For Immediate Release:
June 26, 2008
Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
President@JewishVeg.com        Phone: (718) 761-5876

Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) issued the following statement today:

Because a shift toward plant-based diets is essential today to reduce the current epidemic of diseases afflicting Jews and others and to reduce threats from global warming and other environmental problems, JVNA is starting a major campaign to get vegetarianism onto the Jewish agenda. As a major part of this campaign, we are sending the letter below to rabbis and other Jewish leaders:

Dear Rabbi,

We are writing to you because you have the potential to make a tremendous difference in efforts to move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path, to improve the health of the Jewish people and to show the relevance of Judaism's eternal teachings to today's crises.

There are three reasons why we think it is essential that you become involved:

1. The world is rapidly approaching an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats, and a shift toward plant-based diets is an essential part of the necessary response to avoid disaster.

2. There is an epidemic of heart disease, several types of cancer and other chronic, degenerative diseases afflicting Jews and others, and a shift toward vegetarian diets would sharply reduce these diseases.

3. The production and consumption of meat and other animal products sharply contradict basic Jewish mandates to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people and seek and pursue peace.

[To keep the main message relatively short, material supporting these three major points has been put as a supplement immediately after this letter.]

Because of the three major points above, points that are generally not being considered in the Jewish community, we are asking you to help get these issues onto the Jewish agenda. This would be a tremendous kiddush HaShem,  by reducing the epidemic of disease in the Jewish  community (and other communities), alleviating many of the  critical environmental threats to the sustainability of the planet,  and showing that basic Jewish values can play a role in the  solution of current societal problems.  To paraphrase Megilat Esther, perhaps you reached your present position for just such a purpose.

As b'nei nevi'im, with a mandate to be "a light onto the nations" and
G-d's witnesses, can we remain silent when so many basic Jewish
values are being violated, while so many Jews and others suffer needlessly from diseases that can be prevented and while present policies are leading the  world to an unsustainable future?

Please join our respectful campaign to make Jews more aware of
the many benefits of plant-based diets and the many ways that animal-
based agriculture and diets deviate from basic Jewish values.  It is
becoming increasingly clear that vegetarianism is not only an
important personal choice, but that it is a societal imperative as
well as a spiritual imperative for Jews.

Further information about these issues can be found at JewishVeg.com. We will provide a complimentary copy of our new documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD if you contact us (president@JewishVeg.com)  and indicate that you consider using it as part of an effort to educate others about the issues. The entire movie can be seen and further information about it can be found at ASacredDuty.com.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz
President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America
Supplementary Material

1. World imperiled by global warming and other environmental threats and animal-based agriculture is a major factor

Global warming goes way beyond “an inconvenient truth.” We are overheating our planet to alarming levels with potentially catastrophic consequences. 2006 was the hottest year on record in the U.S. and the 12 hottest years on record have occurred since 1994. Think of an overheated car, an overcooked dinner, or someone sick with a fever. Now imagine that on a planetary scale.

Global warming is perhaps the biggest social, political economic, and environmental problem facing our planet and its inhabitants. People are becoming increasingly aware of and concerned about global warming, due to frequent reports of record heat, wildfires, an increase in the number and severity of storms, droughts, the melting of glaciers, permafrost, and polar ice caps, rising sea levels, flooding, acidification of the oceans, changes in wind direction, endangered species, spreading diseases, shrinking lakes, submerged islands, and environmental refugees. We may be standing at a precipice.

There is no doubt that humanity is threatened as perhaps never before and major changes have to occur to put our imperiled planet on a sustainable path - and soon. Even though a small number of individuals argue against global warming, there is a scientific and environmental consensus  - among all major scientific and environmental organizations, journals, and magazines, and all peer-reviewed scholarly articles - that global warming is real, serious, worsening, and caused or exacerbated by human activity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fourth Assessment Report in February 2007, which was researched and written by about 2,500 climate scientists over six years and vetted by over 130 governments. The Report carefully delineates clear trends and catastrophic consequences associated with climate change, warning of the possibility of severe and irreversible change, unless we make concerted efforts to counter global warming. The IPCC makes it plain that the current and projected climate change is not simply “natural variation”, but “very likely” (meaning at least 90%) the result of human activity. Even Time Magazine (and the Brookings Institution among many others) has declared the “case closed” on the problem of global warming, with only the solutions to still debate.

Several leading experts, including James Hansen of NASA and physicist Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most famous living scientist, as well as Al Gore and others, warn that global climate change may reach a 'tipping point' and spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, if current conditions continue. A recent 700-page British government report, authored by a former chief economist for the World Bank, projects losses of up to 20% of world gross domestic product by 2050 unless 1% of current world domestic product is devoted to combating global climate change. Other economic studies have projected even worse scenarios. It therefore should not be surprising that the Pentagon states that global warming is a larger threat than even terrorism.

While the world is increasingly threatened by global warming, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars and other means of transportation worldwide combined (18 percent vs. 13.5 percent), according to a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report. Making the situation even worse, that same report indicates that the consumption of animal products is projected to double in 50 years. If this happens, it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to reduce greenhouse emissions enough to avoid very severe effects from global climate

Israel is especially threatened by global warming. A 2007 report by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense indicated that global warming may cause an average temperature increase of 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a decrease in rainfall of up to 30 percent, many severe storms and a rising Mediterranean Sea that would cause major flooding and damage ports, power plants and other infrastructure.

At a time when food prices are skyrocketing, food riots are occurring in many areas and an estimated 20 million people are dying annually worldwide from hunger and its effects, over 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and over 40 percent produced worldwide are fed to farmed animals.

In an increasingly thirsty and energy-dependent world, animal-based diets require up to 14 times as much water and 10 times as much energy as vegan (all plants) diets.

When we read daily reports of the effects of global climate change, such as record heat waves, severe storms, widespread droughts, and the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps; when some climate scientists are warning that global climate change may spin out of control with disastrous consequences unless major changes are soon made; when a recent report indicated that our oceans may be virtually free of fish by 2050; when species of plants and animals are disappearing at the fastest rate in history; when it is projected that half of the world's people will live in areas chronically short of water by 2050; it is essential that we recognize that a major shift toward plant-based diets is essential to avoid the unprecedented catastrophe that the world is rapidly approaching and to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path.

2. Epidemic of diseases

Animal-centered diets are contributing to an epidemic of heart disease, several types of cancer and other diseases in the Jewish and other communities;


Excerpt from my book “Judaism and Vegetarianism”

Comprehensive coverage of health issues and their relation to diet may be found in The Power of Your Plate  by Neal D. Barnard, M. D., McDougall`s Medicine: A Challenging Second Opinion  by John McDougall, M. D., and MegaHealth by Marc Sorensen, Ed. D. Graphs and charts connecting nutrition to health and illness can be found in the The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism by William Harris, M. D. These books provide many primary sources from established medical journals. The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM; www.pcrm.org) has documented information about the relations between diet and disease. The tremendously important message that    is documented in these sources is that vegetarian diets can help prevent, and in some cases reverse, a wide variety of degenerative diseases and medical problems that have been strongly linked to the consumption of animal products, including: arthritis; asthma; breast cancer; colon cancer; constipation; diabetes; diverticulosis; gallstones; heart disease; hemorrhoids; hypertension; hypoglycemia; impotence; kidney disease; obesity; osteoporosis; peptic ulcers; prostate cancer; salmonellosis; and strokes.

Readers are urged to consult the sources mentioned above and other sources in the annotated Bibliography for more information on health issues.  Additional information on nutrition and health appears later in some of the questions and answers in Chapter 8.  w

Because of the abundance of documented evidence in these books and other sources, and because of space limitations, this book does not focus on dietary connections to each disease. Rather it focuses on issues not generally discussed, including:
1. The position on nutrition and health of the American Dietetic Association;
2. The Cornell/China/Oxford Study, perhaps the largest epidemiological study in history;
3. Studies led by Dean Ornish, M.D. that show that heart disease may be reversed without surgery or medical drugs;
4. A book by a veteran breast cancer surgeon that considers many scientific studies to show that t  4he risk of contracting breast cancer (and, by implication, other diseases) can be sharply reduced;
5. The negative health effects of the overuse of antibiotics in medicine and in animal feed.

Position of The American Dietetic Association:

The following information  from the "Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets" (Journal of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), November, 1997, Volume 97, Number 11) indicates that a well planned vegetarian diet is not only nutritionally adequate, but that it can reduce the risk of many diseases. A summary of their position follows:

Scientific data suggest positive relationships between a vegetarian diet and reduced risk for several chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including obesity, coronary artery disease, hype  rtension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer. Vegetarian diets, like all diets, need to be planned appropriately to be nutritionally adequate.

Their position statement is:
It is the position of The American Dietetic Association (ADA) that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, are nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

Among the many other positive statements the ADA makes about connections between plant-based diets and health are the following (they cite appropriate peer-reviewed scientific articles in each case):
1. Studies indicate that vegetarians often have lower morbidity and mortality rates from several chronic degenerative diseases than do non-vegetarians. Although non-dietary factors, including physical activity and abstinence from smoking and alcohol, may play a role, diet is clearly a contributing factor.
2. Vegetarian diets offer disease protection benefits because of their lower saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein content and often higher concentration of folate (which reduces serum homocysteine levels), antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids, and phytochemicals.
3. Not only is mortality from coronary artery disease lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians, but vegetarian diets have also been successful as part of comprehensive health programs to reverse severe coronary artery disease.
4.  Vegetarians tend to have a lower incidence of hypertension than non- vegetarians.
5. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is much less likely to be a cause of death in vegetarians than non-vegetarians.
6. Incidence of lung and colorectal cancer is lower in vegetarians than in non- vegetarians. Reduced colorectal cancer risk is associated with increased consumption of fiber, vegetables, and fruit.
7.   Å Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids if a variety of plant foods are consumed and energy needs are met.


In view of all of the material in this chapter and many well-documented books, it would seem that the numerous halachic rules prohibiting dangerous activities should be extended to include a mandate reducing the ingestion of meat to a minimal level, and there should be a recommendation that those who continue to eat small amoun  Tts of kosher meat, possibly as an interim step, should only use organically raised meat from animals not raised under cruel "factory farm" conditions. Such an extension by leading rabbinic authorities of our time, with proper publicity, would save many lives and improve the health and life expectancy of the Jewish people and many others.

3. Claim that the production and consumption of animal products violate six basic Jewish teachings

Material from the chapter on vegetarianism in my book “Judaism and Global Survival”:

This chapter addresses a widely accepted aspect of modern life that contradicts many Jewish teachings and harms people, communities, and the planet -- the mass production and widespread consumption of meat. It will illustrate how high meat consumption and the ways in which meat is produced today conflict with Judaism in at least six important areas:

1. While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.

2. While Judaism forbids tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, most farm animals -- including those raised for kosher consumers -- are raised on "factory farms" where they live in cramped, confined spaces, and are often drugged, mutilated, and denied fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and any enjoyment of life, before they are slaughtered and eaten.

3. While Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord's" (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God's partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes substantially to soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, global warming, and other environmental damage.

4 While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, that we are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, and that we are not to use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, animal agriculture requires the wasteful use of grain, land, water, energy, and other resources.

5. While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million people worldwide die because of hunger and its effects each year.

6. While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that eventually lead to instability and war.

In view of these important Jewish mandates to preserve human health, attend to the welfare of animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, help feed hungry people, and pursue peace, and since animal-centered diets violate and contradict each of these responsibilities, committed Jews (and others) should sharply reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products.    

One could say "dayenu" (it would be enough) after any of the arguments above, because each one constitutes by itself a serious conflict between Jewish values and current practice that should impel Jews to seriously consider a plant-based diet. Combined, they make an urgently compelling case for the Jewish community to address these issues.


Plant-based diets are most consistent with basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people.

Because of all of the above and much more, including that billions of animals are severely mistreated on factory farms, we respectfully urge you to help get vegetarianism and related issues onto the Jewish agenda. This would help move our imperiled world to a sustainable path and help revitalize Judaism by showing the relevance of Judaism's eternal teachings to today's crises.

It is urgent that tikkun olam-the healing and repair of the world -- be a central issue in synagogues, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions. Judaism has splendid teachings on environmental conservation and sustainability, and it is essential that they be applied to respond to the many current environmental threats.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
Author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism," "Judaism and Global Survival," and "Mathematics and Global Survival," and over 130 articles at www.JewishVeg.com/schwartz
President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) www.JewishVeg.com
and Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV)
Associate Producer of A SACRED DUTY (asacredduty.com)
Director of Veg Climate Alliance (www.vegclimatealliance.org)