"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)


OU's Halachic Seudah and Letters to the Editor

On August 10, I talked about the Orthodox Union's halachic seudah and the protest against it by the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and other groups. I linked to an article in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, which glorified the event but did include some good talking points that I quoted, particularly concerning the writer's uneasiness about viewing the slides of fleishig eggs. The next day, the Los Angeles Times ran a food review that talked about the event in a strictly positive light and didn't acknowledge that there was a protest. (Even Kosher Today, a notoriously biased trade journal of the kosher foods industry, noted in its blurb that the dinner "managed to infuriate" a group of "Jewish vegetarians, who protested the event.")

I don't mean to criticize any of these publications at this time, but such articles do provide excellent opportunities for letters to the editor. Letters help keep the conversation going and focus on parts of the story that were neglected. I sent letters to both L.A. publications.

The Jewish Journal published a relatively long letter from Rina Deych, R.N., that included the lines: "The Torah mandates that we care for our bodies and the earth. It promotes compassion for animals and, while it permits the eating of flesh, cautions against carnivorous gluttony. It also has very specific rules about the treatment and slaughter of animals."

On Saturday, the L.A. Times printed letters from both JVNA President Richard Schwartz and me. It definitely pays to send letters to the editor, even to major publications that seem unlikely to publish them! Here is Richard Schwartz's letter:
As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and an organizer of a protest against the Orthodox Union's event, I was disappointed in this article's failure to consider our protest or some of the broader issues involved. At a time when livestock agriculture is a major factor behind the world rapidly heading to an unprecedented catastrophe, when the Jewish community and others are being afflicted by an epidemic of diseases that have been linked to animal-based diets and when billions of animals are being severely mistreated on factory farms, holding a feast that celebrates and encourages meat-eating is sheer insanity.

Rather than hold such an event, the Jewish community should seriously consider the many moral issues related to our diets and do more to apply Jewish values in responding to current threats.

And here's mine:
The Orthodox Union's Beverly Hills feast spat in the face of Jewish respect for animals. The Bible espouses a vision of respect for God's creatures. Dominion is a responsibility for compassionate stewardship, not a mandate to seek out and kill partridges, yaks and as many exotic creatures as can be deemed fit. We're better off leaving meat off our plates -- whether it's the flesh of animals abused in factory farms or exotic animals that seem out of place at kosher meals.


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