| A Moral Refusal To Mix Milk — or Anything — With Meat
Except for That Damned Apple, Adam
and Eve Were Onto Something Big — and Ethical
By NATHAN BRAUN
Judaism and Vegetarianism
By Richard H. Schwartz
Lantern, 230 pages, $18 (paper).
Foot and mouth disease is treading closely on the hoofs of the
epidemic of mad cow disease that recently swept Europe. Yet curiously,
all around the world one species that isn't even infected is nonetheless
very affected, and acting very strangely. An ocean away from the
plague, we Homo sapiens in America are increasingly returning
to the herbivorous "roots" of Eden, as depicted in the very first
chapters of Genesis.
Adam and Eve were indeed the first vegetarians, Richard Schwartz
tells us in his updated and revised edition of "Judaism and Vegetarianism"
(first published by Micah Publishing in 1982 and reprinted in 1988).
But if this "Bible of the Jewish vegetarian movement" is any indication
arguing as it does that a vegetarian diet is both a societal
imperative as well as an especially Jewish one they were
onto something big.
Mr. Schwartz, a professor emeritus of mathematics at the College
of Staten Island, writes that animal-based agriculture and diets
require far more land, water, energy and other agricultural resources
than plant-based diets, with the result that meat consumption and
especially production have devastating effects on our air, water
and land and likewise contribute substantially to global climate
change. Thus, our current diets have a negative impact on the world's
food supply and are also a major factor behind rapidly rising medical
The author also seeks to demonstrate that vegetarianism is an
especially Jewish imperative, since the realities of the production
and consumption of animal products violate basic Jewish teachings
to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the
environment, conserve resources, help hungry people and pursue peace
Since many difficult questions are asked of vegetarians, Mr. Schwartz
provides 62 questions and answers on a wide variety of Jewish and
general issues. These questions include: Don't we have to eat meat
on the Sabbath and to rejoice on festivals? Isn't it a sin not to
take advantage of pleasurable things like eating meat? Weren't we
given dominion over animals? What about sacrificial temple services?
Aren't vegetarians deviating from Jewish tradition in asserting
that people and animals are of equal value? Mr. Schwartz's cogent
answers enable vegetarians to respond effectively to the concerns
In order to give as complete an analysis of Jewish connections
to vegetarianism as possible, Mr. Schwartz includes biographies
of famous Jewish vegetarians, including Isaac Bashevis Singer, S.Y.
Agnon, Franz Kafka and several present and past chief rabbis; a
discussion of Jewish vegetarian groups and activities in Israel,
the United States and England, where the International Jewish Vegetarian
Society is located; contact information for the leading Jewish vegetarian
and vegetarian-related groups; ideas for promoting vegetarianism;
suggestions for a healthy Jewish vegetarian lifestyle, and an extensive
Indeed, Mr. Schwartz amasses such an abundance of statistics and
a wide variety of quotations from the Torah, Talmud and other traditional
Jewish sources to bolster his case that, after reading "Judaism
and Vegetarianism," this reviewer can only agree with the assessment
of a reviewer for Fellowship magazine that "it would be hard
for anyone ethically sensitive Jew or non-Jew to read
this book and not take up the vegetarian cause."
At a time when the United States and much of the world is confronted
with degenerative diseases, mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease,
soaring health-care costs, a multitude of environmental threats,
increasingly severe effects of global climate change, widespread
hunger, as well as widening scarcities of water and energy, the
powerful teachings of the Jewish tradition on vegetarianism and
other positive societal changes should no longer be ignored. Hence,
this important, challenging book deserves a wide readership and
much discussion in the Jewish community as well as in other communities
concerned with the ethical application of spiritual values to scientific
Mr. Braun, former presidential scholar (religion, culture and
ethics) at Augustana University College (Camrose, Alberta), lives
with his wife in Northrop Frye's former home of Moncton, New Brunswick.