"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)


L.A. Jewish Journal Starts the Year Off Right

The Los Angeles Jewish Journal has already published some great articles in 2008, and we're only a fortnight into the new year!

Last week's Jewish Vegetarians of North America newsletter included links to four different parts of the January 4 issue of the Jewish Journal. The cover story, about global warming, discusses the role of vegetarianism in the environmental debate and notes that "animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gasses in carbon dioxide equivalents than all the world's cars, trucks and other forms of transportation." One sidebar talked about a couple's efforts to be less energy-dependent, another talked about Tuv Ha'aretz, and a calendar promoted a screening of A Sacred Duty as well as other "Upcoming Greening events."

I've seen plenty of articles about PETA's Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign in the last five years, but I haven't seen any quite like the one in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah section of the Jewish Journal's January 11 issue:

Rabbi's Daughter Protests KFC for Bat Mitzvah Project

Avital van Leeuwen, 12, took a stand against animal cruelty for her bat mitzvah project by protesting in front of a Van Nuys Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) on Sunday, Dec. 23.

Inspired by a video at kentuckyfriedcruelty.com, a site created by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Avital voiced concern about the cruel treatment she witnessed toward chickens by the fast-food chain's suppliers.

In the video narrated by Pamela Anderson, chickens are shown crammed together in overcrowded, feces-filled barns, overfed until some are unable to walk, and dropped into vats of scalding water, among other practices deemed unacceptable by PETA.

Enraged by the slaughtering practices displayed in the video, Avital invited many of her friends and family to participate in the protest against KFC.

"If it was a dog or cat being tortured it would be against the law. But for chickens it's not? They feel the same amount of pain as other animals," she said.

Those accompanying Avital on her bat mitzvah quest included her 10-year-old brother Yeshaia along with a member of her congregation, four of her friends and their parents. The protestors held signs that included such slogans as: "KFC is cruel, you finger lickin' fool," "The colonel tortures chickens. Don't eat here!"

Her father, Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen, said that any bat mitzvah project requires students to perform some kind of tzedakah work.

"It's not just training them to be ritually ready, but teaches them about who needs them in the world," said van Leeuwen, associate rabbi of Congregation Tikvat Jacob in Manhattan Beach, where Avital will have her bat mitzvah on Jan. 19.

The van Leeuwens, who eat a vegetarian diet, have opened their North Hills home to six chickens and one duck, which live in a backyard coop and pond.

"Those chickens will die of natural causes after a full, long life," van Leeuwen said.

Last but not least, the Jewish Journal's blog GeekHeeb has focused all three of its 2008 stories on the Weizmann Institute of Science, including two posts about the animal welfare controversies surrounding the Israeli testing facility. A January 9 post noted:
The undercover investigator from Let the Animals Live reportedly found holes drilled into the skulls of cats and rhesus monkeys, which was done to study the effects of visual stimulation on brain activity .... The Israeli group also says that professor Amiram Grinvald and his colleagues in the department of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, have conducted a series of invasive and punishing experiments on monkeys and cats over a period of 30 years. ... For more details about investigation, click here.

The Forward also deserves kudos. The paper has led the Jewish media in exposing troubles in the kosher meat industry, and on January 9, the Forward had not one but two articles on what Jewschool recently called the "worst ongoing scandal." (Of course, in the blogosphere, Failed Messiah has taken a leading role in covering these issues.)

Just when 2007 was looking promising for animal issues, it seems 2008 might not be so bad either.


  • At 1/16/2008 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Michael is a wise Jewish man, a good American and a true friend to critters.


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