November 11, 2009

11/10/2009 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Chanukah and Vegetarianism

2. I Plan to Go to Copenhagen To Help “Turn Copenhagen into CopenVegan”

3. Orthodox Synagogue Planning to Start a Social Justice Group/My Letter in Response

4. Getting Consideration of Fur Onto the Jewish Agenda

5. Analysis of World Watch Article That Argues That Animal-Agriculture Is Responsible For Over Half of Human-Caused Greenhouse Gas Emissions (3 Items)

6. Action Alert: Improving Conditions for Farmed Animals

7. Al Gore on Factory Farming

8. Report of Rabbi’s Talk on “Judaism and Vegetarianism” at a Los Angeles Synagogue

9. More Reviews of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Book “Eating Animals”

10. Leading Reform Rabbis Urges that Reform Jews Should Eat Less Meat/JVNA Press Release in Response

11. New Group Promotes World Watch Article Conclusion of 51 Percent of Greenhouse Gases from Animal-Agriculture

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. Chanukah and Vegetarianism

With Chanukah about a month away, I plan to send my article, “Chanukah and Vegetarianism” to the Jewish media soon. So, please take a look at the article in the festivals section at, if you have a chance, and please let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements. Also, please consider using the points in the article for letters to editors and talking points. Thanks.

Return to Top

2. I Plan to Go to Copenhagen To Help “Turn Copenhagen into CopenVegan”

As director of Veg Climate Alliance, I am working with some great people from all over the world in efforts to increase awareness at the major Copenhagen climate conference in December of the urgency of a major societal shift to vegan diets in order to avert the present looming climate-catastrophe. We are planning a forum, demonstrations, street theater and much more to turn Copenhagen into CopenVegan (using the Vegetarian V symbol).


Program for Conference in Copenhagen Promoting Vegan Diets as a Major Part of Response to Climate Change

Below is an initial draft of the program for the forum that I am working on.

Planet Diet Foundation Copenhagen Conference
Climate Change: Efficient Solutions for Government, Industry and Society

The main aim of the conference is to highlight the most cost effective ways to address climate change and all related adverse effects. The hope is to incorporate these ideas and scientific findings into government and industry policy as well as social change. Looking at the latest scientific reports including the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency Report, which states that 80% of the cost of climate change could be mitigated through the plant based Diet.

Part 1: Global Warming current Impacts future consequences

Part one of the conference we will cover the effects of climate change through the eyes of those most affected right now and the different aspects of climate change EG environmental refugees, deforestation, world hunger, water shortages, species extinction etc. In this session we will also look at the findings and recommendations of the World Watch report “Livestock and Climate Change” as well as diet in relation to the environment and public health.

Part 2: Economic benefits of changing diet

In Part 2 of the conference we will hear from leaders in the Organic and Vegan industries. They will let us know about the benefits of their products to public health and the environment, and what they would like governments to do to help their industry’s expanding. We will also discuss the costs of climate change (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency Report) and how this cost can be reduced. There will also be information on subsides and the health costs of the current western diet.

To finish the conference we will have VIPs giving their thoughts and advice on how to incorporate these ideas and scientific findings into government and industry policy as well as social change.

More in future newsletters. Suggestions welcome. Many thanks.

Return to Top

3. Orthodox Synagogue Planning to Start a Social Justice Group/My Letter in Response

Forwarded article, published by the Jewish Standard of Northern New Jersey

Teaneck shul to create a social justice group

Lois Goldrich

Published: 06 November 2009

This weekend, the young people of Netivot Shalom will study the concept of social responsibility at a Shabbaton hosting Rabbi Ari Weiss, director of Uri L’Tzedek.

The group —which describes itself as “an Orthodox social justice organization guided by Torah values and dedicated to combating suffering and oppression” — has been actively involved in the Tav HaYosher ethical seal project, which stresses not only the kashrut of food but also “the dignity and rights of those who produced it.”

According to Pam Scheininger, president of the Teaneck congregation, members of her synagogue have traditionally turned out in large numbers for chesed projects, often bringing their children with them.

Whether participating in the shul’s CareOne bikkur cholim project, UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Mitzvah Day, or the congregation’s new “birthday ma’aser [tithing] program, which encourages kids to give a certain number of their birthday gifts to children who are less fortunate,” the youths have been exposed to “the idea of looking to the Torah and taking lessons on how to react to the larger community,” said Scheininger.

Hod Klein, a Rutgers senior entering his third year as the congregation’s youth director, said he has heard a lot about Uri L’Tzedek and was inspired to bring its message to the synagogue.

“What they’re doing is very important,” he said. “There are some great people working on it who can help us” at the synagogue. While the congregation has tried to include its youngsters in chesed projects over the years, said Scheininger, this year she and Klein decided to move in a new direction, organizing activities around a specific theme.

“While many of our projects have been specifically within the Jewish community, the idea is that the Torah and halacha are not only a guide to [this kind of] interaction but can be expanded to focus on issues of social justice such as homelessness, poverty, immigration, health care, ethical kashrut, and prison care,” she said.

While this kind of outreach is not new to the Orthodox community, “it’s definitely in its newer stages,” said Scheininger. “It puts a title on it,” urging the community to fight for social justice “because Orthodoxy demands it,” she said.

Working with Uri L’Tzedek is a “natural fit,” she said. “They have programs running on college campuses and high schools and can provide a curriculum.”

“Our shul is dedicated to the idea of tikkun olam, the Torah view of justice, and our responsibilities” in that regard, said Klein, who grew up in Bergen County and had been a rabbinic intern at the synagogue.

Both Klein and Scheininger noted that parents and students have responded positively to the social justice initiative, and they are expecting a large turnout at the Shabbaton.

At the event, synagogue youth group leaders, ranging in age from 13 to 18, will be trained to lead students in the new venture. While seventh-graders are too young to be group leaders, said Klein, they will also be given a chance to participate, taking on an “informal” role in working with younger children, from nursery-school age through third grade.

Klein, who meets regularly with youth leaders, said “This is the first time we will train them around a theme,” he said. Curricular materials will be provided by Uri L’Tzedek.

Klein said that while he has generally worked in cooperation with parent groups on chesed projects, “Uri L’Tzedek engages the children in a more educational way. We’re building a curriculum,” he said, adding that he is compiling different ideas for the youngsters to discuss over Shabbat “to see what the kids are interested in.”

“We’ll bounce ideas back and forth,” he said, noting that he hopes to see a project centering on fair trade. “It’s a great way to get the kids engaged and active,” he said.

While the weekend will include text study, “it’s also important that the kids be involved” in social justice projects.

“It’s really exciting to be offering something new and unique to the shul,” said Klein. “I want to see it grow and develop.”


My letter in response of the above article:

November 6, 2009

Editor, Jewish Standard

Dear Editor:

Kol hakavod (kudos) to Teaneck synagogue Netivot Shalom for initiating social action learning and activities into their programs. (“Teaneck shul to create a social justice group,” November 6 issue)

With all the negative publicity about some Jews recently, I think it would be a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) for many synagogues to create similar social justice groups and thereby show that Jews are concerned about bettering society and that eternal Jewish values are applicable to today’s issues.

I would like to suggest that an issue such groups consider is global warming, since the world is arguably rapidly approaching an unprecedented climate-catastrophe. This is especially important for synagogues to consider, as Israel is now suffering from the worst drought in its history and from periodic severe heat waves, and Israeli climate experts are projecting that global warming will cause a decrease in average rainfall of 20 – 30 percent, major storms and an inundation of the coastal plain where most Israelis live by a rising Mediterranean Sea.

Return to Top

4. Getting Consideration of Fur Onto the Jewish Agenda

[Please feel free to forward this article widely. Thanks.]

Is Fur a Jewish Issue?

By Richard Schwartz

Jewish worshipers chant every Sabbath morning, "The soul of every living being shall praise God's Name" (Nishmat kol chai tva'rech et shim'chah). Yet, some come to synagogue during the winter months wearing coats that required the cruel treatment of some of those living beings whose souls praise God.

To decide whether the use of fur is a significant Jewish issue, we should consider several related questions:

1) What does the Jewish tradition say about the treatment of animals?

2) How much suffering do animals raised or trapped for their fur experience?

3) Does the wearing of fur coats have redeeming factors that would over ride Jewish teachings related to the proper treatment of animals?


Judaism has beautiful and powerful teachings with regard to showing compassion to animals. The following are a few examples:

Moses and King David were considered worthy to be leaders of the Jewish people because of their compassionate treatment of animals, when they were shepherds. Rebecca was judged suitable to be a wife of the patriarch Isaac because of her kindness in watering the ten camels of Eliezer, Abraham's servant. Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, the redactor of the Mishna, was punished for many years at the hand of Heaven for speaking callously to a calf being led to slaughter who sought refuge beside him.

Many Torah laws mandate proper treatment of animals. One may not muzzle an ox while it is working in the field nor yoke a strong and a weak animal together. Animals, as well as their masters, are meant to rest on the Sabbath day. The importance of this concept is indicated by the fact that it is mentioned in the Ten Commandments and on every sabbath morning as part of the kiddush ceremony.

The psalmist indicates G-d's concern for animals, stating that "His compassion is over all of His creatures" (Psalm 145:9). And there is a mitzvah (precept) in the Torah to emulate the Divine compassion, as it is written: "And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best expressed by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal." The Torah prohibits Jews from causing tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, any unnecessary pain, including psychological pain, to living creatures.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an outstanding 19th century philosopher, author, and Torah commentator, eloquently summarizes the Jewish view on treatment of animals:

Here you are faced with God's teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours. (Horeb, Chapter 60, #416)


Fur is obtained from animals who are either trapped or raised on ranches. Both involve treatment of animals that appears to be far from the Jewish teachings that have been previously discussed:

Animals caught in steel-jaw leg hold traps suffer slow, agonizing deaths. Some are attacked by predators, freeze to death, or chew off their own legs to escape. It has been said that one can get a "feel for fur" by slamming your fingers in a car door. A Canadian Wildlife service report gives an idea of the terror that trapped animals face and their desperate efforts to escape:

The stomachs of [trapped] arctic foxes . . . often contain parts of their own bodies. They may swallow fragments of their teeth broken off in biting the trap, and sometimes part of a mangled foot; almost every stomach contains some fox fur, and a considerable number contain pieces of skin, claws, or bits of bone.

Over 100 million wild animals are killed for their pelts every year. Many species of animals killed for their furs have become endangered or have disappeared completely from some localities. Millions of animals not wanted by trappers, including dogs, cats, and birds, die in traps annually and are discarded as "trash animals." Many trapped animals leave behind dependent offspring who are doomed to starvation.

Treatment of animals raised on "fur ranches" is also extremely cruel. Confined to lifelong confinement, millions of foxes, beavers, minks, ocelots, rabbits, chinchillas, and other animals await extinction nothing to do, little room to move, and all their natural instincts thwarted. The animals are simply a means to the maximizing of production and profit, and there is no regard for their physical, mental, or emotional well being. Because of the enforced confinement and lack of privacy, naturally wild animals often exhibit neurotic behaviors such as compulsive movements and self mutilation. The animals finally suffer hideous deaths by electrocution by rods thrust up their anuses, by suffocation, by poisoning, which causes painful muscle cramping, or by having their necks broken.

According to the International Society for Animal Rights, Inc.,to make one fur garment requires 400 squirrels; 240 ermine; 200 chinchillas; 120 muskrats; 80 sables; 50 martens; 30 raccoons; 22 bobcats; 12 lynx; or 5 wolves.


Judaism puts human beings on a higher level than animals and indicates that animals may be harmed and even killed if an essential human need is met. However, is the wearing of fur truly necessary for people to stay warm during wintry weather? There are many non-fur coats and hats, available in a variety of styles, that provide much warmth. Imitation fur is produced at such a high level of quality that even among Chasidim there is a small but growing trend to wear synthetic "shtreimlach" (fur-trimmed hats).

Based on the prohibition of tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Halevy, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv issued a p'sak (rabbinic ruling) in March, 1992, indicating that Jews should not wear fur. Rabbi Halevy asked: "Why should people be allowed to kill animals if it is not necessary, simply because they desire the pleasure of having the beauty and warmth of fur coats? Is it not possible to achieve the same degree of warmth without fur?"

In his book, The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, Rabbi Nachum Amsel, a modern Israeli educator, states: "If the only reason a person wears the fur coat is to "show off" one's wealth or to be a mere fashion statement, that would be considered to be a frivolous and not a legitimate need. Rabbi Amsel also points out that hunting for sport is prohibited because it is not considered a legitimate need (Avodah Zarah 18b).


The Talmud teaches that Jews are "rachamanim b'nei rachamanim," compassionate children of compassionate ancestors (Beitza 32b). One has to wonder if the wearing of fur is consistent with that challenging mandate.

Are the words of Isaiah valid today if we fail to show compassion to animals?

Even though you make many prayers,I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:12-15)

What kind of lesson in Jewish values are young people getting when they see worshippers coming to synagogue in fur coats on the Sabbath day?

Not only do animals benefit from our compassion and concern -- we, too, benefit by becoming more sensitive and more humane, as Jews and civilized human beings.

Return to Top

5. Analysis of World Watch Article That Argues That Animal-Agriculture Is Responsible For Over Half of Human-Caused Greenhouse Gas Emissions (3 Items)

Study claims meat creates half of all greenhouse gases

Livestock causes far more climate damage than first thought, says a new report

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Climate change emissions from meat production are far higher than currently estimated, according to a controversial new study that will fuel the debate on whether people should eat fewer animal products to help the environment.

In a paper published by a respected US thinktank, the Worldwatch Institute, two World Bank environmental advisers claim that instead of 18 per cent of global emissions being caused by meat, the true figure is 51 per cent.

a. Graphic: The real climate culprits?

They claim that United Nation's figures have severely underestimated the greenhouse gases caused by tens of billions of cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and other animals in three main areas: methane, land use and respiration.

Their findings – which are likely to prompt fierce debate among academics – come amid increasing from climate change experts calls for people to eat less meat.

In the 19-page report, Robert Goodland, a former lead environmental adviser to the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, a current adviser, suggest that domesticated animals cause 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), more than the combined impact of industry and energy. The accepted figure is 18 per cent, taken from a landmark UN report in 2006, Livestock's Long Shadow.

"If this argument is right," write Goodland and Anhang, "it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change.

"In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on greenhouse gas emissions and their atmospheric concentrations than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy."

Their call to move to meat substitutes accords with the views of the chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, who has described eating less meat as "the most attractive opportunity" for making immediate changes to climate change.

Lord Stern of Brentford, author of the 2006 review into the economic consequences of global warming, added his name to the call last week, telling a newspaper interviewer: "Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources."

Scientists are concerned about livestock's exhalation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Cows and other ruminants emit 37 per cent of the world's methane. A study by Nasa scientists published in Science on Friday found that methane has significantly more effect on climate change than previously thought: 33 times more than carbon dioxide, compared with a previous factor of 25.

According to Goodland and Anhang's paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, scientists have significantly underestimated emissions of methane expelled by livestock. They argue that the gas's impact should be calculated over 20 years, in line with its rapid effect – and the latest recommendation from the UN – rather than the 100 years favoured by Livestock's Long Shadow. This, they say, would add a further 5bn tons of CO2e to livestock emissions – 7.9 per cent of global emissions from all sources.

Similarly, they claim that official figures are wrong to ignore CO2 emitted by breathing animals on the basis that it is offset by carbon photosynthesised by their food, arguing the existence of this unnecessary animal-based CO2 amounts to 8.7bn tons of CO2e, 3.7 per cent of total emissions.

On land use, they calculate that returning the land currently used for livestock to natural vegetation and forests would remove 2.6bn tons of CO2e from the atmosphere, 4.2 per cent of greenhouse gas. They also complain that the UN underestimated the amount of livestock, putting it at 21.7bn against NGO estimates of 50bn, adding that numbers have since risen by 12 per cent.

Eating meat rather than plants also requires extra refrigeration and cooking and "expensive" treatment of human diseases arising from livestock such as swine flu, they say.

One leading expert on climate change and food, Tara Garnett, welcomed Goodland and Anhang's calculations on methane, which she said had credibility, but she questioned other aspects of their work, saying she had no reason to dispute the UN's position on CO2 caused by breathing. She also pointed out that they had changed scientific assumptions for livestock but not for other sources of methane, skewing the figures.

She said: "We are increasingly becoming aware that livestock farming at current scales is a major problem, and that they contribute significantly to greenhouse gases. But livestock farming also yields benefits – there are some areas of land that can’t be used for food crop production. Livestock manure can also contribute to soil fertility, and farm animals provide us with non food goods, such as leather and wool, which would need to be produced by another means, if it wasn’t a byproduct from animal farming.”

While looking into the paper's findings, Friends of the Earth said the report strengthened calls for the Government to act on emissions from meat production. "We already know that the meat and dairy industry causes more climate-changing emissions than all the world's transport," said Clare Oxborrow, senior food campaigner.

"These new figures need further scrutiny but, if they stack up, they provide yet more evidence of the urgent need to fix the food chain. The more damaging elements of the meat and dairy industry are effectively government-sponsored: millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is spent propping up factory farms and subsidising the import of animal feed that's been grown at the expense of forests."

Justin Kerswell, campaign manager for the vegetarian group Viva!, said: "The case for reducing consumption of meat and dairy products was already imperative based on previous UN findings. Now it appears to have been proven that the environmental devastation from livestock production is in fact staggeringly more significant – and dwarfs the contribution from the transport sector by an even greater margin.

"It is essential that attention is fully focused on the impact of livestock production by all global organisations with the power to affect policy."


Analysis of the World Watch article by Karen Davis, Ph.D., Director of United Poultry Concerns

2 November 2009

Environmental Impact of Animals Raised for Food Recalculated

World Watch Magazine Links Human Diet & Greenhouse Gases

The November/December issue of World Watch magazine, pp. 10-19, presents a powerful challenge to previous estimates of the effect of raising animals for food, while setting forth “the best strategy for reversing climate change.”

The complete article can be read at:

THE PROBLEM (briefly)

In “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are . . . cows, pigs, and chickens?” environmentalists Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang offer compelling evidence that animal agriculture, already well-known to contribute heavily to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), actually accounts for “at least half” of all human-caused greenhouse gases. They build on the widely cited 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Livestock’s Long Shadow.

The FAO report estimates that 7,516 million metric tons per year of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents, or 18 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, are attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs, and poultry. The Goodland and Anhang analysis shows that “livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32,564 million tons of CO2 equivalents per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions” (p. 11).

As part of their calculation model for greenhouse gases attributable to livestock products, the authors observe that a full accounting “would cover portions of the construction and operation of pharmaceutical and medical industries” used to treat the millions of cases of worldwide illnesses linked to the consumption of animal products (p. 15).

THE SOLUTION (briefly)

Goodland and Anhang observe that the human population is projected to grow by about 35 percent between 2006 and 2050, and that the number of animals raised for food worldwide is projected to double during this same time period. If these projections come true, livestock-related GHG emissions “would also approximately double,” significantly increasing the amount of livestock-related greenhouse gases imperiling life on earth (p. 15).

With these grave risks confronting us, the authors argue that “an effective strategy must involve replacing livestock products with better alternatives, rather than substituting one meat product with another that has a somewhat lower carbon footprint” (p. 15).

Replacing animal products with soy-based and other plant-based alternatives, according to this study, can “reverse the ongoing world food and water crises.” It can also reduce future greenhouse gas emissions “because meat and dairy analogs are produced without the GHG-intensive processes used in raising livestock.” In addition, a significant amount of tropical land now being used to graze animals and grow grains to feed them would be left alone and allowed to regenerate as forest to absorb carbon already in the atmosphere (pp. 15, 17).

Pay particular attention to this observation about marketing strategies and promotional actions recommended in the article:

“To achieve the growth discussed above will require a significant investment in marketing, especially since meat and dairy analogs will be new to many consumers. A successful campaign would avoid negative themes and stress positive ones. For instance, recommending that meat not be eaten one day per week suggests deprivation. Instead, the campaign should pitch the theme of eating all week long a line of food products that is tasty, easy to prepare, and includes a ‘superfood,’ such as soy, that will enrich their lives. When people hear appealing messages about food, they are listening particularly for words that evoke comfort, familiarity, happiness, ease, speed, low price, and popularity. Consequently, several other themes should be tapped to build an effective marketing campaign” (p. 17).

To learn which “several other themes” the authors recommend tapping in order to build an effective marketing campaign, go to pages 17-19 of this World Watch article, which concludes that the case for change “is no longer only a public policy or an ethical case, but is now also a business case.” Find out why. Here again is the link:

UPC thanks Dr. Richard Schwartz, Director of Veg Climate Alliance and president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (, for bringing this terrific article to our attention.

For more ideas about avoiding negative themes and stressing positive ones in advocacy campaigns, click on Moving Beyond . . . the Rhetoric of Apology in Animal Rights:


Questions and Answers re the World Watch Article

Questions asked by an Italian newspaper person and answers by one of the article’s authors

1 – Can you remind us what percentage of the GHG emissions is created by livestock and their byproducts?

We reviewed the percentage of GHG emissions attributed to livestock by the FAO in 2006, and considered it a good starting point. We found amounts that were overlooked, underestimated, and assigned to other sectors, and we added them up to reach a total of at least fifty-one percent of worldwide GHG emissions attributable to the life cycle and supply chain of livestock products.

2 – It seems like our passion for burgers and steaks is killing the planet. What are the main direct and indirect sources of GHG emissions from livestock we commonly don’t think about while walking along some cow in the Alps?

When someone walks alongside a cow, it is almost impossible to imagine that this one cow could be killing the planet. But the key, largely unknown source of GHG emissions are the other 56 billion land animals being raised for food during the same year across the world. We found a staggering amount of GHG emissions when we multiplied all these animals particularly by the amount of emissions attributable to the land needed to graze and grow feed for each one, and each one’s breath and other excretions.

3 – Livestock have been here for centuries. How come that they are becoming a problem now? Is the economic rise of countries like China and India, and their increasing “hunger” for livestock’s byproducts, to blame?

Wealthy people in countries such as China and India used to eat traditional foods, which involved a small number of calories in the form of animal products. So their increased hunger for animal products is not inevitable; it rather involves the transfer of Western culture, including the Western idea that animal products are good and so should be subsidized and marketed on a large scale. But this internationalization will turn out well, when the myth that animal products must be good is replaced by the idea that there could be better alternatives.

4 – In your report, you say that “replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change”. Is this like saying that we should become vegetarians?

In writing our article for World Watch, my co-author and I did what environmental specialists do all the time. That is, we assessed an area of environmental risk, and then we developed recommendations for how to manage the risk that we found. Conversely, recommending vegetarianism normally comes from people who think that their ethical values should be adopted by others. We didn’t write our article in order to end up telling people to adopt our ethical values. Our purpose is to recommend that people adopt whatever the best choice is for reversing climate change.

5 – You write that “after many years of international climate talks and practical efforts”, results in reducing GHG emissions have been very scarce. Do you think we have been spending a huge amount of money for practically no results?

We believe that replacing livestock products with better alternatives is something that can reduce a majority of GHG emissions quickly and cheaply. The remaining reductions will be more expensive and take much longer. So eventually the money that has been spent so far on long-term efforts should pay off. ? ?6 – Don’t you think that changing the way people eat can be even more difficult than change the way people turn the lights on? It does seem that people in the developed world keep on liking better “real” meat than alternatives.

Clearly, people form habits around what they eat. But those habits are strongly induced by fiscal measures and marketing, which in recent years have favored meat and dairy products. In every country – take China as an example – it can be seen that fiscal measures and marketing can dramatically change a population’s dietary habits in just a few years. If there are better alternatives in food, then it is predictable that their consumption can be induced. Conversely, it is hard to imagine that people will ever be able to read in the dark.

7 – You write that an individual food company has some incentives to change towards non-livestocks-based products. What are they?

We hope that your readers will consider reading our article. But to summarize, some individual food companies are already being harmed by climate change and can see more harm coming soon, while some are already benefiting greatly from selling non-livestock-based products. Our article aims to raise awareness on these topics so they can become better known.

8 – Why haven’t companies bought these arguments so far? What is keeping the change from being the best economic choice for them?

My co-author and I found that nobody had ever made our arguments before. So of course, companies weren’t able to buy our arguments until now. And now we hope that they will.

9 – An increasing skepticism is growing in the US public and in some papers and broadcasting companies (like the BBC) about the very existence of global warming and its main cause. Do you think it is worth it to change our way of living to try and correct something we don’t even really know is man-made?

Changing sources of energy and the way we use it will require a lot of change in people’s lives, and will take long and be expensive. So it is perhaps surprising that only a small number of people do not think it is necessary. Yet if something threatens our very existence, then it should be taken very seriously. But perhaps you contacted me across an ocean because my recommendations involve something enjoyable, which people consider all the time even in the absence of global warming – and that is to try some new type of food that is tasty, inexpensive, easy to cook, and healthful. Our article describes other benefits that food companies and consumers would normally be interested in, and reversing global warming is probably the most important one of all.

10 – What can everyone of us try to do – in his or her everyday life – in order to contribute stopping the climate change and the GHG emissions with his or her menu choices? By the way, are you and professor Anhang vegetarians?

It is probably clear by now that the menu choices we recommend are alternatives to meat and dairy products. If my co-author and I were at some points in our past vegetarians, then some people could think that our article developed from that, when it actually developed from our other environmental work. On the other hand, if we did not say that we will follow our own recommendations in the future, then some people would surely think we were hypocrites. In fact, the foods that both we and your readers eat today matter much less than that we and your readers follow our recommendations in the future.

Return to Top

6. Action Alert: Improving Conditions for Farmed Animals

JVNA supports an end to the factory farming and slaughter of ALL farm animals. However, we also support steps toward that goal, such as this initiative.

Contact your NY State Assembly person and ask her/him to support this bill.

This bill will phase-out pig gestation crates, veal crates and hen battery cages by 2015, and will prohibit any person from tethering or confining any pig during pregnancy, any calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen who is kept on a farm in a manner that prevents such animal from lying down, standing up and fully extending its limbs and turning around freely. Violations of the law will be punishable by imprisonment for a period not to exceed one year and/or fines up to $1,000.

Please go to:

Please cross post to all NY State residents

Return to Top

7. Al Gore on Factory Farming

The following interview of Al Gore by Diane Sawyer of ABC news provides some insights into Al Gore’s latest thinkingre vegetarianism.

In Al Gore’s just published book which discusses various solutions to global warming, the word “vegetarianism” does not appear in the index and there is only one citation for “meat,” and the effects of factory farming on climate change and environmental degradation is covered but not stressed.

SAWYER: Another objection you see and it brings laughs, always. But it's a constant one and it's from those who are doubters about what's needed to be done about methane and the amount of methane-

GORE: Yeah. Yeah.

SAWYER: - diplomatically produced, that cows produce and how damaging it is, 20 times more damaging it is than CO2. Here's Glenn Beck giving you a challenge about cows and methane. [It is actually far more damaging, especially when considering 20 year periods, when it is about 72 times as damaging.]

GLENN BECK: I'm siding with PETA on this one. Once again asking Al Gore if you really want to save the planet, Al, why don't you put down the cheeseburger and pick up the veggie burger? Time for, maybe, soy milk and tofurkey.

GORE: [Laughs]: Well, you know, there is a serious issue about the connection between the growing meat intensity of diets around the world and damage to the environment. That is a legitimate issue. And like a lot of people, I eat less meat now than I used to. I'm not a vegetarian, don't plan to become one, but it's a healthy choice to eat more vegetables than fruits. So it's not a laughable issue. Diet is an issue that's connected but the biggest issue by far is CO2 and methane comes from a lot of sources including- it is the principal component of natural gas, coal mines, rice, a lot of sources and it plays a somewhat larger role than scientists thought in the past.

SAWYER: So tofurkey for you?

GORE: No. I don't plan to. No thanks.

Return to Top

8. Report of Rabbi’s Talk on “Judaism and Vegetarianism” at a Los Angeles Synagogue

Thanks to Leonard Aubrey Pitnigoff for writing this report and vegetarian activist Janine Laura Bronsom for sending it to us.

I didn't realize what was happening. It was World Vegan Day (Nov.1st, 2009) and the new youngest rabbi of nearby Temple Ner Ma'arav in Encino who was our guest speaker, was delivering a "nice" talk on Judaism and vegetarianism to our long running, slightly "geriatric" group (no insult intended) at Valley Beth Shalom...ha, ha, ha...

...And then, it was all over. We had eighteen people in the audience, and a very good speaker. Another successful meeting, thank G-d!

I was musing on who we could get to speak at our next Jewish Vegetarian Society of Los Angeles meeting, when I overheard Bernice – who had been instrumental in the first place, in discovering this rabbi officiating at her friend’s father’s funeral, and delighted upon having found him – who was now urging Janine – our president – to "Hold on to this man!"

Then suddenly, I saw it! Our wake up call. Why were here so bright and early on a Sunday morning? We had just been in the presence of a virile, dynamic, articulate, passionate, friendly, accessible rabbi, who is committed to molding the nearby synagogue he recently took over, into this Jewish vegan image!

I told myself that I've got to spend some time meditating on what this special rabbi had just told us! Would you like to read on about what my interpretations of this event were, in a nutshell? ??Reb Jason Van Leeuwen began the talk by stating that he will slowly be building Temple Ner Ma'arav back up on the foundation of the "Brit" (Hebrew for covenant). This "covenant" is to be found in the first two chapters of Genesis. These are the "vegan chapters," as it is from them, that we Jewish vegans ostensibly get our sanction to bug people into going vegan! Thank G_d they exist!

I'll never forget the astonishment, when I first SAW what these verses were saying. To me, they basically said that in order to tend to and to keep the Garden of G_d (Gen. 2:15), ALL three of the first three blessings of the Torah (Gen.1:28-29) must be followed.

What do I mean? Well, we have certainly recently been fulfilling the first two covenants: filling and subduing the earth; but a table doesn't stand on just two legs… It takes a third leg: the last of the "first big three" blessings to be mentioned in the Torah – can you guess what that might be? Being vegan!

In other words, if we want to continue procreating, the Torah teaches that we cannot rely on our technical wizardry alone to secure the future. Veganism is also needed; otherwise the "curse" of a missing third leg, will bring our best efforts down...??Reb Jason then went on to speak about the kosher laws. He was passionate as he told us how he was never told that the foundation of the laws of Kashrus is ethical, not ritual. He spoke convincingly about how each kosher practice was intended to increase reverence for life, but that the realities of today's world make it no longer fit (“kosher” literally means "fit" in Hebrew) to continue the slaughter of animals!

He basically said that not only WAS veganism the highest form of kashrus (fit-ness), but that NOW, veganism IS the only "fit" way to be. Emphatically, Reb Jason commented: “G_d dictates that I become vegan!” ??Throughout his speech, he related several touching, personal stories about his life: the various discoveries, tribulations, and joys he encountered, as he grew into his vegetarianism, raising two teenage vegan kids in a frequently uncomprehending and unfriendly world, and finally having to resign from his rabbinical post at a previous synagogue in the South Bay, because of his unwillingness to muzzle his vegetarian views...??Reb Jason ended the meeting by saying that he is also a cantor, musician, and composer. He proved it on the spot, by whipping out a guitar (in a non-leather guitar case, mind you, and with a non-leather strap) putting two familiar prayers to music. They were upbeat, full throated, and had an intuitive groove that swept the audience. I felt while listening to them that “Here is a man who is unafraid of life. ”??To sum it up, then, this is what happened here on World Vegan Day: Inspired by an overheard comment, I was able to truly appreciate that what we have here is that rarest of all breeds – the leader of a synagogue, who is willing to put the vegan agenda front and center!

Return to Top

9. More Reviews of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Book “Eating Animals”


Should you eat meat?

by Elizabeth Kolbert

NOVEMBER 9, 2009


Review of “Eating Animals” in the Forward

Eating Animals Are Wrong


By Keith Meatto

Published October 28, 2009, issue of November 06, 2009.


Eating Animals?By Jonathan Safran Foer?Little, Brown and Company, 352 pages, $25.99.

Return to Top

10. Leading Reform Rabbis Urges that Reform Jews Should Eat Less Meat/JVNA Press Release in Response

Yoffie to Reform Jews: Eat less meat, blog more

November 8, 2009

[Another JTA article is at]

TORONTO (JTA) -- Reform Jews should eat less red meat and consider more carefully what food they serve in their synagogues, the movement's leader said.

"We need to think about how the food we eat advances the values we hold as Reform Jews," Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Saturday in Toronto at the biennial conference of the movement's synagogue arm.

During his presidential sermon, Yoffie outlined the URJ's Green Table/Just Table Initiative.

Noting that Americans are increasingly concerned about food issues, he urged Reform Jews to consider the ethical, environmental and health aspects of what they eat, and come up with food policies for their synagogues.

Yoffie steered clear of promoting kashrut, saying "ours is an ethically based tradition." But rather than ignore dietary practice, as he said Reform leaders did a century ago, he noted that food choices are intimately connected to issues, such as environmentalism and social justice, that Reform Jews care about.

Saying that he was not promoting vegetarianism, Yoffie said that cutting down on red meat "is an area where we can make a difference" in offsetting our carbon footprint.

"Reducing our collective meat consumption by 20 percent would be comparable to every American driving a Prius," he said.

Synagogues might also consider serving more communal meals, Yoffie suggested, as a way of building spiritual community. He also encouraged the planting of synagogue gardens.

To help Reform Jews take these practical steps, the union has posted a food policy guide, sample curriculum for youth groups, gardening tips and information on how synagogues can set up Community Supported Agriculture programs.

In his sermon, Yoffie also urged Reform congregations to harness the community-building power of the Internet and set up their own blogs.

Calling such congregational blogs an "online Oral Torah," he said congregations need to think more creatively about social media. To help them do so, the union is offering a blogging platform, substantive and strategic support, and other resources.


JVNA press release in response

[Suggestions welcome.]


For Immediate Release:

November 10, 2009


Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Phone: (718) 761-5876

Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) issued the following statement today:

JVNA commends Reform leader Rabbi Eric Yoffi’s call to Reform Jews to eat less meat so as to be more consistent with the values of the Reform movement. [JTA article below this release.] We hope it will lead to an increased dialog on the many moral issues related to our diets and will encourage other Jewish leaders to speak out.

“At a time when animal-based agriculture is contributing very significantly to climate change and other severe environmental problems that are threatening all of humanity and when animal-based diets are major contributors to an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish community that are resulting in skyrocketing medical cost and major governmental deficits, it is time to address which diet is most consistent with Jewish values, “stated Richard H. Schwartz, president of JVNA. “We should also consider how the production and consumption of meat and other animal products violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people.”

Since there is increasing evidence of connections between meat consumption and global warming, promoting plant-based diets is especially important to Jews today, as Israel faces the worst drought in its history and a 2007 Israel Union for Environmental Defense report projects that global warming will cause severe heat waves and storms, 20 to 30 percent less rainfall and severe flooding from a rising Mediterranean Sea.

JVNA would very much welcome respectful dialogues/debates with Rabbi Yoffie and, indeed, all rabbis and other Jewish scholars 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.

We believe that it is essential that our rabbis and other Jewish leaders increase awareness that a major shift toward plant-based diets is essential to avoid the unprecedented climate-catastrophe that the world is rapidly approaching and to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path.

Further information about these issues can be found at the JVNA web site We will provide complimentary copies of our new documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD to rabbis and other Jewish leaders who will contact us ( The entire movie can be seen and further information about it can be found at Additional information on Jewish teachings on vegetarianism can be found at the JVNA web site ( and in the many articles and podcasts at

Return to Top

11. New Group Promotes World Watch Article Conclusion of 51 Percent of Greenhouse Gases from Animal-Agriculture

From: Ahimsa Subject: 51 percent awareness campaign

Date: Sunday, November 8, 2009, 10:11 PM

Dear friends,

In order to spread and disseminate the information contained in the latest report from the the World Watch Institute, "the 51% campaign" has been launched by an animal and environmental protection organization.

The organizers wish to inform those attending Copenhagen that 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions are from the livestock sector, it is for this goal that they have created the website

If you visit the solutions page

there are various actions you can take, for example the 2nd solution allows you to send a letter to a number of the EPA officials and environment minister worldwide. You can also add a 51% banner to your blog or website.

So in the run up to Copenhagen, please visit


Material from the group’s web site

Climate Change and Meat Consumption

A recent authoritative report published by the World Watch institute, authors Goodland and Anhang concluded that over 51% of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions come from Livestock.?

In the run up to the Copenhagen climate change summit, it is vital the following information be disseminated to the public as well as to our political leaders.

A widely cited 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Livestock’s Long Shadow, estimates that 18 percent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to livestock….however recent analysis by Goodland and Anhang co-authors of “Livestock and Climate Change” in the latest issue of World Watch magazine found that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions!

The main sources of GHGs from animal agriculture are: (1) Deforestation of the rainforests to grow feed for livestock. (2) Methane from manure waste. – Methane is 72 times more potent as a global warming gas than CO2 (3) Refrigeration and transport of meat around the world. (4) Raising, processing and slaughtering of the animal.

Meat production also uses a massive amount of water and other resources which would be better used to feed the world’s hungry and provide water to those in need.

Based on their research, Goodland and Anhang conclude that replacing livestock products with soy-based and other alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. They say “This approach would have far more rapid effects on GHG emissions and their atmospheric concentrations-and thus on the rate the climate is warming-than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.”

The fact is that we are being informed of the dangerous path we are on by depending greatly on animal flesh for human consumption. We still have the opportunity to make the most effective steps in saving ourselves and this planet. By simply choosing a plant based diet we can reduce our carbon foot print by a huge amount.

We are gambling with our lives and with those of our future generations to come. It’s madness to know we are fully aware of the possible consequences but yet are failing to act.

Please make a truly environmental, healthy and compassionate choice, choose to drastically reduce your meat intake or simply go vegetarian or vegan. This is the single most powerful action for preventing climate change as it is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours Sincerely

Society for the Advancement of Animal Wellbeing

Please visit our solutions page to see how you can help

Return to Top

** Fair Use Notice **

The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of vegetarian, environmental, nutritional, health, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for educational or research purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal, technical or medical advice.