“The blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.”
The Torah gives precise details on how animals are to be sacrificed
and slaughtered (shechita). According to Rabbis Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz
and Abraham Isaac Kook the complexity of these laws were intended to
discourage the consumption of meat. Kashrut may also be designed to remind
Jews of the magnitude of the task undertaken in killing a living being.
Peter Singer Ethical considerations for Vegetarianism
“The case for vegetarianism is at its strongest when we see it as a moral protest against our use of animals as mere things, to be exploited for our convenience in whatever way makes them most cheaply available to us. Only the tiniest fraction of the tens of billions of farm animals slaughtered for food each year—the figure for the United States alone is nine billion—were treated during their lives in ways that respected their interests. Questions about the wrongness of killing in itself are not relevant to the moral issue of eating meat or eggs from factory-farmed animals, as most people in developed countries do. Even when animals are roaming freely over large areas, as sheep and cattle do in Australia, operations like hot-iron branding, castration, and dehorning are carried out without any regard for the animals’ capacity to suffer. The same is true of handling and transport prior to slaughter. In the light of these facts, the issue to focus on is not whether there are some circumstances in which it could be right to eat meat, but on what we can do to avoid contributing to this immense amount of animal suffering.
The answer is to boycott all meat and eggs produced by large-scale commercial methods of animal production, and encourage others to do the same. Consideration for the interests of animals alone is enough justification for this response, but the case is further strengthened by the environmental problems that the meat industry causes. Although Mr. Justice Bell found that the allegations directed at McDonald’s regarding its contribution to the destruction of rain forests were not true, the meat industry as a whole can take little comfort from that, because Bell accepted evidence that cattle-ranching, particularly in Brazil, had contributed to the clearing of vast areas of rain forest. The problem for David Morris and Helen Steel was that they did not convince the judge that the meat used by McDonald’s came from these regions. So the meat industry as a whole remains culpable for the loss of rain forest and for all the con sequences of that, from global warming to the deaths of indigenous people fighting to defend their way of life.
Environmentalists are increasingly recognizing that the choice of what we eat is an environmental issue. Animals raised in sheds or on feedlots eat grains or soybeans, and they use most of the food value of these products simply in order to maintain basic functions and develop unpalatable parts of the body like bones and skin. To convert eight or nine kilos of grain protein into a single kilo of animal protein wastes land, energy, and water. On a crowded planet with a growing human population, that is a luxury that we are becoming increasingly unable to afford.
Intensive animal production is a heavy user of fossil fuels and a major source of pollution of both air and water. It releases large quantities of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We are risking unpredictable changes to the climate of our planet—which means, ultimately, the lives of billions of people, not to mention the extinction of untold thousands of species of plants and animals unable to cope with changing conditions—for the sake of more hamburgers. A diet heavy in animal products, catered to by intensive animal production, is a disaster for animals, the environment, and the health of those who eat it.”
Kosher Laws and Vegetarianism
Jewish vegetarianism is the belief that following a vegetarian diet is implied in the Torah While it is neither required nor prohibited for Jews to eat meat, a number of medieval scholars of Judaism, such as Joseph Albo and Isaac Arama, regard vegetarianism as a moral ideal, not just out of a concern for animal welfare but also the slaughterer. Jewish vegetarians also cite health and environmental reasons for adopting a plant-based diet.
The Jewish Dietary Laws recognze that shehitah (ritual slaughter) and kashrut (the dietary laws) represent the fundamental principle that while the eating of meat is permitted, “, ..we must learn,” in Dresner’s words, “to have reverence for the life we take. ” Pinchas Peli puts it this way:
Accordingly, the laws of kashrut come to teach us that a Jew should prefer a vegetarian meaL. If however one cannot control a craving for meat, it should be kosher meat, which would serve as a reminder that the animal being eaten is a creature of God, that the death of such a creature cannot be taken lightly, that hunting for sport is forbidden, that we cannot treat any living thing callously, and that we are responsible for what happens to other
beings (human or animal) even if we did not personally come into contact with them.
This interpretation of vegetarianism as an ideal is a well-established view in Jewish tradition.The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 59b) as well as many commentators, including Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Nachmanides, and Cassuto, make note of the fact that the permission to eat meat after th3 flood (Genesis 9:3) is a distinct departure from the original vegetarian diet which was intended for all creatures, including man and woman (Genesis 1 :29-30).Nachmanides, Cassuto, and others share the view, which is elaborated upon by Rav Kook, that the permission to eat meat was granted as a concession to human weakness and imperfection. And interpreters of Jewish practice from Maimonides, in the Guide of the Perplexed,9 to Dresner (The Jewish Dietary Laws) recognize that shehitah (ritual slaughter) and kashrut (the dietary laws) represent the fundamental principle that while the eating of meat is permitted, “, ..we must learn,” in Dresner’s words, “to have reverence for the life we take. “
A Dialogue Between a Jewish Vegetarian Activist and a Rabbi
Rabbi: I would be happy to discuss this with you. But, I hope that you are aware that Judaism does permit the eating of meat. Some scholars feel that it is obligatory to eat meat on Shabbat and holidays.
JVA: Yes, I recognize that Judaism permits people to eat meat. Jewish vegetarians do not argue that Jews must be vegetarians. We recognize that people have a choice, but we feel that this choice should consider basic Jewish teachings and how animal-based diets and modern intensive livestock agriculture impinge on these teachings. For example, we should recognize the current and increasing tension between the permission to consume animals for human benefit and the extremely cruel treatment they now receive in preparation for such consumption on factory farms, which have become more prevalent in response to population increase and efficiency and cost concerns. With regard to eating meat on Shabbat and holidays, according to the Talmud (T. B. Pesachim 109a), since the destruction of the Temple, Jews are not required to eat meat in order to rejoice on sacred occasions. This view is reinforced in the works Reshit Chochmah and Kerem Shlomo and Rabbi Chizkiah Medini’s Sdei Chemed, which cites many classical sources on the subject. Several Israeli chief rabbis, including Shlomo Goren, late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, and Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa, have been or are vegetarians. Also, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom is a vegetarian, as is Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland.
Rabbi: we also should recognize that there is much in the Torah and the Talmud about which animals are kosher and about the proper way to slaughter animals. So eating meat is certainly not foreign to Judaism.
VJA: Yes, that is certainly true. But, there is also much in the Torah and our other sacred writings that point to vegetarianism as the ideal Jewish diet. For example, as the Torah verse below indicates, God’s initial intention was that people be vegetarians.
And God said: “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit — to you it shall be for food.” Genesis 1:29
The foremost Jewish Torah commentator, Rashi, states the following about God’s first dietary plan: “God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature to eat its flesh. Only every green herb were they to all eat together.” Most Torah commentators, including Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, Nachmanides, and Rabbi Joseph Albo, agree with Rashi.
In addition, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and a major Jewish 20th century writer and philosopher, believed that the messianic period would also be vegetarian. He based this on Isaiah’s powerful prophecy that “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, … the lion shall eat straw like the ox…. and no one shall hurt nor destroy in all of God’s holy mountain… (Isaiah 11:6-9). Hence the two idea times in Jewish thought – the Garden of Eden and the messianic period – are vegetarian.
Almost every religion has a group(s) who follow a vegetarian diet, I will not go on detail, otherwise this post would be a book.
Vegetarianism is strongly linked with a number of religions that originated in ancient India (Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism). In Jainism, vegetarianism is mandatory for everyone; in Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism, it is advocated by some influential scriptures and religious authorities. Comparatively, in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and in Sikhism, vegetarianism is not promoted by mainstream authorities, although in all these faiths there are small groups actively promoting vegetarianism on religious grounds.
Hindu scriptures belong or refer to the Vedic period which lasted till about 500 BCE according to the chronological division by modern historians. In the historical Vedic religion, the predecessor of Hinduism, meat eating was not banned in principle, but was restricted by specific rules. Several highly authoritative scriptures bar violence against domestic animals except in the case of ritual sacrifice. This view is clearly expressed in the Mahabharata (3.199.11-12; 13.115; 13.116.26; 13.148.17), the Bhagavata Purana (11.5.13-14), and the Chandogya Upanishad (8.15.1). For instance, many Hindus point to the Mahabharata’s maxim that “Nonviolence is the highest duty and the highest teaching,” as advocating a vegetarian diet. It is also reflected in the Manu Smriti (5.27-44), a particularly renowned traditional Hindu law book (Dharmaśāstra). These texts strongly condemn the slaughter of animals and meat eating.
The Mahabharata (12.260; 13.115-116; 14.28) and the Manu Smriti (5.27-55) contain lengthy discussions about the legitimacy of ritual slaughter and subsequent consumption of the meat. In the Mahabharata both meat eaters and vegetarians present various arguments to substantiate their viewpoints. Apart from the debates about domestic animals, there is also a long discourse by a hunter in defence of hunting and meat eating. These texts show that both ritual slaughter and hunting were challenged by advocates of universal non-violence and their acceptability was doubtful and a matter of dispute
Essential scriptural evidence
“What need there be said of those innocent and healthy creatures endued with love of life, when they are sought to be slain by sinful wretches subsisting by slaughter? For this reason, O monarch, know that the discarding of meat is the highest refuge of religion, of heaven, and of happiness. Abstention from injury is the highest religion. It is, again, the highest penance. It is also the highest truths from which all duty proceeds. Flesh cannot be had from grass or wood or stone. Unless a living creature is slain, it cannot be had. Hence is the fault in eating flesh… That man who abstains from meat, is never put in fear, O king, by any creature. All creatures seek his protection. He never causes any anxiety in others, and himself has never to become anxious. If there were nobody who ate flesh there would then be nobody to kill living creatures. The man who kills living creatures kill them for the sake of the person who eats flesh. If flesh were regarded as inedible, there would then be no slaughter of living creatures. It is for the sake of the eater that the slaughter of living creatures goes on in the world. Since, O thou of great splendor, the period of life is shortened of persons who slaughter living creatures or cause them to be slaughtered, it is clear that the person who wishes his own good should give up meat entirely… The purchaser of flesh performs himsa[violence] by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it—all of these are to be considered meat-eaters.” (Mahabharata 13.115)
“Those sinful persons who are ignorant of actual religious principles, yet consider themselves to be completely pious, without compunction commit violence against innocent animals who are fully trusting in them. In their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same creatures they have killed in this world.” (Bhagavata Purana 11.5.14)
“A person fully aware of religious principles should never offer anything like meat, eggs or fish in the Sraddha ceremony, and even if one is a Kshatriya (warrior), he himself should not eat such things.” (Bhagavata Purana 7.15.7)
And last but not the least Atheist and vegetarianism excerpts:
“I became atheist in 2003. It wasn’t until a saw a video of factory farms and slaughterhouses that I stopped eating animal flesh in 2004, and made the logical step to go vegan in 2005.
Even though I was never very religious growing up (I went to a Catholic church on Christmas and Easter with my mom and sister while my dad stayed home), I think atheism helped me see that it was wrong to eat, wear, and otherwise exploit animals. As an atheist, it was easy for me to reject the supernatural belief in a species hierarchy and instead view the human species as merely one animal among many in the animal kingdom.
I see atheism and veganism as separate, but I definitely think a move to atheism across human society will help free minds of speciesism and affect a shift towards veganism.”
“My regard for animals does not derive from my regard towards any god or religion, or the lack thereof. My compassion and passion for things in life derives from the simple fact that I am not an asshole and that even though I don’t believe in heaven after I die, I still strive to be the most foremost person that I can be.
I became a vegan before I realized I was a free-thinker. Vegans and atheists believe in a lot of different things, but wow, how we believe is so much the same! We are both non-conformist. We go against what society has deemed “social norm,” and what they see is correct or acceptable. Vegans and atheists need hard facts. We don’t believe in things because someone tells us to. We need hard proof of new ideas presented to us. And even then, we are going to need some more convincing. Vegans and atheists also share strange ‘askews’ in the picture society has painted us to be. Just as all Atheists aren’t goth, dark depressed people, neither are vegans all granola-eating hippies living in the woods in yurts.
Vegans and atheists tend to have louder voices in the crowd. We have to have bigger voices to let our smaller message to the world to be heard. Every day we are further pushing the boundaries of the First Amendment, and it’s exciting.”
“At some point growing up, I recognized that the stories and rituals surrounding the supernatural being that I was taught to worship as a Jew simply felt unnatural and contrived. I have been critically questioning religion in general ever since.
How does this relate to veganism? I think it’s obvious.
For the majority of my life I had no idea that the food I ate had any backstory whatsoever. I simply never thought about it. Just as religious parents feed stories and scripture to their children, my parents fed me animal products for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was simply the norm in my culture, just like believing in a supernatural being. When I met my wife, she showed me that in fact the food I was consuming did not appear magically, but actually came from somewhere. She showed me the truth about factory farming and I discovered that I was literally paying corporations to cause enormous amounts of suffering to billions of my nonhuman fellow earthlings.
I self-reflected. I chose to apply the most basic definition of morality to my life, and have since been committed to a vegan lifestyle. Simply put, without god or religion defining right from wrong, all I needed were facts to commit to the lowest possible bar of morality – not contributing to torture.”
“There are countless ways both atheism and living vegan inform each other and there are important parallels with both for me too.
The first is that one can live a perfectly happy, healthy, fulfilling life without eating animals or without ever believing in a supernatural being who listens to one’s prayers and cares who we might sleep with.
The second parallel is that neither veganism nor atheism is part of a belief system. To live vegan or as an atheist, no dogma whatsoever can be embraced. Rather, both veganism and atheism are rejections of irrational, sometimes very dangerous and harmful belief systems themselves. In this context religion and speciesism are nearly identical twins. There’s nothing about living vegan one has to believe in to realize it’s wrong to kill someone for the mere taste of his or her flesh. There’s nothing an atheist has to believe in to go through their normal day without including Allah in their thoughts.
The third parallel really shows how being an atheist and living vegan are two peas in the same pod. This can be noticed in our daily interactions where we seem able to criticize a person’s belief on any subject we want, except…two. We can’t criticize someone’s personal beliefs about God, or their complicity in exploiting or killing non-human animals for pleasure. Which, of course, includes eating them. The fact is that it remains absolutely taboo in nearly every area of society to question someone’s religious faith or to criticize their omnivorous behavior. Those who do are accused of being self-righteous, insensitive, rude, or un-American. Both of these subjects remain completely off-limits for criticism, and this has terrible consequences.”