at Prime Grill Restaurant - 421 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, involving “a 15-course dinner including exotic and rare kosher items such as quail, red deer, fleishig eggs, shibuta, bison, udder and more.”

While JVNA recognizes the many positive things that the OU does and that its motives with regard to the event are to educate Jews about kosher laws related to exotic animals, it believes strongly that the event should not be held because it encourages Jews to continue a diet that is so harmful to the health of Jews and others, contributes to global warming and other environmental problems that threaten all of humanity and is inconsistent with basic Jewish teachings in at least six ways:

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

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

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

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

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

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

JVNA president Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. stated, “This OU event, involving the eating of so many of God’s creatures completely contradicts our mandate to be 'rachmanim b'nei rachmanim' (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors) and to imitate God whose mercies are over all of His creatures,” (Psalms 145:9) Even if ritual slaughter is performed flawlessly, consistent with halacha, we should not ignore the severe violations of Jewish law occurring daily on factory farms. We should fulfill our charge to be 'a light unto the nations' by helping to lead the world away from a diet that is so harmful to people, the environment, and animals, to one that is far more consistent with basic religious values, especially at a time when anima-based diets are causing an epidemic of disease in the Jewish community and other communities and when animal-based agriculture is a major contributor to global warming and many other environmental threats to all of humanity.”

For a long time, JVNA has argued that Jews should consider how animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, preserve the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people. Putting these issues squarely on the Jewish agenda would save many lives, move our imperiled planet to a more sustainable path, and show the relevance of Judaism in addressing current critical issues, and thus help revitalize Judaism.

JVNA is anxious to engage in respectful dialogues on these issues. If the OU is unwilling to cancel the “Halachic Seudah,” JVNA urges them to hold an additional event that would explore Torah teachings related to our diets and how the production and consumption of meat and other animal products impinge on these teachings.

Further information about the JVNA and its campaign to get vegetarianism onto the Jewish and other agendas may be obtained by contacting Dr. Schwartz or the JVNA (; The web site also has many Jewish vegetarian recipes. A complimentary copy of Richard Schwartz's book “Judaism and Vegetarianism” and a related CD will be sent to members of the media who request them as background for a potential article and to others who indicate how they would use the material to help get vegetarianism and related issues onto the Jewish agenda.
Statement by our movie producer Lionel Friedberg:

I'm not very good at organizing protests and demonstrations, so I call upon you all for help. How does one muster the forces to express our opposition to something truly outrageous?
Here's what's happening:
On August 5th the local Jewish Orthodox Union here in Los Angeles is
organizing what is known as a "Halachic Seudah" which celebrates the passagein the Bible (or Torah) that allows humans to eat meat after the story ofNoah and the Flood.
The event is scheduled take place at the Prime Grill Restaurant on 421 N.
Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, and involves -- and I quote the promotional
material -- ³a 15-course dinner including exotic and rare kosher items such as quail, red deer, fleishig eggs, shibuta, bison, udder and more.²
I myself am Jewish and of course I have no intention whatsoever of turning this into an anti-Semitic event -- in fact, quite the opposite -- but I do feel this is a prime opportunity to voice outrage at people using the bible to promote cruelty and carnivorous behavior, especially in the name of religion.

Here's the link to the event:

I may not even be able to protest outside the restaurant as I might be out
of town that day, but we cannot let this event go unnoticed or without
objection. Please inform all your Jewish friends and colleagues too. This
kind of antiquated thinking cannot go unchallenged.
Many thanks.

Lionel Friedberg
My letter to the Jewish media [Please consider sending your own letters to your local media. Thanks.]

Dear Editor:

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I am disappointed and saddened by the plans of the Orthodox Union (OU) to hold a “Halachic Seudah” on August 5, 2007 at the Grill Restaurant in Beverly Hills, involving “a 15-course dinner including exotic and rare kosher items such as quail, red deer, fleishig eggs, shibuta, bison, udder and more.”

While I recognize the many positive things that the OU does and that its motives with regard to the event are to educate Jews about kosher laws related to exotic animals, I strongly believe that the event should not be held because it encourages Jews to continue a diet that is so harmful to the health of Jews and others, contributes to global warming and other environmental problems that threaten all of humanity and is inconsistent with basic Jewish teachings on preserving human health, treating animals compassionately, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources and helping hungry people.

This OU event, involving the eating of so many of God’s creatures, completely contradicts our mandate to be 'rachmanim b'nei rachmanim' (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors) and to imitate God, whose mercies are over all His creatures,” (Psalms 145:9) Even if ritual slaughter is performed flawlessly, consistent with Jewish law, we should not ignore the severe violations of Jewish law occurring daily on factory farms. We should fulfill our charge to be 'a light unto the nations' by helping to lead the world away from a diet that is so harmful to people, the environment, and animals, to one that is far more consistent with basic religious values, especially at a time when anima-based diets are causing an epidemic of disease in the Jewish community and other communities and when animal-based agriculture is a major contributor to global warming and many other environmental threats to all of humanity.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Letter from JVNA advisor Rabbi Adam Frank:

Dear ______ ,

I'm Rav Meir Schweiger's friend/student who has discussed animal welfare issues with you in the past.

I've just been made aware of the planned event in L.A. at Prime Grill of which you are advertised as a presenter:

I'm writing to you for a few reasons:

1. This event is being criticized over the internet by animal welfare folks -- fyi.

2. The brochure reads that participants will learn of, "The integrity of the kosher meat supply chain." Any discussion on the integrity of the kosher meat supply chain that does not include serious discussion and critique of flaws in the industry standards of animal welfare (e.g., as exposed in Postville and just last month in Nebraska -- under the hashgacha of the O.U.) is disingenuous.

-- if the 'kosher meat supply chain' means only proper labellng and trustworthy distribution this presentation will be a Prime example of halakhic myopia -- that is, what matters is the consumption of meat that is shechted properly and all else is unimportant.

3. Glorifying meat consumption -- a consumption that is certainly permitted by Jewish law --with the eating of exotic animals and advertising as a 'gastronomic event' -- to my ears it desecrates the gift of compromise for the human consumption of animals. The message is one of, "as long as we follow the legal rules, any type of behavior is permitted", rather than the message of responsible stewardship and holiness concomitant with the compromise.

4. I'm on the side of support for shechitah. Now that this event is being discussed on the internet by people much less accepting of meat consumption -- and bringing a negative spotlight on the O.U. and the kosher industry -- does the event fall into a category of perhaps doing more harm to shechitah than good?

kol tuv,


Rabbi Adam Frank
Congregation Moreshet Yisrael
Jerusalem, Israel

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2. Latest Re Recent Rubashkin’s Scandal

a. Please note that, as I have pointed out before, I believe these events and reports should be considered as opportunities to try to broaden the discussion and to get a consideration of vegetarianism onto the Jewish agenda, by pointing out, as indicated above, that animal-based diets are significantly contributing to global climate change and other severe threats to humanity, an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish and other communities and the massive mistreatment of farmed animals, and they seriously violate at least six basic Jewish mandates.

b. The video Taken at the Norman, Nebraska Rubaskin’s kosher slaughterhouse can be viewed at:

c. Special prosecutor appointed to investigate Local Pride (Rubaskin’s Gordon, Nebraska slaughterhouse)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 1:44 PM CDT

OMAHA, Neb. - A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into allegations of animal mistreatment at a Gordon meatpacking plant.

In a complaint filed July 9 with the Sheridan County attorney, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Local Pride LLC allows cows to remain conscious for up to two minutes after their throats are cut during the kosher slaughtering process, among other things.

PETA's senior counsel Lori Kettler said County Attorney Jamian Simmons notified PETA last week that she was petitioning the court to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the claims.

According to Kettler, Simmons cited a conflict of interest within her office.

Simmons did not immediately return a message left Tuesday at her office.

Sheridan County District Court clerk Eloise Kampbell confirmed Simmons' request and said Dawes County Attorney Vance Haug has been named special prosecutor.

A message left Tuesday at Haug's office was not immediately returned.

Local Pride opened in June 2006 under an agreement between the Sholom Rubashkin family of New York and the Oglala of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Rubashkins also own the world's largest kosher plant, Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, which was scrutinized last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for cruelty to animals. The investigation came after Agriprocessor's slaughtering methods were criticized by PETA as cruel and inhumane.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cedar Rapids did not file charges in that case.

PETA said in its latest complaint that an undercover investigation of Local Pride was carried out in May as follow-up to its claims against Agriprocessor.

The alleged violations of state, federal and kosher laws cited in the complaint include: the animals are allowed to writhe in pain for up to two minutes after their throats are cut; and staff tear the animals' necks with a meat hook and cut tags from their ears while they are still conscious.

"The intentional infliction of cruelty at Agriprocessor's Gordon, Nebraska, facility is ... part of a continued pattern of disregard for the welfare of animals _ and the cruelty-to-animal statutes _ in the locales where Agriprocessors operates," PETA said in the complaint.

A woman who answered the phone Tuesday at Rubashkin's Iowa office said he was out of the building. She would not take a message.

According to PETA, a similar complaint filed June 29 with the USDA has prompted a federal probe of Local Pride.

A USDA spokeswoman said earlier this month that a specialist was sent to the plant to observe the slaughtering process, but no violations of the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act were found.

PETA has also said that the Orthodox Union, the primary certifier of kosher slaughterhouses, has launched an investigation of Local Pride.

A message left Tuesday for the Orthodox Union's kosher division was not returned. The office was closed for the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av.

Under Nebraska law, cruel mistreatment of animals is a Class I misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class IV felony for subsequent offenses.

On the Net:



USDA Office of Inspector General:

A service of the Associated Press(AP)

d. "OU Lies, Again"


So what is really happening on this new PETA video taken at Rubashkin's
Gordon, Nebraska plant? I've spent the last few days doing some legwork,
including a long interview with the OU's Rabbi Menachem Genack, the OU's
head of shechita Rabbi Seth Mandel, Dr. Temple Grandin, the USDA and other insiders, and here's what seems to be the inside scoop.

Rabbi Genack was unable to tell me why the non-Jewish worker probed inside the neck of the animal after shechita. He referred me to Rabbi Seth Mandel, assuring me that Rabbi Mandel "speaks for the OU."

Rabbi Mandel told me the following:

1. The probing is done to separate the trachea from the esophagus.
2. It is done at the request of the USDA.
3. It is not done as part of the kosher slaughter process and is not a
second cut.
4.. It is not done at the OU's request.
5. It is not done at Rubashkin's request.
6. It is completely humane.
7 The animals feel no pain.
8. The animals are not conscious.
9. When I challenged him about this, he said there are "conflicting"
studies. I pointed out that experts are unanimous in agreeing these
particular animals are still conscious. He then said, if PETA were "serious"
about protecting animals, they would "pay for a study" to show when animals become unconscious. That they have not is a sign that PETA's "agenda" is "anti-shechita."
10. I pointed out that any such study would involve killing animals, and
PETA will not do this.
11. Rabbi Mandel then said that PETA "goes after" shechita.
12. I pointed out the dozens of other campaigns PETA has run that have nothing to do with shechita or Judaism.
13. He then asked why PETA was focusing on Rubashkin. Doesn't this focus prove an anti-shechita bais?
14. I told him that, after the Postville scandal, what would you expect
PETA to do? Stop looking? Close their eyes?
15. Rabbi Mandel insisted the neck incision is probed with an
"instrument." "It is not a meat hook! It is not a meat hook!" Rabbi Mandel
16. The ear tags are most likely cut off by removing the button that
holds it on, not by cutting the ear.
17. Rabbi Mandel spoke extensively about PETA's "agenda."
18. Rabbi Mandel makes monthly "surprise inspections" of the Gordon
19. The head of the shochtim (rosh hashochtim) is an employee of
Agriprocessors and is paid by Rubashkin, not the OU.
20. Rabbi Mandel refused to give me his name without first getting
permission from Rubashkin.
The USDA's FSIS chief spokesman Steven Cohen, when told that the OU claims this procedure is mandated by the USDA and approved by the USDA, told me that "the USDA does not interfere in ritual slaughter." He was unaware of this particular procedure and believed it to be part of the shechita process.

Dr. Temple Grandin told me that there is no such USDA-mandated procedure and that she has never seen anything like it done at any other kosher plant. She also insists the "instrument" used to probe the neck is a small meat hook. "It should be in the boning room used to move pieces of meat. It should not be on the kill floor."

She tells me the animals would feel pain and that "you should not even put a pencil in there" until the animal is insensate.

Another USDA and kosher slaughter insider told me there is a mandated USDA procedure called Weasand, which is the tying of the esophagus to prevent the stomach contents from coming up. He also said the "instrument" looks like a hook.

So what is happening at Agriprocessors Gordon plant?

In October of 2003 a meeting was held in the USDA between Agudath Israel of America, rabbis from various kosher supervising agencies and senior USDA officials including, according to some reports given me, Ann Veneman, the then-Secretary of Agriculture. The rabbis complained about the wording of a new USDA Humane Slaughter directive that outlawed "sawing." They were afraid USDA inspectors would stop slaughter lines because they would mistakenly view a shechita cut as "sawing."

The outcome of that meeting was a new directive (some say the wording of this new directive came from Nathan Lewin, Rubashkin's attorney and a Agudah operative) that prevented line inspectors from stopping ritual slaughter lines without first gaining approval of a regional USDA office. This was understood by some inspectors to mean, "Keep your hands off the rabbis and let them do whatever they want."

Indeed, one can see a USDA inspector in the new PETA Rubashkin video. He does not stop the line.

Whatever Rubashkin's employees are doing with that meat hook, US law
prohibits doing any butchering or preparatory work on an animal until it is
dead. The definition of death is the legal definition, not the halakhic
definition some use that, once the knife begins to cut the animal is dead.

So what is really going on in Gordon?

You can see that a meat hook is used. You get a clear shot of it during the penultimate slaughter.

Whatever the reason for its use, it is illegal and it must be immediately
e. My post at the Failed Messiah web site
Why should we be surprised at such things happening when for many years the Jewish community has been ignoring that animal-based diets seriously violate basic Jewish mandates to protect our health, treat animals with compassion, preserve the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people.

Even if shechita is carried out perfectly at Rubaskin's and other kosher slaughterhouses, can we ignore the horrible treatment of animals for months or years on factory farms, completely contrary to the mandate to avoid tsa'ar ba'alei chaim.

And please keep in mind that the mistreatment of animals at the slaughterhouse is to creat a product that is contributing very significantly to an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish and other communities and whose production is contributing to global warming and many environmental threats which are imperiling all of humanity and all of G-d's Creation.

Are there no Jewish leaders willing to tell it like it is on these issues?
f. Cleveland Jewish News article [based on a JTA report]

PETA slams AgriProcessors [actually Rubashkins, as the Nebraska slaughterhouse is not an AgriProcessors’ facility.]

(JTA) -- An animal-rights group says America’s largest kosher meat company still isn’t treating its animals humanely.

People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) released a new video showing that AgriProcessors, which produces the Aaron’s Best line of kosher meats, has not followed through on its pledge to shoot with a gun any cow that appeared to be alive after it had been through the kosher slaughtering process.

AgriProcessors came under fire in 2004 when PETA released a video it had shot surreptitiously at the slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, showing gruesome footage of cows flailing after they had had their throats slit in accordance with the practice in kosher ritual slaughter. After the video’s release, the slaughterhouse agreed to reform its work practices, but PETA now says AgriProcessors has broken that agreement.

Attorney Nathan Lewin, who has defended AgriProcessors in the past, said the new video “proves PETA is out to destroy or make unlawful” kosher slaughter, according to a report in The Forward. AgriProcessors did not return calls seeking comment, according to the report.
g. Another blog consideration of the Gordon, Nebraska situation

heeb'n'vegan -

FYI: I have a guest post about the kosher meat controversy on The Jew & The Carrot, a blog that discusses "Jews, food, and contemporary issues." (It recently won two awards in the Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards, and according to a Washington Post article earlier this month, the blog gets 300,000 hits a month.)

"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)

My Guest Post on The Jew & The Carrot, Plus More Local Pride Updates
I have a guest post about the Local Pride kosher meat scandal on The Jew & The Carrot. (For those of you who don't know, The Jew & The Carrot is an awesome blog that deals with "Jews, food, and contemporary issues." It recently won the Best New Blog and Best Kosher Food/Recipe Blog in the Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards.) Here's an excerpt:

We find ourselves with another wake-up call that the kosher meat industry—or at least its principal players—is causing unnecessary animal suffering (tza’ar ba’alei hayim). As Rabbi Haviva Ner-David wrote in an article published in the Jerusalem Report last week, “Truth be told, if we consider complying with the requirements of tza’ar ba’alei hayim a requirement for meat to be considered ‘kosher,’ today’s food industry renders all meat production non-kosher.”

Cruelty to animals in the kosher meat industry is not limited to one isolated incident. The Local Pride abuses happened in a slaughterhouse owned by someone who had already been in the public spotlight and was supposedly working to correct matters. Recent debates about kashrut in the Jewish community have largely focused on labor issues and the tzedek hechsher initiative. Like the AgriProcessors scandal before it, the Local Pride investigation highlights that animals raised and slaughtered for kosher meat are often treated in a manner that’s inconsistent with Jewish values of compassion for animals. Like the cows’ bellowing in the Local Pride video footage, this latest controversy screams out for a holistic review of the kosher meat industry and Jews’ consumption of meat.

Yesterday, Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) issued a news release about the Local Pride investigation that's very consistent with my views on the subject. Here's an excerpt:
While opposed to all methods of slaughter, JVNA believes that properly carried out ritual slaughter is a relatively “humane” method of slaughter, which aims to minimize animal pain .... JVNA believes that the graphic depictions of the horrifying mistreatment of the animals at the Nebraska slaughterhouse should cause the entire Jewish community to examine the ways animals are currently being raised, treated, prepared, and slaughtered, to see if the laws and principles of the Torah are actually being properly practiced. And we hope that closer study of the values in Jewish tradition-- concern for the pain of fellow creatures, maintaining health, protecting God's world, conserving resources, feeding the hungry-- will ultimately lead Jews and others to adopt a diet that is more humane, healthy, environmentally sustainable, and capable of feeding hungry people -- vegetarianism.

Failed Messiah has been doing some wonderful reporting and analysis of this case ever since the story broke. On Monday, Failed Messiah dissected the inaccuracy-laden Kosher Today article on the subject and then had a follow-up post getting to the bottom of one of Kosher Today's false claims. Yesterday, Failed Messiah had an in-depth post recounting firsthand interviews with the OU's Rabbi Menachem Genack and Rabbi Seth Mandel, the USDA's Steven Cohen, and animal welfare expert Temple Grandin. In a follow-up post, Failed Messiah featured two photos showing that a meat hook had been used at Local Pride and juxtaposed Mandel's claim that it wasn't a meat hook with Grandin's claim that it is. Keep up the good work, Failed Messiah! Here's an excerpt from one of yesterday's posts:

Whatever Rubashkin's employees are doing with that meat hook, US law prohibits doing any butchering or preparatory work on an animal until it is dead. The definition of death is the legal definition, not the halakhic definition some use that, once the knife begins to cut the animal is dead. So what is really going on in Gordon? You can see that a meat hook is used. ... Whatever the reason for its use, it is illegal and it must be immediately stopped.

posted by heebnvegan @ 7/19/2007 06:09:00 PM

Name: Michael, Location: US

I can be reached at

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3. Improving Working Conditions at Slaughterhouses

More than laws of slaughter

Cleveland Jewish News

[While this article represents a step forward in considering how workers at slaughterhouses are treated, it still does not consider how animal-based diets and agriculture violate othr basic Jewish teachings.]

Workers’ conditions are also in spirit of kashrut

I would like to offer Dr. Michael Kirsch some rabbinic “antacid” to soothe his indigestion about the proposed foray into kashrut certification by the Conservative movement. At the same time, I have my own heartburn about abuses in kosher-certified businesses that undermine the very meaning of kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws.

I believe in kashrut as part of the nexus of Jewish law and tradition. Kasher literally means fit. The animals we are permitted to eat must be kasher. Their slaughter must be done in a kasher manner. Their meat must be processed in a kasher manner. Kasher means eating in a way that is fitting in our service of God.

When the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly endorsed the establishment of heksher tzedek (certification of justice), it was with the understanding that this certification would be a supplement n not a replacement n for current kosher supervision now available in the U.S. for tens of thousands of products.

Heksher tzedek is a response to reports in the media that have raised questions regarding the conditions of workers at some kosher slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants in our country. The news media have documented dangerous working conditions in these plants, inadequate training of workers, repeated failure of the companies to issue prompt and just payment, and the fact that many of the workers are undocumented migrants.

According to reports, the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa, producer of Aaron’s Best glatt kosher meats, has been the most egregious perpetrator of these injustices.

I believe the time is ripe for development of heksher tzedek as a legitimate Jewish communal response.

There are several principles in Jewish tradition that justify, even necessitate, heksher tzedek.

First, let’s look at Torah itself: “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger … You must pay him his wages on the same day … for he is needy and sets his life on it; else he will cry to God against you and you will incur guilt” (Deut. 24:14-15). The Talmud also teaches that a sin committed in fulfillment of a commandment invalidates fulfillment of that commandment. Therefore, if a product labeled “kosher” is produced through nefarious labor practices, how can it truly be kosher?

While shechitah, ritual slaughter, requires a blessing by the shochet (slaughterer), most aspects of kosher-food production do not require recitation of liturgy by a rabbi. Nevertheless, the perception in the public sphere of kosher food being “blessed” is significant, even if not technically accurate.

Whether we like it or not, the label “kosher” on a product suggests to the public a higher moral standard in the food’s production. A company that engages in immoral (if not illegal!) labor practices is a naval (scoundrel) and is committing a terrible hillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name) that casts aspersions on the entire kashrut-observant public.

Finally, the Midrash teaches that all mitzvot were given l’tzaref bahen et habriot, to refine humanity. We need to elevate eating beyond our animal instincts.

Dr. Leon Kass, a renowned scientist, philosopher and ethicist, writes in The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature: “The meal taken at table is the cultural form that enables us to respond simultaneously to all the dominant features of our world: inner need, natural plentitude, freedom and reason, human community, and the mysterious source of it all. In humanized eating, we can nourish our souls even while we feed our bodies.” For me, a truly nourished individual is one who cares about how his or her food was produced. In this way, we elevate eating with heightened moral sensitivity.

Kashrut is meant to elevate the eating experience from mundane to holy. In my rabbinate, I strive to inspire Jews to observe mitzvot, including kashrut. When a Jewish family decides to keep a kosher home, it is a holy and heroic act that opens their home to klal Yisrael, the entire community of Israel. For more Jews to be inspired to keep kosher, we need an ethical kashrut industry that lives up to its name in elevating humanity toward a more ethical lifestyle. I hope heksher tzedek can help.

Rabbi Edward C. Bernstein is spiritual leader at Congregation Shaarey Tikvah.

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4. Information About Dietary/Global Warming Connections

a. Beef a shocker for carbon emissions

July 20, 2007 06:52am
Article from: Agence France-Presse,23599,22103734-2,00.html

A KILOGRAM of beef causes more greenhouse gas and other pollution than driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home, a Japanese study has found.

New Scientist reports that a team led by Akifumi Ogino, of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, calculated the environmental cost of raising cattle through conventional farming, slaughtering the animal and distributing the meat.

The team discovered that producing a kilo of beef causes the equivalent of 36.4kg in carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, the study found.

Most of these greenhouse gas emissions are methane, released from the cow's digestive system.

That 1kg of beef also requires energy equivalent to lighting a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days to produce and transport the animals' feed.

The calculations, which are based on standard industrial methods of meat production in Japan, did not include the impact of managing farm infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental load is higher than the study suggests.

The study appears in full in the specialist publication Animal Science Journal.

b. Article "Go vegan to help climate, says Government"
c. Article by Captain Paul Watson

RIDDLE: Vegans in Hummers Vs. Biking Carnivores

According to Paul Watson, a vegan driving a Hummer would be
contributing less greenhouse gas carbon emissions than a meat
eater riding a bicycle.

By far, the best SPEAKER I have ever heard is Captain Paul
Watson of the Sea Sheperd. Paul is a 21st century pirate. He
rams and sinks whaling ships as his life's work. Here is a
transcript of a recent talk given by Paul. It is a fascinating.

A Very Inconvenient Truth - by Capt Paul Watson

The meat industry is one of the most destructive ecological
industries on the planet. The raising and slaughtering of pigs,
cows, sheep, turkeys and chickens not only utilizes vast areas of
land and vast quantities of water, but it is a greater contributor
to greenhouse gas emissions than the automobile industry.

The seafood industry is literally plundering the ocean of life and
some fifty percent of fish caught from the oceans is fed to cows,
pigs, sheep, chickens etc in the form of fish meal. It also takes
about fifty fish caught from the sea to raise one farm raised salmon.

We have turned the domestic cow into the largest marine predator on
the planet. The hundreds of millions of cows grazing the land and
farting methane consume more tonnage of fish than all the world's
sharks, dolphins and seals combined. Domestic housecats consume more
fish, especially tuna, than all the world's seals.

So why is it that all the world's large environmental and
conservation groups are not campaigning against the meat industry?
Why did Al Gore's film Inconvenient Truth not mention the
inconvenient truth that the slaughter industry creates more
greenhouse gases than the automobile industry?

The Greenpeace ships serve meat and fish to their crews everyday. The
World Wildlife Fund does not say a word about the threat that meat
eating poses for the survival of wildlife, the habitat destroyed, the
wild competitors for land eliminated, or the predators destroyed to
save their precious livestock.

When I was a Sierra Club director for three years, everyone looked
amused when I brought up the issue of vegetarianism. At each of our
Board meeting dinners, the Directors were served meat and only after
much prodding and complaining did the couple of vegetarian directors
manage to get a vegetarian option. At our meeting in Montana we were
served Buffalo and antelope, lobsters in Boston, crabs in Charleston,
steak in Albuquerque etc. But what else can we expect from
a "conservation" group that endorses trophy hunting.

As far as I know and I may be wrong, but my organization, the Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society is the only conservation organization
in the world that endorses and practises vegetarianism. My ships do
not serve meat or fish ever, nor do we serve dairy products. We've
had a strictly vegan menu for years and no one has died of scurvy or

The price we pay for this is to be accused by other conservation
organizations of being animal rights. Like it's a bad word. They say
it with the same disdain that Americans used to utter the word
communist in the Fifties.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not an animal rights
organization. We are exclusively involved in interventions against
illegal activities that threaten and exploit marine wildlife and
habitat. We are involved in ocean wildlife conservation activities.

Yet because we operate our ships as vegan vessels, other groups, and
now the media dismiss us as an animal rights organization.

Now first of all I don't see being accused of as an animal rights
organization to be an insult. PETA was co-founded by one of my
crew-members and many of my volunteers come from the animal rights
movement. But it is not accurate to refer to Sea Shepherd as animal
rights when our organization pushes a strict conservation enforcement

And secondly we do not promote veganism on our ships because of
animal rights. We promote veganism as a means of practicing what we
preach which is ocean conservation.

There is not enough fish in the world's oceans to feed 6.6 billion
human beings and another 10 billion domestic animals. That is why all
the world's commercial fisheries are collapsing. That is why whales,
seals, dolphins and seabirds are starving. The sand eel for example,
the primary source of food for the comical and beautiful puffin is
being wiped out by Danish fishermen solely to provide fish meal to
Danish factory farmed chickens.

This is a solid conservation connection between eating meat and the
destruction of life in our oceans.

In a world fast losing resources of fresh water, it is sheer lunacy
to have hundreds of millions of cows consuming over 1,000 gallons of
water for every pound of beef produced.

And the pig farms in North Carolina produce so much waste that it has
contaminated the entire ground water reserves of the entire state.
North Carolinians drink pig shit with their water but its okay they
say, they just neutralize it with chemicals like chlorine.

Most people don't want to see where their meat comes from. They also
don't want to know what the impact of their meat has on the ecology.
They would rather just deny the whole thing and pretend that meat is
something that comes in packages from the store.

But because there is this underlying guilt always present, it
manifests itself as anger and ridicule towards people who live the
most environmentally positive life styles on the planet -- the vegans
and the vegetarians.

This is demonstrated through constant marginalization especially in
the media. Any organization, like Sea Shepherd for example, that
points out the ecological contradictions of eating meat is
immediately dismissed as some wacko animal rights organization.


The bottom line is that to be a conservationist and an
environmentalist, you must practice and promote vegetarianism or
better yet veganism.

It is the lifestyle that leaves the shallowest ecological footprint,
uses fewer resources and produces less greenhouse gas emissions, it's
healthier and it means you're not a hypocrite.

In fact a vegan driving a hummer would be contributing less
greenhouse gas carbon emissions than a meat eater riding a bicycle.

Capt Paul Watson

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5. Magazine Considers “God’s Green Earth” (Religion/Environment Connections)

Dear Colleagues:

Greetings! We would like to bring your attention to the current issue
of Reflections, the journal of Yale Divinity School, entitled, "God's
Green Earth." Below is a summary of the issue. You can read more
about it and order it at:


In the lead article for this issue of Reflections, Mary Evelyn Tucker
and John Grim conclude by saying, "A many-faceted alliance of religion
and ecology along with a new global ethics is awakening around the
planet...This is a new moment for the world's religions, and they
have a vital role to play in the emergence of a more comprehensive
environmental ethics. The urgency cannot be underestimated. Indeed,
the flourishing of the Earth community may depend on it."

Sobering, yet hopeful, words. Like exhortations resonate throughout
this issue, which we have named GOD'S GREEN EARTH: Creation, Faith,
Crisis. From the article "Green Discipleship" by ethicist Larry
Rasmussen, to evangelical thinker Richard Cizik's ruminations in a
"New Moral Awakening," to the appeal for grassroots activism by Sally
Bingham in "Power, Light and Hope," we are told that planet Earth is
in danger of spinning out of control but that people of faith,
uniquely positioned to bring together theory and practice, can help
right the planet. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize
laureate, reminds us that the planet belongs to all, and she
poignantly recounts her grassroots Green Belt Movement's successful
campaign to plant millions of trees in deforested sections of Africa.
And Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental
Studies, speaks of "ethical duties" to rescue the ecosystem from
ravages of the world economy, concluding with the affirmation, "We
can save what is left."

It is our hope that this issue of Reflections, along with the
accompanying study guide on the Yale Divinity School web site, can
make a modest yet valuable contribution to assigning the task of
religion in this age of environmental crisis. Perhaps, as Tucker and
Grim suggest, the religious community can play as significant a role
in elucidating the moral dimensions of this predicament as it did in
the abolitionist and civil rights movements.

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6. Vegetarian-Related Cartoons

forwarded message from Frank and Mary Hoffman:

Dear Friends:

We though you'd like these cartoons that Denise Stephens has been drawing for us. We'd appreciate your comments.

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7. Jewish Group Plans Environmentally-Centered “Make a Difference Day”

Message from Daniel Rothner, Director of Areyvut

I appreciate your feedback & think that there are ways for Areyvut to address these critical issues. Please see the information below about “Make a Difference” Day 2008. I hope that you will be able to inform your colleagues about this & that your network will be able to participate in this effort. [I have sent Daniel several articles.]

As part of “Make a Difference Day” 2007, Areyvut partnered with schools, synagogues, families and community organizations to create a weekend full of acts of kindness. Hands on programs were done all over the globe and thousands of people were affected by the work done by the individuals who participated in the weekend festivities.

Areyvut staff developed a list of 22 hands-on activities around the themes of “caring for the sick and elderly” and “feeding the hungry” for individuals of all ages to participate in during the weekend. You can access them by clicking on the following link: 2007 Educational Material

The themes for Make a Difference Day 2008 (April 4-6, 2008) is Preserving the Environment and “Thinking Out of the Box.” Below you can find information that can be found in the Educational Materials that are currently being developed for the program. Attached you will find a flyer and brochure for the program. Information about “Make a Difference” Day can be found at and Project Registration can be found at Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Below you will find some of the working ideas for “Make a Difference” Day 2008. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail or call me at any time.

Preserving the Environment: Sources from Jewish Texts

Guidelines for Improving the Environment

Educational Environmental Films and Books

Activity Suggestions:

Activity 1: Planting Flowers in an Underprivileged Neighborhood

Activity 2: Make/Decorate Recycling Bins

Activity 3: Make Recycled Paper

Activity 4: Make ‘Remember to Recycle” Magnets

Activity 5: Adopt a Tree

Activity 6: Collect Money to Plant Trees in Israel

Activity 7: Collect and Donate Gardening Tools

Activity 8: Clean a River/Pond

Activity 9: Educate about Global Warming, Hurricane Katrina

Activity 10: Paint Flower Pots

Activity 11: Bring your Own Bags Grocery Shopping

Activity 12: Letter Writing

Activity 13: Plant a Garden

Activity 14: Bike-a-Thon

Activity 15: Create a Compost Heap

Additional Resources: Organizations that work in the field of “Preserving the Environment”

Thinking out of the box

Guidelines for Registering Your Project

Daniel Rothner
Areyvut Founder & Director
147 South Washington Avenue
Bergenfield, NJ 07621
P: 201-244-6702
F: 201-338-2427

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8. Study: Americans are Gaining More Weight

LOS ANGELES, July 20 (Xinhua) -- With the obesity level in the United States continuing to climb, 75 percent of American adults will be overweight and 41 percent of them will be obese by the year 2015, a new study predicts.

In the study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the prevalence of obesity and overweight in the U.S. has increased at a median rate of 0.3 to 0.8 percentage points per year during the past 30 years across a wide variety of socioeconomic groups.

As a whole, the U.S obesity prevalence escalated from 13 percent in the 1960s to 32 percent in 2004, according to the study.

The research team noted that there was a disproportionate increase in obesity levels amongst minorities and low socioeconomic groups, including non-Hispanic black women and children, Mexican-American women and children, white women and black men of low socioeconomic status, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

"The obesity rate in the United States has increased at an alarming rate over the past three decades," said Youfa Wang, assistant professor in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"We set out to estimate the average annual increase in prevalence as well as the variation between population groups to predict the future situation regarding obesity and overweight among U.S. adults and children," he said.

Wang also cautioned "Obesity is a public health crisis. If the rate of obesity and overweight continues at this pace, by 2015,75 percent of adults and nearly 24 percent of U.S. children and adolescents will be overweight or obese."

They also found that in 2003 and 2004, two-thirds (66 percent) of the U.S. adults were overweight or obese. Women between the ages of 20 to 34, have the fastest rate of increase to be overweight or obese. Eighty percent of black women aged 40 years or over are overweight with 50 percent being classified as obese. Although Asians have the lowest obesity prevalence when compared to other ethnic groups; U.S.-born Asians are four times more likely to be obese than Asian nationals.

The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Epidemiologic Reviews.
Editor: Lin Li

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9. How to Lie With Statistics/Recent Study on Diet and Breast Cancer Very Misleading

You may read this McDougall news online at

Study Fails to Show Benefits of Fruits and Veggies for Breast Cancer Patients
Women are Blamed, but the Investigators Were at Fault

The meat and dairy industry must have been laughing all the way to the bank on Tuesday July 17, 2007 when headlines worldwide announced the results of a seven-year diet experiment, known as The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Randomized Trial, of more than 3,000 women with breast cancer. This government funded study (kicked off by a $5 million grant from the late Wal-Mart heir John Walton with an additional $30 million in support from the National Cancer Institute) found no benefit from recommending that women with breast cancer eat more fruits and vegetables, and less fat. The chances of fewer recurrences and better survival were not seen in women previously treated for breast cancer after changes in diet achieved during this study. As a result of this paper, originally published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more people now believe healthier eating will not help women prevent or treat breast cancer.

Incontrovertible Facts Show Women Made Few Changes

Data collected by asking the study participants about what they ate suggested they were eating more fruits and vegetables and less fat after being given instructions dictated by the study guidelines. But people don’t always tell the truth—they often want to please the investigators, so they tell them what they think they want to hear, which in this case was clearly inaccurate.

SNIP {This is a very important report, but it is being cut ad some other important items have been shifted to next week’s JVNA newsletter for space reasons.]

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10. Update on Global Warming-Related Movie “Arctic Tale”

Forwarded message:


You may have already received an invitation to free screenings for Arctic Tale. It's a beautiful, uplifting film that celebrates life and family and has a message about the effects of climate change.

I want to alert you to this great article about it in Sunday's New York Times, by Andrew Revkin, the environmental reporter:

There are still dozens of free screenings across the country throughout July and August. Details below. I hope you'll attend and tell your members and networks. Groups can also use the film as an organizing or fundraising tool, buying out a whole theater or part of it. (See the group sales contact info below if interested.)

I appreciate you spreading the word. Please let me know if you do -- and if you have any questions: 917-449-6356 or

Scott Tillitt

Paramount Classics and National Geographic Films
invite you to Free ADVANCE SCREENINGS in theaters
in the U.S. and Canada


Sign up for a free screening near you --
(On the home page, click on "Go to a Free Screening")

A terrific film for community, religious, environmental and youth organizations. Share this invitation with family, friends and colleagues.
ARCTIC TALE opens to the public in the U.S. and Canada late July and August.

“Children will be mesmerized by the animal footage, and adults will glory in the landscapes and respond to the sobering reminders of climate change.” -- Hollywood Reporter

National Geographic Films, who brought you MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, and Paramount Classics who brought you AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, now present ARCTIC TALE, an epic live action / wild-life adventure film that explores the vast world of the Great North and the threat it now faces from climate change.

It's a film that celebrates family and creation. It follows the walrus, Seela, and the polar bear, Nanu, on their journey from birth to parenthood in the frozen Arctic wilderness. As the planet warms, the Arctic is changing -- slowly disrupting the ancient rhythms of life that the walrus and polar bear rely on to survive. Perfect for all ages, ARCTIC TALE showcases spectacular footage that took years to capture and is being released at a time when the world is deeply concerned about the impact global warming is having on many threatened species, especially polar bears. Queen Latifah is the film's storyteller. Rated G. 83 minutes.

Group Sales: Jackie Papier - 866-397-6339 (

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11. More Reports Indicating the World is Heading Toward a Catastrophe From Global Warming

a. Study: Humans to Blame for Changes in Rain

Reuters reports that "Human activities that spur global warming are largely to blame for changes in rainfall patterns over the last century."

Study: Humans to Blame for Changes in Rain

Monday 23 July 2007
First time "human fingerprint" on precipitation detected, authors report.

Washington - Human activities that spur global warming are largely to blame for changes in rainfall patterns over the last century, climate researchers reported Monday.

The report was released as record rains caused severe flooding in Britain, China and Indonesia.

Human-caused climate change has been responsible for higher air temperatures and hotter seas and is widely expected to lead to more droughts, wildfires and floods
, but the authors say this is the first study to specifically link it to precipitation changes.

"For the first time, climate scientists have clearly detected the human fingerprint on changing global precipitation patterns over the past century," researchers from Environment Canada, that country's environmental agency, said in a statement.

The scientists, writing in the journal Nature, found humans contributed significantly to these changes, which include more rain and snow in Northern regions that include Canada, Russia and Europe, drier conditions in the Northern tropics and more rainfall in the southern tropics.

Manmade climate change has had a "detectable influence" on changes in average precipitation in these areas, and it cannot be explained by normal climate variations, they wrote.

Weather experts in Britain raised the possibility that the current rains there may be related to climate change.

"The global climate models indicate a future for the UK with drier summers and wetter winters, but storm events in the summer are predicted to be more frequent and more intense,"
David Butler of the University of Exeter said in a statement. "So it may well be the case that we will have to learn to live with more flooding.

Nick Reeves, executive director of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management in Britain, said that "extreme events such as we have seen in recent weeks herald the specter of climate change and it would be irresponsible to imagine that they won't become more frequent."

Numerous studies and reports by a panel of scientists convened by the United Nations have reported with increasing certainty that human activities - notably the burning of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases - have contributed to global warming in the last half-century and that the effects of this are already evident.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated temperatures would rise 3.2 to 7.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100, leading to more hunger, water shortages and extinctions.

b. Warnings Sounded as Mediterranean Melts in Heat

The New Zealand Herald

Monday 23 July 2007

Athens - Greece is now on a war footing against weather phenomena "the likes of which we haven ever seen", warns the country's Public Order Minister Byron Polydoras.

Polydoras was speaking as countries around the Mediterranean roasted, with temperatures soaring to "furnace levels", as one meteorologist described it.

Temperatures are likely to reach 43C [110F] in the shade this week, making this the hottest summer on record for Greece in the past century.

Macedonia has declared a state of emergency. Spain, Italy and France are experiencing droughts that are measuring up to become the worst on record.

According to the most recent bulletin from the French Government, the situation remains "preoccupying", with recent rain in the north failing to replenish subterranean reservoirs.

Many politicians now fear the Mediterranean coast may soon become too hot to sustain a viable tourist industry.

"The Mediterranean climate of this country no longer exists. It is changing, perhaps even faster than we expected,"
said Michalis Petrakis, director of Greece's Institute of Environmental Research at thenational Observatory in Athens.

Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Cyprus have all endured searing temperatures over the past few weeks as a region of high pressure extended east from the Azores, blocking weather fronts thatnormally keep the eastern Mediterranean fairly cool at this time of year.

Forest fires have been raging across the region - Greece's fire service reported 115 fires in one 24-hour period last week.

Last week a five-day blaze on Mount Parnitha destroyed vast tracts of trees, along with hundreds of plants endemic to the region. Unique species of deer, turtles, snakes and hares were killed.

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12. “Bringing Moos and Oinks Into the Food Debate” (Major NY Times 7/25/07 Article)

This article is very long, but well worth reading, as it discusses recent trends that are greatly changing animal-based agriculture.

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