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


Jewish Groups Protest OU's 'Halachic Seudah'

On Sunday, the Orthodox Union hosted a 15-course "halachic seudah" gourmet meal that apparently featured kosher yak, elk, bison, red deer, blue marlin, pigeon, wild turkey, dove, sparrow, and quail. While the OU doesn't do much to publicly condemn controversy after controversy after controversy in the kosher meat industry, it threw a party to discuss which animals are technically kosher and to eat them.

The 100-person dinner in Beverly Hills, Calif., was met by protesters from Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), Jews for Animal Rights, and Concern for Helping Animals in Israel. While the size of the protest was not gargantuan, sometimes in Judaism, all you need is 10 people in order to have a meaningful gathering, and the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reports that JVNA President Richard Schwartz was joined by nine other protesters. It's quite significant that the event was protested not by secular groups on the grounds of animal rights or animal welfare but rather by Jewish groups (which worked together to organize a demonstration) irate over the OU's disregard for Jewish values. Schwartz said in a JVNA news release:
This OU event, involving the eating of so many of God's creatures, completely contradicts our mandate to be 'rachmanim b'nei rachmanim' (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors) and to imitate God, whose mercies are over all of His creatures,” (Psalms 145:9) Even if ritual slaughter is performed flawlessly, consistent with halacha, we should not ignore the severe violations of Jewish law occurring daily on factory farms. We should fulfill our charge to be 'a light unto the nations' by helping to lead the world away from a diet that is so harmful to people, the environment, and animals, to one that is far more consistent with basic religious values, especially at a time when animal-based diets are causing an epidemic of disease in the Jewish community and other communities and when animal-based agriculture is a major contributor to global warming and many other environmental threats to all of humanity.
The Jewish Journal reporter who attended the event noted her discomfort eating fleishig eggs, which are unhatched eggs taken from inside the bodies of slaughtered chickens. I can't blame her for being appalled based on her description:
Getting intimate with the animal I was about to digest wasn't something I was used to. It's easy to distance yourself from what you're cooking when chicken comes skinned and deboned, cushioned in foam and wrapped in cellophane. It's harder to do that when, as you are eating fleishig (meat) eggs, you see a slide of a sliced-open chicken with unlaid eggs still covered in a web of blood vessels (that's what makes them meat rather than pareve).
The Jewish Journal article talks about not only the animals that were consumed but also the discussions surrounding the dinner:

A "zemer" is listed in the Torah as kosher, and most scholars translate zemer as giraffe -- an animal that has never been eaten in the kosher world, though it has all the kosher features, as well as several feet worth of neck where it can be properly shechted.

While the [organizers] are ready to serve up giraffe, we didn't get any ... because a giraffe costs about $25,000.

Objection to the concept of eating as many of G-d's creatures as possible isn't so much an animal welfare issue as a religious issue of respecting His creation. I'm reminded of a passage in Dominion by Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. A Christian and a conservative, Scully talks about a disturbing Safari Club International convention that praises hunters who kill large numbers of exotic species. He refers to chapter 1 in Genesis; you can't help but wonder how someone could read G-d's saying, "Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: cattle, creeping things, and wild beast of every kind," and think, "Let's kill 'em all!" Writes Scully:
[S]omething has gone horribly wrong, something involving our own human dignity every bit as much as the animals'. ... Why could [someone] possibly want to kill [a] giraffe, a beautiful and graceful creature who did her no harm, isn't overpopulated, [and] isn't causing environmental damage anywhere ...? Why?


  • At 8/10/2007 5:42 AM, Blogger Carin said…

    Well said, but depressing as hell. I'm still in Israel until the 17th, and just hearing how fervently the hasidic part of my family defends their eating habits makes me wonder if my own people won't be the most difficult obstacle to overcome on that distant day in the future when the rest of the world has already decided that there really is no justification for what we are currently doing to animals. They're still wearing clothes from the 1800's, so I can only imagine how long a change like this would take...

  • At 8/10/2007 8:11 AM, Blogger heebnvegan said…

    I'm not making a direct analogy by any means, but I'm somewhat reminded of when the Jews were wandering through the desert, G-d gave them manna, and they demanded animal flesh. Then what happened? In Numbers 11:32-34:

    "The people set to gathering quail all the day and night and all the next day--even he who gathered least had ten homers--and they spread them out all around the camp. The meat was still between their teeth, nor yet chewed, when the anger of the Lord blazed forth against the people and the Lord struck with a very severe plague. That place was named Kibroth-hattaavah, because the people who had the craving were buried there."

    But if quail is kosher by the letter of the law, some people still can't resist, I suppose.

  • At 8/10/2007 6:46 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…

    Richard Schwartz, president of JVNA and author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, asked me to post the below comment in his behalf.
    Many thanks for posting this very thoughtful analysis of our demonstration. It makes me even more determined to get our messages out and a consideration of vegetarianism onto the Jewish agenda. I am reading almost daily reports re effects of global climate change. It is becoming clearer that the world is heading toward an unprecedented catastrophe and a major shift towards vegetarianism is an essential part of the necessary responses.

    we also have to challenge rabbis and others in the Jewish community by pointing out that animal-based diets violate Jewish teachings on treating animals compassionately, preserving our health, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, helping hungry people and pursuing peace.

    If anyone has suggestions or would like to get free email copies of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America newsletter, please contact me at President@JewishVeg.com.


    Richard (Schwartz)


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