Friday, 17 May 2013

Question(s)! About Eating Animals . . . .

We recently got Netflix, which has translated to a decrease in my book consumption, corresponding to a  more-or-less proportionate increase in my movie (especially Documentary) consumption. Tonight I watched Vegucated, which makes some compelling arguments for Veganism. (The most effective for me is the animal cruelty angle). Anyway, curious how vegetarianism/veganism is viewed in the Orthodox community. My mother-in-law said that at a (Conservative) shul she attended, the rabbi has just become vegetarian, stating that he feels it is a higher form of kashrut. Would that sentiment be shared in an Orthodox context?

A quick seperate - maybe silly - eating-animals-related question: Why are eggs and fish pareve?  It seems that if chickens are considred fleishik, eggs should be too, no? And fish as a living creature should seemingly also fall into the fleishik category.


  1. > The most effective for me is the animal cruelty angle

    I don’t know. On the one hand, factory farming is cruel to animals. On the other hand, they’re cows. Do we have moral obligations to cows? The short answer is that I don’t think we do, even if that implies that a species as much superior to us as we are to cows would not have moral obligations to us.

    > stating that he feels it is a higher form of kashrut

    Nonsense. Kashrus is not about morals, it’s about spiritual purity. And not in a moral sense, but in a mechanistic sense – that is, consuming spiritually impure things makes you spiritually impure. A “higher form of kashrut” would imply a higher level of spiritual purity.

    > Why are eggs and fish pareve? It seems that if chickens are considred fleishik, eggs should be too, no? And fish as a living creature should seemingly also fall into the fleishik category.

    It’s not that living creature = fleishig. Technically, only land animals are flieshig. Birds are not, but a long, long time ago a rabbinical law decreed that birds are to be treated as fleishig, operating on the principle that the masses are idiots, and people might mistake a platter of bird flesh for a platter of cow or lamb, etc., note that it was being eaten together with milk, and mistakenly think that it’s permissible to eat meat and milk together.

  2. We're humans, we're omnivorous, we're part of the food chain. Sure, we are capable of a higher level of morality, but I don't lose (much) sleep about having an inborn desire to eat meat. I give credit to those who don't eat meat for either moral or health reasons, though. BTW, this has nothing to do with kashrus.

  3. I agree that eating meat is not inherently morally wrong as long as we need to eat meat to survive as a species. The level of cruelty described in the movie, however, was horrific. Is it morally wrong to torture other species?

    G*3 - Thanks for clarifying the chicken/egg/fish thing. That makes sense.

  4. Attitudes in the Orthodox communities generally break down as follows:

    1. There are some prominent Orthodox rabbis who are vegetarian (Rabbi Michael Skobac, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, for example). Those who are frequently mention concerns with modern methods of meat production, saying that it amounts to animal cruelty and that these methods are different from the small-scale free-range farming that traditionally took place.

    2. There are others in the Orthodox community who maintain that meat is required to properly observe Shabbat and holidays, that it is clearly permitted by halacha (traditional Jewish law) as long as everything is kosher, and that it's wrong to be "holier than thou" by thinking that we can be more ethical by forbidding meat when the Torah clearly says that eating it is okay. Insisting that everything be organic or free-range or whatever may sound nice, but the reality for religious families is that they already spend a lot of money to have meat for everyone on Shabbat and holidays, and putting in extra requirements beyond that which is required by halacha could cause real financial hardship.

    This doesn't address those who are vegetarian for other reasons, such as health concerns, aversion to meat or practical difficulties in obtaining kosher meat. We were quasi-vegetarian for years - when you are a starving student with a tiny kitchen in downtown Toronto, there just isn't the space or budget to buy kosher meat, or to be able to keep meat and milk separate. Keeping kosher while away from home, esp. in a less Jewish area, often means looking for vegan items.

  5. Thanks JRK! Very clear breakdown! And yes the $$ concerns make sense - also, I imagine humane/free-range kosher meat would be hard to find here, no?

    >Orthodox community who maintain that meat is required to properly observe Shabbat and holidays

    Is this based on tradition?

  6. Here's what I found:

    For years, my husband had a complete aversion to beef after spending time collecting cow cells from a slaughterhouse. It literally made him gag. Under those circumstances, there was no point in him forcing himself to eat meat on Shabbat, because it is supposed to bring pleasure. I, on the other hand, still liked meat, but was vegetarian during the week for health, practical and ethical reasons. For me, meat was a once-a-week pleasure. Honoring Shabbat is halacha, but the idea of doing it through eat meat is a custom, based on the fact that most people saw it as a treat.

  7. On a lighter note, I read this and thought you might enjoy:

  8. Thanks! I did! Reminds of Mr. Cl's story about how when he was asked as a child whether he's ticklish, he responded, "No, I'm Jewish".

    Update to the post while I'm here: still haven't been able to eat meat since seeing the movie . . . I'm going to need to be more selective about my movies!

  9. This is nice information blog. Thanks for Sharing.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...