"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)



New Zealand Bans Shechita
Ha'aretz reported today that New Zealand has become the fourth country in the world to ban shechita. The Israeli paper noted, "Under the newly instated Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code, announced by Agriculture Minister David Carter, commercially killed animals would have to be stunned before slaughter, making kosher slaughter, or shechita, illegal, according to the Jewish Australian News service. According to the report, while the new regulations are to take immediate effect, kosher beef will be able to be imported into New Zealand." Kosher poultry will only be allowed to be imported into New Zealand if it has already been processed.

The European Union considered a ban on shechita last year.

Meat Prices Expected to Rise in Israel
Earlier this month, YNet reported that Israeli retailers predicted that the price of meat would increase substantially. Because Argentina was experiencing a shortage of meat among Argentinian consumers, it stopped exporting meat. Israel imports large quantities of kosher meat from Argentina, which led to a shortage of meat in Israel. YNet noted, "The retailers estimate that the prices will eventually rise by 15-20% in supermarkets and restaurants. The prices of meat in Israel are relatively high as it is."

Update on Lawsuit Against Hudson Valley Foie Gras
In December, I recommended an article that discussed The Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) lawsuit against Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG). (Click here to read my 2005 post about HVFG's Jewish connections.) Earlier this month, a federal court in New York ruled in favor of HSUS "in its federal lawsuit charging the nation's largest foie gras factory farm with numerous violations of the federal Clean Water Act," a HSUS press release said. The press release added:

"This facility has flouted federal pollution laws for years, and we are delighted to see justice done for the environment, animals and local residents who have all suffered at the hands of this factory farm," said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS.

In its ruling, the court issued an injunction against further Clean Water Act violations by HVFG, ordered HVFG to hire an expert and take remedial action, provided that HVFG will be fined $25,000 per day per violation for further violations, and ordered HVFG to pay $50,000 for an environmental project in lieu of paying civil penalties. ...

[HVFG's foie gras production] not only results in extreme suffering for the birds, it also produces a significant amount of waste, including manure and slaughter waste. The case alleges that some of this waste has been discharged into the Middle Mongaup River.

Two Notable Punk Bands on Jewcy
There are two punk bands I've been meaning to write about recently, but I'm going to link to Jewcy's posts about them instead. I wanted to see Montonix, a punk band from Tel Aviv, when they played with Old Time Relijun in Brooklyn last month, but I couldn't make it. Jewcy noted a couple weeks ago that reports that Monotnix's singer had broken his leg "were greatly exaggerated."

Jewcy also introduced me to an Orthodox pop-punk band called The Groggers, whose songs include "Get" (about why it's time to get a get and get divorced) and "Mitzvah Night" (a song about a certain mitzvah that is performed on Shabbat). Says the band's MySpace page, "This music may not be suitable for mentches under bar-mitzvah. The concept is Jewish music with an edge. Plain and simple it's what would happen if more Jewish artists let loose and said what they were really thinking."

"Go Vegan!" Art Exhibit
Jonathan Horowitz's 2002 art exhibit "Go Vegan!" is making an appearance at a recently vacated meat locker in Manhattan until June 19. A press release noted:
With its signature combination of subjectivity, pathos and humor, Jonathan Horowitz’s “Go Vegan!” explores vegetarianism and sustainability while also hinting at parallel issues that emerge in a world gorging daily upon celebrity and commoditized pop culture. ...

When one examines the troubling contradictions – astonishing cruelty, environmental and health risks, economic imbalances - involved with the business behind and mass consumption of meat, vegetarianism takes on the urgency of much larger debates in which the survival of the human race is at stake.


Cuteness and Prom King Candidacy in the Same Veggie Weekend

Last weekend marked the third annual Veggie Pride Parade in New York City, and the first-ever Veggie Prom and Vegan (Prom Hangover) Potluck Picnic were coordinated to coincide with the event. All in the same weekend, I secured my spot in a contest for cuteness and vied for the title of "Prom King."

On May 16, as I wrote on The Jew & The Carrot the following day, "I embodied the dual identity of the Jew and the carrot once again to lead the third annual Veggie Pride Parade through the streets of Manhattan. Trailing a police escort and walking in front of hundreds of enthusiastic herbivores, I frequently shouted 'Eat Your Veggies, Not Your Friends!' while dressed as Chris P. Carrot."

Today, The PETA Files announced a contest for the cutest photo. Click here to vote for the picture of me as Chris P. Carrot alongside my "wife," Penelo Pea Pod. As I just posted on The Jew & The Carrot, "A post on PETA’s blog announced, 'Calling all connoisseurs of cuteness: We need your help deciding which of the following pics from recent PETA demonstrations is the most aww-inspiring.' (Note: Although PETA owns the costume that I borrowed, the event was not a PETA demonstration.) The other photos feature a little kid protesting against the cruelty of the dairy industry and someone in an elephant costume educating people about the abuse of elephants in circuses."

Earlier that weekend, I attended a fun prom-themed dance party called Veggie Prom. The event was organized by the folks who run Veggie Conquest and DJed by DJ Lil Ray. At least half of the "Prom Court" (candidates for "Prom King" and "Prom Queen") consisted of vegan Jews. I don't know how I got nominated, but it was fun to participate. The title of Prom King was given to fellow herbivorous heeb David Benzaquen (left), who works for Farm Sanctuary.


The Four Questions: Allen Teboul of Clockwork Allen

Allen Teboul has toured and recorded albums as the drummer for The Slackers, a legendary ska/rocksteady/reggae band, and he's currently making his third attempt at being a ba'al teshuva. Combine Teboul's musicianship with his interest in Judaism, and you get his solo project: Clockwork Allen, a San Diego punk/reggae band for which Teboul is the singer, drummer, and songwriter. Check out Clockwork Allen's MySpace page to listen to some of the band's songs.

Here is Allen Teboul in his own words.

1. How does Judaism impact the lyrical content of some of Clockwork Allen's current or upcoming music?
Clockwork Allen depicts the personal struggle of a Jew who went from yeshiva life in Brooklyn to becoming a drummer in the punk rock and reggae scenes in California. This concoction is my attempt at making sense out of mending together my religious and secular identity. I started this project using music and lyrics I had written over the years. All of my songs in one way or another correlate to my Jewish identity and provide the view of a Jew from the "other side of the tracks." I began the project after spending a couple of years playing drums for The Slackers (Hell-Cat Records), a ska, rocksteady, and reggae band from New York.

The Torah, which Hashem personally gave us, is a tree of life and essential blueprint on how to live. I continually try my hardest to consider how my outlook and actions line up with it. Judaism is the counterbalance that keeps everything in check and a catalyst for the neshama (soul). Studying the various texts, mainly Chassidut, unlocks the hidden messages contained within the Torah. Being a self-proclaimed radical, I would have to say that the words and warnings of the prophets (in the Tanach) have a direct impact on the lyrics I write. We play punk rock, and we tell it like it is, so it is not recommended for the weak-hearted and may not jive with mainstream Jewish thinking. Clockwork Allen pushes the envelope because it needs to be pushed during turbulent times. It’s the storm before the calm as we wait in anticipation of the arrival of Moshiach.

2. What role does your Jewish identity play in shaping the band's outlook, and is that consistent with the spirit of punk?
Jewish identity plays a key role for obtaining clarity through the ways of the Torah. The current band outlook is about the struggle with being ba’al teshuva (coming back to being observant) and the challenge of being cast off and singled out by some of your own people. It’s not easy being an observant Jew with tattoos and a turbulent past. For starters, the element of being rejected by the mainstream is consistent with punk rock. It speaks out against religious people who preach ahavat Yisroel (loving your fellow Jew) but tend to be all talk and no action. It also speaks out against lashon hara (gossip) and how it harms the nation of Israel as a whole. I attend shul at Chabad, and I get mixed reactions from members of the community, but it’s OK. I don’t go to shul to gain their acceptance.

My music has always talked about government and authoritarian oppression, anti-Semitism, real-life experiences, and rising from the ashes. Living the life of a Jew goes completely against the grain of today’s Christian-based global society. It is a rebellion in its own sense as we try once again to be a light to all other nations by coming together as b’nai Yisroel. Thus, I would say it definitely encompasses Judaism in many ways.

Some examples of what I am currently recording: a punk rock version of the "Shema Yisroel" and "Vi’Ahavta," a dancehall song entitled "Eshet Chayil," and another punk song entitled "Loshan Hora." I have a few other tricks up my sleeve too. More recently, I have been experimenting with niggunim to see which ones would make good punk rock songs. That’s going to be fun.

3. When you play drums for Jewish holiday functions, do you feel like you have to be in a different mindset compared to when you've played with punk, rock, ska, rocksteady, and reggae bands?
I think the act of playing music is a state of mind on its own. It’s all about feeling the music you are playing and finding the groove no matter what style or what the setting is. I stay true to myself by not putting on an "act" when playing music at Jewish functions. I am an open book, and I have nothing to hide. I’ve always been known to march to the beat of my own drum. No matter where I am, I think of Hashem. Even when I’m thrashing about in a pit.

4. Jewish punk bands are very scattered geographically. Do you envision the growth of a Jewish punk "scene" or movement?
I would have to say that I do not envision the growth of a Jewish punk scene. It took about 30 years for punk rock to be recognized and accepted by the mainstream, so I don’t see any rhyme or reason for the emergence of a punk movement that is specifically Jewish. Jews have been involved in the punk scene from its inception in the mid/late 1970s. I could totally see more Jewish punk bands sprouting up in the future as the social impact of Generation X on Judaism grows.


Jewish and Christian Blessing of the Animals Articles

I've noted previously that in October, I attended two Christian blessing of the animals ceremonies and wrote an article about them that was under consideration for publication. The article has now been published by The Revealer. It discusses one woman's confusion as to why she takes her dogs to get blessed, one man's hope that G-d would help a dog who is suffering from kidney failure, and that dog's relentless barking at a police horse.

On Saturday I attended a Jewish blessing of the animals at Temple Emanu-El of West Essex in Livingston, N.J., and an article about this event and the larger trend has also been published by The Revealer. Here's an excerpt:
“We celebrate the wonderful variety of animals in our lives,” said Rabbi Mark Kaiserman during the service, interspersing standard havdalah prayers with thanksgiving for animals. “The wonderful dogs and all their joy and energy, the amazing cats who rule us and are our masters, our gerbils and hamsters and bunny rabbits and fish, the birds that flap in the cages wishing they were free but loving to be with us, and from the ant farms and the earthworms to all of the animals that make our lives joyous, we celebrate them. … We celebrate each of them and all the joy they bring to us and thank G-d for the blessing that they provide our lives.”
In December, I noted that at least 21 synagogues or other Jewish organizations had held blessing of the animals ceremonies. The tally is now up to 23. In a phone interview last month, Rabbi Micah Caplan told me that both Bet Shira Congregation in Miami, Fla., (his current shul) and Congregation Shaarei Torah in Arcadia, Calif., (his former shul) had hosted blessing of the animals events.

The following is an index of my writing about Jewish and Christian blessing of the animals ceremonies:


Tips for Vegetarians and Vegans on Birthright Trips

Birthright trips are a wonderful opportunity for 18- to 26-year-olds to travel to Israel for free. I sometimes receive e-mails from vegetarians and vegans who are going on Birthright trips and came across my old posts on heebnvegan via a Google search. Here is a compilation of the tips I give them.

Food Advice
  • First and foremost, you should communicate with your trip organizers in advance to let them know about your dietary restrictions or food allergies. You should also let your trip's staff know when you meet them on the first day.
  • More often than not, you won't have any trouble as a vegetarian or vegan. Still, I recommend taking some protein bars (sealed and unwrapped) with you just to be safe; double-check the rules for bringing food into a foreign country before heeding my advice. Meals on my trip varied greatly: Sometimes we had lavish buffets at fancy hotels, and sometimes we had a half-hour to grab falafel (or shwarma, for the meat-eaters) while walking through a village. But in addition to finding the best falafel and hummus you've ever had, you'll find a lot of fresh veggies and creative salads at many of the meals. I also wound up having a lot of figs and other fresh fruit, nuts, potatoes, and couscous. All in all, it was likely a healthier diet than the mock-meat-centered diet I was eating in the U.S. at the time.
  • Almost everyone speaks English, but it's conceivable that there'd be some places you go to where you'd have to special-order and the people wouldn't speak great English. Ask the trip staff for assistance in these situations.
  • Most of the accouterments for falafel in a pita (or a laffa, which is another bread option), including tehini sauce (sesame-based), are vegan. Tzadiki sauce has dairy, and you should ask for your falafel without tzadiki. This is an easy accommodation.
  • Vegetarian schnitzel (cutlet) is a popular alternative to chicken schnitzel. Think of it as though you were getting a veggie burger in a restaurant in the US. It might have some egg or dairy ingredients you don't know about, but whether you eat it anyway depends on how strict a vegan you are.
  • Shakshouka is a popular vegetarian dish, but it has a whole egg in it and isn't vegan.
  • The presence of meat might mean that some dishes are vegan! I realize that this is counter-intuitive for those who aren't familiar with kashrut (the noun form of "kosher"). If you go to an all-kosher restaurant or are looking at packaged foods marked kosher, there are three categories: dairy, meat, and pareve. Meat and dairy cannot be mixed together (in individual dishes or even in the same meal) in kosher facilities, so if you know that a restaurant is certified kosher and that meat is present, the mashed potatoes are definitely dairy-free. ("Pareve" means no dairy or meat with regard to kashrut, but pareve foods might include eggs or fish, so "pareve" does not necessarily mean vegan.)

Miscellaneous Advice
  • Some trips include camel rides. If you have an ethical objection to supporting a touristy business that likely overworks camels even in extreme heat, tell your trip staff up-front that you plan to avoid this activity.
  • You're allowed to bring two bags (not including a carry-on bag) with you. Find a way to bring only one. You don't want to be schlepping two around with you the whole time.
  • On my trip, we arrived in Israel in the early morning (Israeli time) and had a full day of activity, and then a lot of us wanted to stay up at night for social reasons. I got one hour of sleep on the plane because I was excited, which meant that I was quite exhausted on Day 1 (and that exhaustion stayed with me for the rest of the trip). One woman sitting near me on the plane took an over-the-counter sleeping pill and slept through the entire flight, and she was raring to go. I normally avoid pills whenever possible, but I think she had the right idea. Use the flight to Israel to sleep, because the rest of the 10-day trip is push push push and you'll regret not sleeping on the plane.


Jewish Community High School Named the Most Vegetarian-Friendly

San Francisco's Jewish Community High School was named the winner of peta2's Most Vegetarian-Friendly Cafeteria contest on Monday.

A peta2 press release noted, "The Jewish Community High School is stepping up to meet the food demands of students who are concerned about protecting animals, the environment, and their health--the school's menu is entirely vegetarian, kosher, and organic. Some popular food options that are available in the Jewish Community High School cafeteria include vegetarian sushi, a falafel bar, potato leek soup, and a make-your-own burrito bar."

peta2 director Dan Shannon, who co-hosts an annual "secular Passover potluck seder," said in the press release, "Jewish Community High School stands as a role model for schools across the country when it comes to educating students about how their food choices affect not only their own health but also the world around them."

The school won the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's Golden Carrot Award last year. At the time, the school's director of food service, Stuart Jacobs, told j., "One of our main goals is to model and provide for healthful eating, utilizing organic produce. The program is vegetarian, and also shows it can be done in the kosher realm as well."



Update on Shackling and Hoisting
On April 14, I blogged about PETA's latest investigation of a kosher slaughterhouse that practices shackling and hoisting. On Thursday, YNet reported that the office of Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger responded to the investigation by saying, "The Rabbinate recently convened all the meat importers in Israel and notified them that they will no longer be allowed to import meat slaughtered using this method, and that the plants must switch to the boxing method, which minimizes animal suffering. Currently, following a period of adjustment in which the slaughterhouses made arrangements to carry out the new orders, the Rabbinate is prepared to enforce the new directive."

As I just wrote in a post about this matter on The Jew & The Carrot, "This new statement seems encouraging, but then again, so did the one in 2008."

Veggie Conquest Follow-Up
Last week, I wrote about Veggie Conquest 4, in which my friend Sherri competed. Both Sherri and I are featured in Our Hen House's 19-minute video about the event. I told Our Hen House, "I'm here at Veggie Conquest 4, and I made Swedish-Style Charoset at Veggie Conquest 3. I really wanted to attend last time, but it was all sold out and the only way to get in was to be a chef. So I looked for inspiration to my favorite chef, Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show; dressed up as him; and made a Passover dish Swedish (really not doing anything different to it) and had by far the worst dish there. But I got in for free and got to eat some amazing food, so it was all worth it."

Vegan Dance If You Want To featured a firsthand account from one of the other contestants. Veggie Conquest's blog featured a wrap-up post as well as recipes for the winning dish and the runner-up.

Matthue Roth's 1/20
In January, heebnvegan featured an interview with Matthue Roth. He discussed the film 1/20, for which he wrote the screenplay.

Last week, Roth opened up about the movie on his blog. He said, "It's not Jewish -- well, not flagrantly. None of the main characters are -- all the characters are collaborations between me and the director and the actors, and I think we all squeezed a lot of our spirituality/religion/punkitude into them. Ayako, who plays the lead character, is the kind of brilliant that shatters glass from miles away when she's angry, and spreads love pheromones to people two counties away. ... It's pretty flagrantly punk, though. You'll see as soon as I'm allowed to show the movie poster -- Ayako's hair is an art piece. An art piece that's 18 inches tall."