September 9, 2008

9/1/2008 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. A SACRED DUTY Wins Award at International Festival

2. Helping Promote A SACRED DUTY

3. Rabbi Urges Consumption of Less Meat for Environmental Reasons

4. Reducing Your Carbon Footprint by Going Veggie

5. California Jewish Vegetarian Group Plans “Vegan” Tashlich
Get Together

6. Global Warming Creating Many Global Change “Hotspots”

7. Conservative Movement Launches “Green Initiative”/My Letter in Response

8. My Message to Hazon Blog Based on Their Not Adequately Considering Vegetarianism

9. Shalom Institute Statement on “What is Kosher?”

10. Responsible Policies for Animals Initiative

11. Rabbis Urge that Jews Apply Jewish Values to Current Issues/My Response

12. Some Responses To Consider Re the Kapparot Ritual

13. Article Discusses UN Connection of “Livestock' Industry to Global Warming/Mentions A SACRED DUTY

14. Update on Israeli “Eco-Activist “ Group

15. Campaign To Urge Congress to Put a “Sin Tax” On Meat Initiated

16. IPCC Chairman: Less Meat, Less Heat

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. A SACRED DUTY Wins Award at International Festival

Press release:

Contact: Neal Turnage/Susan Tellem
Tellem Worldwide, Inc.

Documentary “A Sacred Duty” Wins Silver Chris at Columbus Film Festival

Staten Island, NY - August 28, 2008 - “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal The World,” a documentary underwritten by the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), has been awarded a Silver Chris in the Religion Division of the Chris Awards at the Columbus International Film+Video Festival. The film is now in contention for The Best of the Festival Award.

Produced by Emmy-winning producer/director Lionel Friedberg, “A Sacred Duty” documents the compelling evidence on how meat consumption is far more damaging to the planet than transportation and other factors usually associated with global warming. The film is narrated by acclaimed Broadway and film star Theodore Bikel and imparts the message that religious response can get the planet back on track through a shift toward a plant-based diet.

“It is extremely rewarding to be recognized by a Festival known for running one of the most prestigious documentary and educational competitions in the U.S.,” said JVNA president, Richard Schwartz. “We're confident this will open the door for a wide release and help people realize the importance of treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment and conserving our resources so hungry people can be fed.”

Friedberg added that the film appeals to anyone interested in taking care of the environment. “We have interviews with leading scholars and environmental experts from Israel and the U.S. Bikel's narration runs throughout and points to specific Biblical passages that emphasize the film's message.”

The Best of the Festival Award will be handed out at the Festival's close, November 16th. For more information on the Columbus International Film+Video Festival, visit

For more information on the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, visit A free DVD copy of “A Sacred Duty,” is available by sending a name and mailing address to More than one DVD can be requested by submitting a plan of action to reach broader audiences.


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2. Helping Promote A SACRED DUTY

The many recent reports re Hurricane Gustave and other major storms, severe droughts in Israel, much of the U.S. South and other areas, California wild fires and much more and increasingly ominous projections and warnings re global climate change make the urgency of responses very apparent. One of our main tools is our widely acclaimed documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD. Please order a complimentary DVD if you have not already done so at and please share it with others. Please help spread the word about the movie to media people, religious leaders and others. Please let others know that the entire film can be seen at, and that there is also much background information about it there. Many thanks.

Suggestions re getting the movie more widely seen and reviewed are very welcome.

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3. Rabbi Urges Consumption of Less Meat for Environmental Reasons



Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz

“The term sacred cow has passed into the English language to mean an object or practice which is considered immune from criticism.” (Wikipedia)

“Can you imagine a supermarket allowing 'Attention, Planet-Destroying Carnivores' on the in-store radio?” (Hank Stewart, Green Team Advertising)

“We do not find lecturing people about personal consumption choices to be effective.” (Carl Pope, Sierra Club)

Greetings to all you planet-destroying carnivores… and now that I have your attention, thank you for this opportunity to lecture. The subject of dictating to people what they should eat is one of the last great taboos in our society. Our diet is, ironically enough, a sacred cow. People positively bristle at criticism of their consumption.

Meat eaters resent vegetarians. Vegetarians look down upon meat eaters.

Junk food consumers resent health nuts. Organic types look down upon fast food addicts.

Kosher observers resent treif eaters. Non-kosher Jews look askance at their dietary challenged fellows.

The sacrifice of a sacred cow is always a messy affair. People take it way too personally. In light of all these sensitivities, since I'm talking about food and what you should eat, permit me to present at the outset what this brief essay is, and is not.

2. This essay is a call for new Jewish dietary imperative. It is not a call for vegetarianism, but is a call for a significantly reduced meat diet.

This essay is an examination of environmental ethics. It is not judgment on the personal ethics of meat eating, or the personal health implications of dietary choice, but is a critique of the global consequences of such consumption.

My two-fold thesis is simple: We should eat less meat to save the planet, and eating less meat may be (surprisingly) the single most important thing you can personally do to reduce global warming.

I don't think you will hear a single major environmental organization say that. Nor will you hear a single major Jewish organization say that. The freedom of dietary choice is a sacred cow. The sacrifice of this sacred cow for the welfare of our planet is the reason I am writing this article.

Even Al Gore won't talk about it. When pressed, he declines comment. Gore's press secretary says only that a suggestion to “modify your diet to include less meat” appears on page 317 of Mr. Gore's book version of “An Inconvenient Truth.”

More importantly, a landmark study on the subject was released by the United Nations two years ago. The study has been essentially ignored both in the environmental world and the Jewish community.

Do you call yourself an environmentalist? I will argue that to do so with integrity means modifying your current diet in favor of a more eco-tolerable one.

Do you call yourself a Jewish environmentalist? I will argue that to do so means re-reading the Torah with a planetary kavannah (intentionality).

Do you “keep kosher”? I will argue that whether you are glatt kosher or eco-kosher, or anything in between, you need to eat lower on the food chain.

3. Every society, and every religion, has its sacred cows. Yet Judaism has historically shown no reserve to both prescribe and proscribe what we eat. On the other hand, the culture around is much more inhibited. What we eat is our personal business. That is the ethic most Jews buy into. The problem is the planet. We are now discovering that what we eat is also the planet's business. Our meat guzzling diets are affecting global pollution, and therefore global warming, like never before. The inconvenient truth is that what we put in our mouths may have more effect on our planet than anything else we do.

Given our dietary heritage, the link Judaism has always drawn between food and faith, consideration of modifying our diet should be considered a religious duty. Given our emerging planetary consciousness, such a duty becomes an ecological imperative as well. As Jews and as world citizens we should longer be worshipping the sacred cow of unbridled dietary indulgence. This is one cow that needs to be sacrificed. No one can stop us from our destructive idolatry except ourselves. A new voluntary Jewish dietary ethic, like most self-imposed disciplines (especially diets), is neither easy nor reliable. But that is where we must start.

4. “Kavod Kal Habriyot”: A Jewish planetary ethic.

In “Food and Faith: The Ethical Foundations of the Biblical Diet Laws,” esteemed scholar Jacob Milgrom posits that the basic tenets of biblical kashrut (the prohibition against ingesting blood, the severe limitation on permitted species, and the prescribed method of slaughter) “can only be explained by an ethical hypothesis.” (1) Milgrom identifies that hypothesis as “reverence for life.” He notes that the three fundamental restrictions on how we eat all teach reverence by acknowledging that “bringing death to living things is a concession of God's grace and not a privilege of human whim.” Like ancient and contemporary thinkers before him, Milgrom understands the Torah to be deeply concerned that the carnivorous desires of the human species can easily desensitize us at best, dehumanize us at worst.

What the Torah and its commentators could not imagine is that our carnivorous inclination could threaten not only ourselves, but our planet. If we accept that contention (see part two of this article), then it seems to me that contemporary Judaism is in need of a new, even broader ethical hypothesis. I will call that principle “kavod kal habriyot -reverence for all creation.” The expression “kavod habriyot” is most often used as a technical term in rabbinic literature for “human dignity.” I propose an expansion of the term, linguistically and spiritually, to embrace the planet as a whole. The dignity and basic well being of the entire earth is what is at stake here.

In the same way that “reverence for life” led to biblically imposed limitations on what and how we eat, so “reverence for all creation” should lead to new self-imposed restrictions on what we ingest.

The Torah's ethical hypothesis in no way challenged the radical monotheism of the Bible. In fact, it only affirmed it by insisting that the daily act of feeding ourselves must always be an acknowledgment of God's grace. Likewise, our new Jewish ethical hypothesis in no way challenges Judaism's traditional teaching, but extends it. “The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.” Reverence for the earth is not worship of the planet any more than reverence for life is worship of the human being or animals. Rather, it is an affirmation of God as creator and sustainer by insisting that even our daily act of eating must bring minimal harm to our world.

5. Meat and the Planet

In November of 2006 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a groundbreaking report entitled “Livestock's Long Shadow.” (2) The 390 page study, by six leading researchers and scores of contributors, aimed to assess the full global impact of the livestock industry on the environment. The executive summary concluded that “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” Among the more startling findings of the report:

a. Air pollution: Livestock agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than all the world's transportation sources combined (18 percent vs. 13.5%).

b. Deforestation: Livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. This production is arguably the leading cause of global deforestation today. In the Amazon alone, 70% of previous forested land is occupied by pastures, with feed crops covering a large part of the remainder.

c. Water pollution: In the United States, livestock is responsible for 55% of soil erosion and sediment buildup, 37% of pesticide use, and 33% of nitrogen and phosphorous contamination of freshwater. By 2025 2/3 of the world's population will live in water-stressed areas.

The UN Report notes that per capita consumption of meat has doubled worldwide since 1961. The rate is twice that in the developing world during the last twenty years. Global production of meat (already 40% of the world's agricultural gross domestic product) is projected to double again by 2050. The Report warns that “the environmental impact per unit of livestock production must be cut by half, just to avoid increasing the level of damage beyond its present level.” About the only optimistic note of the Report is the conclusion us that while livestock's contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale, so too its potential contributions to their solution is equally large. The proposed policy changes detailed in the study could result in major reductions in impact at “reasonable” costs.

6. Add to the UN's global wake-up call these other astonishing figures (3):

a. Some 800 million people on the planet still suffer from hunger or malnutrition. Yet the vast majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds livestock, not humans. Yet it takes two to five times more grain to raise livestock than feed people directly. That ratio rises to ten times more in the case of America's favorite: grain-fed beef.

b. Beef meals can often use 15-20 times the amount of fossil fuel energy in their preparation as vegetarian meals.

c. Americans eat close to 200 pounds of meat per capita per year, an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. We each consume about 110 grams of protein (most from animals) a day, twice the government's recommended allowance. Many dietary experts say we would do fine with 30 grams a day.

Geophysicist Gidon Eshel of the Bard Center has calculated that the reduction of our collective meat consumption by just 20% would be comparable to every American driving an ultra-efficient Prius instead of a standard sedan. Aware of the science that suggests that we can cut our meat consumption in half and still meet the government's generous protein guidelines, Professor Eshel maintains that “The good of people's bodies and the good of the planet are more or less perfectly aligned.” So too, the UN report states: “There are reasons for optimism that the conflicting demands for animal products and environmental services can be reconciled. Both demands are exerted by the same group of people…the relatively affluent, middle-to-high-income class, which is no longer confined to industrialized countries….This group of consumers is probably ready to use its growing voice to exert pressure for change and may be willing to absorb the inevitable price increases.”

7. A Challenge to the Jewish Community

My congregation recently passed a resolution pledging to lower its carbon footprint. We worked to calculate our synagogue's environmental impact, and sponsored a workshop to measure our personal footprint as well. The personal exercise was an eye-opener for all involved. Worldwide there are 4.7 biologically productive acres available per person to sustain the world's population (excluding the needs of the rest of the animal and plant kingdom). My lifestyle resulted in a need for 28 acres; even higher than the United Sates average of 24 acres (the most inflated in the world). (4)

Not unexpectedly, the greatest culprits in the calculation were the size (energy use) of my house, and the amount of my family's travel. Close behind was food. In fact, for many people in the exercise food was #2 or even #1 in terms of ecological impact. This fact was the most disconcerting of the day for almost every participant.

Few people can change their home, especially during child rearing years, or change their work, which accounts for most travel. But we can change what we eat. Many Americans have grown accustomed to eating meat three times a day. As noted previously, we ply our bodies with twice the protein we need. The choice of meat-like substitutes is greater than ever (and the taste is getting better and better).

This essay is a call for the institutions of American Judaism to take the lead in recognizing the dietary impact of excessive meat consumption on global warming and pollution.

Can the American Jewish community be in the vanguard of diet based ecological change? The sacrifice of a sacred cow is involved. Our diets should not be immune to criticism. We come from an ancient tradition that eschews idolatry, promulgates dietary restrictions, and reveres life. The foundation is there, but the will to make it happen is up to us.

1. Jacob Milgrim, “Food and Faith: The Ethical Foundations of the Biblical Diet Laws,” Bible Review (December, 1992) pp.5,10.

2. H. Steinfeld, P. Gerber, T. Wassenaar, V. Castel, M. Rosales, C. de Haan, Livestock's Long Shadow (New York: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 2006).

3. Mark Bittman, Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler,” New York Times (January 27, 2008).

4. Calculation from worksheet at Resolution can be viewed at

My letter in response sent to a blog that had the article:

Nice thoughtful article. But, there are some essential issues that JVNA has been respectfully trying to get onto the Jewish agenda for many years, and they still have not been addressed.
These include:

* animal-based diets and agriculture violate Jewish mandates to preserve our health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people and pursue peace.

* animal-based diets are contributing to heart disease, several types of cancer and many other chronic, degenerative disease;

* animal-based agriculture is substantially contributing to global warming and many other environmental threats that have the potential of resulting in an unprecedented catastrophe.

As people who are to be rachmanim b'nei rachmanim (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors), how can we ignore the horrendous treatment of animals on factory farms?

Why does the Jewish community seem unwilling to address the question "Should Jews Be Vegetarians?

Further information at and, where our one-hour documentary can be seen.

Best wishes,

Richard (Schwartz)
President, JVNA

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4. Reducing Your Carbon Footprint by Going Veggie

Going veggie can slash your carbon footprint: study
Tue Aug 26, 11:19 AM ET

Giving up meat could drastically reduce your carbon footprint, with meat-eaters' diets responsible for almost twice the emissions of those of vegetarians, a German study said on Tuesday.

A diet with meat is responsible for producing in a year the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving a mid-sized car 4,758 kilometres (2,956 miles), the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IOeW) said.

But the food a vegetarian consumes in 12 months is responsible for generating the same emissions as driving 2,427 kilometres, the IOeW said in a study commissioned by independent consumer protection group Foodwatch.

The calculations are based on emissions of greenhouse gases, including methane produced by the animals themselves, as well as emissions from food production including manufacturing feed and fertiliser and the use of farmland.

Going vegan -- giving up meat and dairy products -- would cut the emissions released in making what you eat more than seven-fold, to the equivalent of driving 629 kilometres, it said.

And if it is all organic, your food footprint is almost a 17th of that of a meat-eater -- the equivalent of driving 281 kilometres.

Beef is particularly environmentally unfriendly, it said, with producing a kilo (2.2 pounds) the same as driving 71 kilometres compared with 26 kilometres for pork.

Switching to organic farming can cut emissions dramatically, "but what counts is the way we feed ourselves ... production and consumption first and foremost of beef and milk must be cut drastically," the study said.

Copyright © 2008 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.

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5. California Jewish Vegetarian Group Plans “Vegan” Tashlich Get Together

Thanks to Vegetarian Activist Janine Laura Bronson for forwarding this message. I hope others will come up with events that are consistent with Judaism and Jewish events and vegetarianism.

In your current newsletter, I was looking through all of the points you mentioned, trying to find something on the "Tashlich tradition!"

Perhaps we can also relate "Tashlich" tradition to veganism?

Here's how we could do it: Get Jewish groups to come together doing "T'shuva through Tashlich" which would include a picturesque description of the practice, for instance of throwing breadcrumbs into a gorgeous waterfall, seeing a bird feed on the crumbs and make a vow never to eat fowl again, upon seeing how majestic it is, affirming what a wonderful creature G-d had created and repenting for ever having consumed such an amazing beautiful bird (or any other living creature for that matter!)

Our group Leh keeroov is having such an event on Sunday October 5th at 10:00 A.M., at Temescal Canyon, Los Angeles, California, which will be preceded by a hike in nature! [see picture above! Isn't it beautiful?]

We will hike up the beautiful trail to the waterfall, (about a mile and a half up hill, on trail, from the parking lot).

Due to our current drought, the waterfall will be more of a trickle, but it will still be beautiful and will certainly serve our tashlich purposes.
We will symbolically toss the crumbs from our pockets, cleansing ourselves for the new year.

We will recite the traditional verses together.

Of course, we will also enjoy the beauty of this wonderful oasis. Then, we will hike back down to the parking lot.

We will retrieve the potluck foods from our cars, (along with our own washable, reusable plates, cups, utensils, and napkins that we are each to be sure to bring).

Then we will picnic on the grass adjacent to the parking lot.

Please be sure that the food you bring for our potluck picnic is strictly vegan, (no animal products whatsoever - no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no honey, no bone-char processed white sugar, etc.) - also, it would be nice if you would bring a notecard listing the ingredients of your picnic contribution, enabling those with special allergies and/or food preferences to be careful as they choose/need.

Feel free to bring picnic blankets, beach chairs, etc., to make you comfortable.

Also, feel free to bring musical instruments to entertain us as we picnic lunch together.

What a wonderful way for us to enter the new year together.

RSVP (310) 358-9941

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6. Global Warming Creating Many Global Change “Hotspots”

Joint study identifies humanitarian hotspots and warns of dire consequences unless world leaders act now.

22 Aug 2008 09:05:39 GMT
Source: CARE International - UK

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia are among the pivotal states identified as climate change “hotspots”-- countries particularly vulnerable to the increase in extreme drought, flooding, and cyclones expected in the coming decades-according to a new report commissioned by humanitarian relief agency CARE International and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Leaders and communities in these pivotal states and in other States at risk in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and in South East Asia are already facing enormous political, social, demographic, economic and security challenges. Climate change will greatly complicate and could undermine efforts to manage these challenges," said Dr. Charles Ehrhart, Climate Change Coordinator for CARE International and one of the report's authors.

"Over the last few months, we have witnessed harrowing images of people struck by natural hazards in the most disparate parts of the world, including Hurricane Ivan in Madagascar, severe drought in parts of South and East Asia, and most recently Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar," said John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency relief Coordinator.

The study looks at the most likely humanitarian consequences of climate change over the next 20 to 30 years. The authors map specific hazards associated with climate change, focusing on floods, cyclones and droughts.

"The likelihood of floods, violent storms and droughts resulting in disasters is determined by a number of factors, including timely access to proper equipment, information, and the capacity to exert political influence, explained Dr. Ehrhart. "The striking lack of these explains why poor people-especially those in marginalized social groups like pastoralists in Africa, women and children-constitute the vast majority of disaster victims," he added.

The study says that we will witness, and may already be experiencing, an increase in the intensity, frequency, duration and extent of many weather-related hazards. "However, these hazards will not necessarily cause a corresponding rise in disasters if world leaders act now," said Dr. Ehrhart.

The most effective interventions to reduce human vulnerability include: 1) strengthening the response capacity of local actors and government institutions at all levels; 2) empowering local populations to have a strong role and voice in disaster preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation, and 3) providing essential services and long-term social protection systems for the most vulnerable populations.

According to the authors, the purpose of mapping these 'hotspots' is to help policymakers grasp the extent of challenge the world faces, and encourage humanitarian actors to adapt their response strategies to the realities of the increased and, in some cases, novel risks emanating from climate change.

"Climate change is a wake up call for all of us," says Dr. Robert Glasser, CARE International's Secretary General. "We must avoid relying exclusively on quick fixes like food aid that are necessary but do not address the underlying causes of the emergency and, most importantly, we ought to help people get back on their feet as soon as possible after the disaster has been tackled."

The launch of this study coincides with the start of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting that is being held in Accra, Ghana from 21-27 August. Participants attending the International Disaster and Risk Conference in Davos, Switzerland during the last week of this month will also appreciate the findings of the joint CARE International and UNOCHA report.

Media Contacts:

OCHA Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs, Information Officer/Spokesperson, Tel: + 41 22 917 26 53; Mob: + 41 (O) 79 473 45 70; E-mail address:

Beatrice M. Spadacini, Nairobi, Tel. +254 (0) 725 22 10 36; email:

Amber Meikle, London, Tel. +44 207 934 9348,

Reuters Foundation

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7. Conservative Movement Launches “Green Initiative”/My Letter in Response

JTA Breaking News

Conservatives launch green initiative

Published: 08/26/2008

The Conservative movement launched a greening initiative in North America and Israel.

A project of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, the initiative kicks off with a solar Ner Tamid, or eternal light, for synagogues, and soy-based Shabbat eco-candles for home use. The candles have lead-free wicks and recyclable tins.

A third prong is encouraging community support for carbon offset programs in North America and Israel. The programs involve planting trees, cleaning rivers and performing other environmentally sustainable actions.

The fourth component is using biodegradable building and food service supplies. A joint purchasing agreement is in place to help Conservative institutions buy such products in bulk instead of non-reusable plates, cups and utensils.

"Being green is a Jewish imperative," said Rabbi Charles Simon, the executive director of the men's club federation. "Our goal is to reduce synagogue, and congregant and community energy usage, and promote the use of sustainable energy."

Ten pilot congregations signed on to the effort July 1. More information is at

My letter in response:

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I commend the Conservative movement for its ambitious new green initiative ( At a time when the world is arguably approaching an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats, their initiative is very important and deserves much praise. I hope it will serve as a model for similar campaigns by other Jewish denominations and groups.

However, as praiseworthy as their initiative is, I respectfully believe that they are ignoring a major contributor to current environmental threats: animal-based agriculture, which involves the raising of 60 billion farmed animals for slaughter annually.

According to a 2006 UN report, livestock agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars and other means of transportation worldwide combined (18 percent vs. 13.5 percent). It also contributes significantly to widening water and energy scarcities, rapid species extinction, soil erosion and depletion, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habits, and many more environmental problems. Making the situation more serious, the consumption of animal products is projected to double in 50 years. If this happens, it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to reduce greenhouse emissions enough to avoid very severe effects from global climate change.

It is essential that our rabbis and other Jewish leaders recognize that a major shift toward plant-based diets is essential to avoid the unparalleled disaster that the world is rapidly approaching and to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path.

[*** Some or all of the material below may be omitted for space considerations:]

It is urgent that tikkun olam-the healing and repair of the world -- be a central issue in synagogues, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions. Judaism has splendid teachings on environmental conservation and sustainability, and it is essential that they be applied to respond to the many current environmental threats.

JVNA would very much welcome respectful dialogues/debates with Conservative rabbis and, indeed, all rabbis and other Jewish leaders on “Should Jews be Vegetarians?” Such discussions would constitute a kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of G-d's Name) because it would show the applicability of eternal Jewish teachings to dietary issues.

Further information about these issues can be found at the JVNA web site We will provide complimentary copies of its new documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD to rabbis and other Jewish leaders who will contact us ( and indicate how they might use them to involve their congregations on the issues. The entire movie can be seen and further information about it can be found at

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8. My Message to Hazon Blog Based on Their Not Adequately Considering Vegetarianism

As Al Gore quips, "Denial is not just a river in Egypt."

With the world heading toward an unprecedented catastrophe, with Israel facing its worst drought in 80 years, with projections of far worse for Israel and the world, why is Hazon and generally the entire Jewish community so afraid to consider "Should Jews be Vegetarians?" Jews do have dietary choices, but shouldn't they be made after considering the realities of animal-based diets and agriculture?

What happened to the prophetic voice in Judaism?

What happened to Jews as rachmanim b'nei rachmanim, as Hashem's witnesses, as b'nei nevi'im?

Kol tuv,


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9. Shalom Institute Statement on “What is Kosher?”

A Prophetic Voice in Jewish, Multireligious, and American Life

From Deuteronomy to Postville:
Our Generation Reexamines what is "Kosher"

This week's [parsha Re'eh] regular Torah reading includes a summary of the biblical definitions of "kosher" food -- what can and cannot be eaten (Deut. 14: 3-20). The rabbinic definition includes much more than the Bible said. And we are right now in the midst of reconsideration by many Jews of how our generation should think about kosher food.

So at many levels, this seems a good moment to address a number of requests for explanations of how the traditional Jewish code of kosher food operates, how it fits with Jewish and universal ethical obligations, and how the Jewish and general-American communities should deal with revelations and allegations of unethical behavior by owners of the allegedly kosher meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa.

For more details and depth than is possible on this Shalom Report, see my book DOWN-TO-EARTH JUDAISM: FOOD, MONEY, SEX, & THE REST OF LIFE (Morrow, 1995; available from The Shalom Center by sending a check for $14.95 earmarked "Down-to-Earth" to The Shalom Center, 6711 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia PA 19119) and the sections on Environmental Justice and Sacred Food on our Website. See and

Besides this, there are four sections to this post:

(1) Basic comments on the meaning of traditional and newly emerging standards of "kosher," "eco-kosher," and "ethical kosher" food.

(2) A call for action that has recently come from the Boards of OHALAH (Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal), ALEPH (Alliance for Jewish Renewal) and the Rabbinic Pastors Association (affiliated with Ohalah). It focuses on withdrawing use and support from unethically produced meat.

[*** One could argue that all factory farmed meat, at least, is unethically produced.]

(3) A proposal from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. It focuses on creating ethical alternatives -- new transdenominational collectives for actually providing kosher meat - and has an especially interesting proposal for cooperation with Muslims in providing halal meat.

(4) A reminder that The Shalom Center believes all these approaches are useful but insufficient -- too narrow to meet the needs of our society.

1. Traditional kosher practice (called "kashrut"; certification of kashrut is called a "hekhsher," from the same root) addressed five major items: prohibition on eating specific non-kosher meats (shellfish, pig-meat, insects); the slaughter of permitted animals (sheep, goats, cows) in a ritual fashion intended to be painless and to minimize the presence of blood in the resulting meat; prohibition on eating certain parts of even permitted animals (hind-quarters of sheep, goats, and cows); the elimination of as much blood as possible from the resulting meats; the separation of dairy foods from meat in preparation as well as in eating;.

IN ADDITION, there are Jewish laws for the ethical treatment of the earth, workers, and immigrants. These laws apply in general, regarding food preparation and all other aspects of life.

But traditionally, the violation of this second set of laws in the preparation of food did not make the food unkosher. That is, the food could be eaten, as long as the kosher laws were obeyed, even if the preparation violated other laws. The two sets of laws were parallel but not synthesized.

What has happened in the last generation, beginning with efforts in the early 1970s to persuade Jews not to eat non-union grapes whose harvesting violated laws against oppression of labor and continuing with the articulation since the 1970s of "eco-kosher" precepts and "ethical kosher" precepts and the appearance in the last three years or so of some meats that are organic, free-range, AND traditionally kosher, are increasing attempts to MERGE the laws against oppression of labor and maltreatment of animals and the earth INTO the laws of kashrut, thus forbidding the consumption of foods prepared unethically.

This has been spurred a great deal by the Postville revelations of violations of BOTH traditional kashrut (by painful slaughter) AND of laws governing the just treatment of workers, immigrants, and the earth.

In the denomination of Conservative Judaism, this process is being codified (not yet fully) by the emergence of "Hekhsher Tzedek" (that is, the certification of food as both traditionally kosher AND prepared by ethically just practices.)

In the Orthodox and Renewal communities, there have been some ad hoc efforts to boycott some meats on the grounds they are unethically prepared (especially the Postville meats). The ALEPH-related Renewal institutions have just formally called for a boycott of the Postville meats. (See below) In the Renewal communities, "eco-kosher" as a concept is intended to apply not only to food but to other consumables - coal, oil, paper, plastics, etc.

So far as I know, the Reform and Reconstructionist denominations have not formally or institutionally acted on these questions. A number of Jewish social-justice organizations, mostly secular, have called for boycotts of Postville meats without addressing the broader questions of kashrut or eco-kashrut.

In addition, ALEPH, The Shalom Center and some other groups have worked with Muslim and Christian groups toward an interfaith definition of sacred foods. In addition to our own "Sacred Food" links, see also -
[*** A positive step, but vegetarianism is generally not being considered.]

2. The three ALEPH- related Jewish-renewal boards adopted the following resolution, including a call to boycott the Postville meats, that will appear at

They are inviting colleagues, congregants and other members of the Jewish community in the US and around the world to add their names as well.

To sign on, please send your title, name, city and state or country to Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh at and mention the Kosher Meat Resolution.

Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof. Justice, justice pursue. Deuteronomy 16:20


Traditional Jewish Law prescribes precise actions and conditions required in order for food to bear a "Kosher" label. Likewise, Jewish Law has precise guidelines for allowed and forbidden actions and conditions for the treatment of workers, including immigrant workers. In situations where Jewish Law regarding the treatment of workers has been violated in the process of their preparing of food for "Kosher" certification, we believe that food must be denied "Kosher" certification.

In a biography of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, the book's author, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, relates that Rabbi Salanter advised his students that when they were preparing matzot for Passover, they should not overwork themselves or make excessive demands of the female workers who were kneading the dough and otherwise preparing for the matzah baking. That same account appears in a Hebrew volume titled Bikkurei Shai, written by a modern Israeli rabbi who has served as Chief Rabbi of Givatayim, Israel.

If Chassidim making matzot for their own use and the use of the community must pay attention to worker rights, it is also incumbent upon us to treat immigrants the same under the Torah-based halachah of treating the stranger as the home-born.

Reports arising from the May 12, 2008, Department of Homeland Security raid at the AgriProcessors Kosher Meat Packing Plant in Postville, Iowa, establish that there are credible allegations that the owners and management of AgriProcessors committed serious violations of Jewish Law against scores of immigrant workers at the plant including sexual assault and harassment, rape, abuse, and use of child labor.

Under these circumstances and credible allegations, we call upon our fellow clergy who provide Kashruth certification to suspend the certification of "Kosher" meat from AgriProcessors until the truthfulness of these allegations are determined in a proper legal forum where the workers, and the owners and management, have a hearing that complies with the requirements of due process of civil and Jewish laws.

We also call upon our fellow Jews to boycott meat from AgriProcessors until this determination. If these allegations are determined to be true, the "Kosher" decertification and boycott should continue until full t'shuva and tikkun is done by the owners and management of AgriProcessors, including apologies to the workers, full compensation for their injuries, and the implementation of procedures and systems with effective monitoring to ensure that abuse of AgriProcessors workers never occurs again.

3. Here is Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's comment and proposal:

It is very painful to read about a plant that was supposed to be Glatt kosher and manages this by squeaking by the narrowest definition of kosher that could be construed by Halakha [Jewish law]. They ignored many of the issues that had to do with Tza'ar Ba'aley Chayyim [giving pain to animals] and unfair treatment of laborers, as well as knowingly breaking immigration hiring laws.

In the meantime I have received a request from concerned people who would like to be able to engage a Shochet [ritual slaughterer] and find a way to address the needs to get their meat from free-range animals that were not fed hormones and grazed on land that was not polluted by herbicides.

It occurred to me that it is time for another way to approach this. It would be to create a cooperative of all those who require kosher meat.

While there may be some efforts already on the part of denominational movements it became clear to me that it is imperative not to do this on the turf of any particular denominational group. I'm concerned that if a non-Orthodox group were to sponsor such a Heksher or cooperative they we would not be able to get the necessary Shochtim and Mashgichim [experts in ritual-slaughtering and in certifying kashrut]. I can very well imagine that some overzealous people would declare the meat non-kosher.

Moreover, since Jews cannot make use of the hind-quarters, it would be good if we could enter into a coalition with Muslims who require Hallal meat. They would be quite happy with those special cuts of meat that they could have. It would also be a very important ecumenical bridge.

I'm sharing this with you. If there would be a good way to organize such a co-op or hekhsher under neutral auspices in which all those groups that are interested in the meat that would be really Glatt kosher without the taint of Tza'ar Ba'aley Chayyim and will offer decent and fair treatment treatment to the religious functionaries and the laborers this would become a true Kiddush Hashem [affirming the holiness of God and Torah].

Many Brakhot in Gashmiyut and Ruchniyut
[Many blessings in the material and spiritual worlds]
Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

[Editor's note to these proposals: if you choose to boycott Postville meats, the brand names are "Aaron's Best," "Supreme Kosher," and "Rubashkin." If you seek free-range organically raised kosher chicken, turkey, or beef, check -- : There are also already emerging local groups that have arranged for lamb or beef, that is free-range, organically raised, and kosher. We will try to gather a list of contacts and post them. If you know of such groups, please write me at]

(4) The Shalom Center believes we should be looking far more deeply into the entire system that is creating these violations of both ritual and ethical law, Jewish and general.

[*** JVNA certainly agrees, and we wish to go far further than the Shalom Institute.]

(a) Achieving ecological respect and sanity through reducing the amount of meat we eat. -- We have been reawakened to the first two factors of three aspects of eco-sanity: how animals are killed, and how they live their lives (so eco-kashrut must forbid factory farming, etc). Still deeper: It is all too clear that the obsession of many people with eating a great deal of meat is a twin to our addiction to oil and coal as a way to poison the planet. Huge farms of cows and pigs pour methane -- an even more dangerous global-scorching agent than CO2 -- into the atmosphere. And the obsession with meat forces us into factory farming, to meet the demand. To heal our earth as well as our own bodies, we must return to our forebears' diet of eating meat no more than once or twice a week.
(See also

(b) Repairing an unjust "justice system" in which the wealthy are not required to obey the law, while the poor, the powerless, and the desperate are sent to prison for minor offenses, without the opportunity to defend themselves. All Jewish wisdom and all Jewish history teaches: Do not shrug off a system of injustice! In this case: why have the owners not been charged with numerous violations of labor law and immigration law, while desperate workers are sent to prison?

(c) Facing the truth that immigration is not a narrowly "domestic" issue. So long as poverty, powerlessness, and environmental destruction in Mexico and Central America drive people to despair, there will be greater numbers of immigrants to the USA than our laws, our economy, and our culture can compassionately sustain. The pressure is a set-up for driving unemployed white and Black Americans into hostility against Hispanic Americans, while the rich and powerful chortle. We must use trade agreements and all other negotiating frameworks to insist on high wages, health and safety standards, and environmental protections for ALL OF US in Anglo and Latino-America, and we must support transnational pressure to those ends by unions, environmentalists, religious communities, and others.

We believe that EVERYONE, not only Jews or the explicitly religious, must face these basic questions.

Shalom, salaam, peace -

To donate to the Shalom Center, click on our logo!

The Shalom Center | 6711 Lincoln Drive | Philadelphia, PA 19119
| | 215.844.8494

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10. Responsible Policies for Animals Initiative

Forwarded message from RPA Director David Cantor:

RPA Initiative

Share freely.

Responsible Policies Members & Friends!

It began with a phone call from All-American Publishers in Boise, Idaho asking of Responsible Policies for Animals would like to advertise on nearby Jenkintown High School's athletic-schedule poster. The price was good, but what would we say when we don't have a local storefront like the restaurants and boutiques that advertise? We got creative and thought of something....

Then came the 2008 Olympics and the 12,000-daily-calories Michael Phelps' diet including thousands of calories from animals. Not much from mass media about the top athletes who eat plants only, what happens to athletes on the standard American diet (SAD) when the differences between youthful sports-fitness and long-term health kick in, or harm to

Now Responsible Policies for Animals has launched! Check it out when you have a moment. speaks to ordinary folks like me about the foods that are best for optimal athletic performance and longevity of athletic activity. The site refers visitors to food literature by trained experts. But since we're on our own to learn what's best for us and our families and friends with the food industry serving its own interests and schools, government & media ensuring people won't learn the truth about food, spotlights two ordinary people making superhuman contributions toward food education.

The sports chapter from Rex Bowlby's amazing book Plant Roots: 101 Reasons Why the Human Diet Is Rooted Exclusively in Plants is provided. And Dr. Barbara Ann Ellicott, whom I met at Vegetarian Summerfest 2008 and who gave me her compelling book Discovered Secrets: A Self-Metamorphosis -- Inspiration for Self-Healing, is profiled.

Rex, with a master's degree in management, took a couple of years providing an inestimable public service by helping readers separate crucial food facts from popular food fictions, including references to 1,001 published sources, many of them in nutrition-science and biomedical journals.

From significantly overweight and ill in middle age, Barb has gained excellent health and become a runner of marathons, half-marathons, and triathlons as a senior, while also doing more-than-full-time work lecturing, teaching swimming, and practicing speech-language pathology -- largely by moving to plants-only eating.

See what you think -- at! Share it with friends who want to achieve their potential in any area of life and to see their kids do the same. Report back! Depending on response to, RPA might promote it beyond the Jenkintown High School athletic-schedule poster. You can help expand and improve the site! And maybe you'll have ideas for promoting it in your community!

Thanks and best!


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11. Rabbis Urge that Jews Apply Jewish Values to Current Issues/My Response

My Letter in Response:

Kudos to Rabbi Yosef Carmel and other rabbis who are helping Jews apply Jewish values to current issues (“Helping Jews Live by Torah.” August 28 issue). However, I wonder respectfully why the rabbis are generally not applying Jewish teachings to the many moral issues related to animal-based diets and the fact that the world seems to be rapidly approaching an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats.

With almost daily reports of major, often unparalleled, heat waves, storms, floods, droughts, glacier and ice meltings, wild fires and other indicators of global warming, and with some climate scientists warning that global warming may reach a tipping point and spiral out of control unless major changes do not soon occur, it is essential that religious communities and others address this issue.

Also, religious values should be applied to our diets, since the production and consumption of animal-products violate basic religious mandates to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people.

I hope that rabbis and other religious leaders will consider these issues in order to shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

Further information can be found at and our one-hour documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal the World” can be seen at

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12. Some Responses To Consider Re the Kapparot Ritual

[As indicated, JVNA believes the kapparot ritual should be carried out with money rather than chickens, and that there should be adequate supervision when chickens are used. However, perhaps some of the approaches below might be valuable supplements.]

I wonder if, instead of kapparot, since it is minhag and not fully halakhic, if a ritual of spending some time and energy on "tsa'ar baalei khayim," with a prayer. yikhudin or bakasha that the kindness I have shown to animals mitigate the severity
of my transgressions during this time of tshuvah. One might volunteer. at a nature center, animal rescue or through some other nonviolent means of making kaparah.

Your recent email reminds me of things I've learned from my daughter. You many appreciate this.

One year she learned in school that it was traditional to put the head of a fish on the holiday table. Since she could not tolerate the death of an innocent animal, she decided we should go to the pet store and get a live tropical fish to put on the table.

Later when she was away at school, they did kaparot by putting money in a rubber chicken. Good, thought provoking programming for young adults.

Dr. Joel Etra, SLP.D
Speech-Language Pathologist
Norwich, CT 06360

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13. Article Discusses UN Connection of “Livestock' Industry to Global Warming/Mentions A SACRED DUTY

United Nations report: Livestock industry No. 1 cause of global warming
August 29, 2008 Sun Times News Group,do-webspotveg-082908-s3.article


Many organizations are now stating that the No. 1 cause for global warming isn't people, pollution or car emissions -- it's the livestock industry.
Reports from the University of Chicago and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published in 2006 cite this information, and many have lambasted former Vice President Al Gore for not including this fact in his award-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth."

"It makes you have a whole other perspective on things," Western Springs resident Arthur Poletti said.

The UN report explains how livestock use water, land and resources such as corn and other grains given to cattle as food. In Poletti's short work of fiction, God Does Not Eat Meat, he writes about a futuristic scenario where meat has been removed from the food chain.

Poletti has been a vegan for three years and a vegetarian since 1990, and his daughter and wife are vegetarians. He also supports and promotes the documentary "A Sacred Duty," produced by the Jewish Vegetarians of North America. That film describes how greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide emitting from livestock cause a bigger greenhouse effect than all the other causes of global warming combined, but the main focus is what religious leaders are doing to address the issue.

Jill Ovnik, a former La Grange resident and a vegan educator who has spent years researching veganism for her seminars, said many people don't realize the livestock industry's impact on our lives. Because of the amount of resources needed to keep cattle alive, Ovnik said that it takes about 2,500 gallons of water to make one pound of beef.

"If you skipped eating a burger, you would save more water than if you didn't shower in one year," she said.

Poletti said he sees himself as a purveyor of this information and thinks people with power such as Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who is a vegan along with wife Elizabeth, can make change happen. Poletti said he only gets upset when people have the facts but do nothing to change their lifestyle or habits after seeing there is a clear link between human health and the livestock industry.
"People are aware of the subject, but they don't do anything," he said. "So many things are obvious about the livestock industry, and there are more diseases, more heart disease and more diabetes."

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14. Update on Israeli “Eco-Activist “ Group

Forwarded message:

Shalom to all friends and alumnae of Eco-Activist Beit Midrash@ Simchat Shlomo!

In this coming year we want the EABM to grow both in the number of people we reach and in the level of experience we provide. For those of you who participated in our first year, we think you'll be very impressed by how far we've come - maybe you want to come back this January for a 10-week program including a week hiking trails and a week working the land on an organic farm? We are working towards receiving university accreditation for our course-work, and there is a developing chance to begin our own perma-culture project in the middle of Nachlaot! We are proud of what we are doing, believe in the experience and opportunity it opens for our participants and are excited about being a larger player in the Jewish environmental world in Israel and globally.

We are also committed to continuing what we are building and keeping it accessible to the people who apply- this means our affordable tuitions, which are increasingly falling short in meeting the costs for the advances in our programming. While we are working on a number of fundraising avenues to keep this program running and growing we are turning first to those that know us and what we are about. Following are several ways that you can help us and/or get involved:


You can help out Team Simchat Shlomo by:

A. Signing up to participate in the IsraelRide this November and join us touring Israel's landscape and learning about environmental issues in Israel. Or…

B. If you can't make it, you can pledge support for one of our riders in their fundraising campaigns.

C. Donations can also be made via the Simchat Shlomo Pay Pal account, which will go directly into new EABM programming and scholarship funds. Please note on your donation whether it is for the ride or if should go directly to the Ecology Program.

With continued support from our community, we are hoping to provide bigger and better programming for our upcoming sessions, and to keep the love and connection for Torah and Ecology alive and flourishing. Many of our participants expressed interest in helping the program grow- passing this appeal on to friends and family or helping us to connect with people/ organizations that you think might support the program is a crucial step for us.

Stay in touch by joining our Facebook Group or by visiting the new website ( for the latest updates and upcoming events. While there won't be full programs running this fall, we will be getting into the fields, deserts, and texts on Shabbatonim and hikes! The next EABM sessions are slated to be held in December and January.

Thank you in advance for all the support!

Shaul Judelman, EABM Director
Sholom Brodt, Dean of Simchat Shlomo
Sasha Perry, EABM IsraelRide Team Manager

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15. Campaign To Urge Congress to Put a “Sin Tax” On Meat Initiated

PETA has just launched a campaign to urge Congress to support a "sin" tax on meat. Visit to find out more about why PETA wants a 10-cent tax on every pound of chicken, turkey, pig, fish, and cow flesh sold in grocery stores and restaurants.

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16. IPCC Chairman: Less Meat, Less Heat

Forwarded message:

IPCC chairman insists on eating less meat

August 31

Gent, Belgium. On Saturday, Rachendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Nobel Peace prize winner, lectured at length about the effects of meat consumption on climate change. Dr. Pachauri was invited by the Belgian vegetarian organisation EVA and addressed more than 600 people at the University of Ghent. The event was called "Less Meat, Less Heat" and was organized together with Greenpeace Belgium and WWF Belgium.

Dr Pachauri said that in order to counter climate change, lifestyle changes are very important. One of the potentially most beneficial lifestyle changes, according to the IPCC president, would be the switch to a diet with less meat and more vegetarian meals.

Addressing his Belgian audience, Dr. Pachauri made the following comparison: if during one year, all Belgians would just have one meatless day a week, this would have the same beneficial effect on greenhouse gas emission as taking almost one million cars off the Belgian roads for an entire year.

Dr. Pachauri said meat production is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly due to emission of methane from ruminants (cows, sheep and goats), emissions from manure, and the effects of deforestation for cattle grazing and animal feed. He also pointed out that producing a kilogram of beef requires about 15.000 liters of water.

Dr. Pachauri ended his talk by a quote from Gandhi: 'be the change you want to see in the world'. He said we each need to take our responsibility and can create a big effect by individual actions, decreasing our meat intake being one of them.

After the talk, Tobias Leenaert of vegetarian organisation EVA presented five policy recommendations for meat reduction, signed by about 20 environmental and other organizations. Leenaert: "A lower meat intake would be beneficial on so many levels, not just on climate change and other environmental problems, but also on public health, animal welfare, and the world hunger problem. Still, government and politicians are not taking this issue seriously."

The policy recommendations include setting a good example by offering sustainable vegetarian food in government funded restaurants, focusing more on sustainable food in school lunch programmes and education in general, a government campaign about the benefits of eating less meat, and making the production and sale of sustainable food products more profitable.


Tobias Leenaert, EVA

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