Rav Kook's 70th Yahretzeit
Rav Kook is perhaps the most famous advocate of vegetarianism in the "Jewish establishment." Although he seems to have not been a strict vegetarian, he promoted a plant-based diet as an ideal consistent with Jewish teachings. In "A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace," he wrote: "[T]he free movement of the moral impulse to establish justice for animals generally and the claim of their rights from mankind are hidden in a moral psychic sensibility in the deeper layers of the Torah."
Excerpts from "A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace" are available here. Bask in its widsom:
There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent, thinking person that when the Torah instructs humankind to dominate – "And have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves upon the Earth" (Genesis 1:28) – it does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to fulfill his personal whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Torah would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is "good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works" (Psalms 145:9), and Who declared, "The world shall be built upon kindness" (ibid. 89:3).
Should we still consider Rav Kook's teachings to be relevant? Ten billion farmed animals are slaughtered for food in this country every year. Virtually all of them are raised on factory farms, where they are robbed from their mothers shortly after birth, are kept in unnatural settings where their movement is restricted, and have their body parts mutilated without painkillers. Across the board, animals’ lives and welfare are neglected in favor of the bottom line. Consideration, compassion, and respect for G-d's creatures are essentially absent from animal agriculture. We should heed Rav's Kook's vision now more than ever.