For Immediate Release:
September 25, 2008
Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)        Phone: (718) 761-5876

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

We commend the Rabbinical Council of America for its new ethical initiative to produce a comprehensive guide to ethical business practice, with special attention to the kosher industry. (Please see JTA article below.) At a time when there are so many allegations of infractions at the Postville, Iowa glatt kosher slaughterhouse, their initiative is very important and deserves much praise.

However, in their consideration of the kosher meat industry, we respectfully urge the RCA to consider that:

* The production and consumption of animal-based diets arguably violate Jewish teachings on preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources and helping hungry people.

* Animal-based diets are causing an epidemic of heart disease, several types of cancer and other diseases in the Jewish and other communities.

* Animal-based agriculture is contributing significantly to global warming and other environmental problems that threaten all of humanity.

* According to a 2006 UN report, livestock 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).

* 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.

* The raising of 60 billion farmed animals annually worldwide for slaughter also contributes significantly to rapid species extinction, soil erosion and depletion, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habits, and many more environmental problems.

* Making all of the above points more serious, 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 change.

It is essential that our rabbis and other Jewish leaders recognize that a major shift toward plant-based diets is essential to avoid the unparalleled disaster that the world is rapidly approaching and to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path..

JVNA would very much welcome respectful dialogues/debates with RCA rabbis and, indeed, all rabbis and other Jewish leaders on “Should Jews be Vegetarians?” Such discussions would constitute a kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of G-d's Name) because it would show the applicability of eternal Jewish teachings to dietary issues.

Further information about these issues can be found at the JVNA web site We will provide complimentary copies of its new documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD to rabbis and other Jewish leaders who will contact us (  and indicate how they might use them to involve their congregations on the issues. The entire movie can be seen and further information about it can be found at

Here is the JTA article on the RCA initiative:

Orthodox rabbis launch business ethics task force


An Orthodox rabbinical group is formulating a guide to ethical business practices with an eye on the kosher industry.

The Rabbinical Council of America announced Wednesday that the task force, chaired by Jewish business ethics authority Rabbi Asher Meir, would produce a detailed guide to ethical practice
in business in general and the kosher industry in particular.
"We believe that the kosher food industry as a whole maintains an exemplary level of ethical practice, thanks in part to the presence of kosher agencies and supervisors," the RCA said. "Nonetheless, we attach importance to having ethical guidelines incorporated as a matter of policy by companies receiving kosher supervision, thereby further raising the level of ethical compliance throughout the industry."
The RCA initiative follows a similar effort begun by Conservative rabbis to establish an ethical certification that kosher food companies could pay to apply to their products, provided they have met certain criteria.
Rabbi Basil Herring, the RCA's executive vice president, told JTA that the new initiative would not "police" businesses, saying that is beyond the scope of his organization's abilities. The guide would require companies to pledge adherence to relevant civil laws and regulations, but would only "encourage" companies to strive for compliance with Jewish ethical principles.
Herring also stipulated that the RCA was not expanding the definition of kosher, as some critics have accused the Conservative initiative, known as Hekhsher Tzedek, of doing. The initiative's organizers deny they are expanding the definition of kosher.

"Kosher is not a catch-all," Herring said. "Kosher has a specific reference when it comes to food, and therefore we don't really want to blur that distinction.

"But having said that, it's not enough just to say I don't care as long as the meat conforms to the laws of slaughtering, nothing else is of significance. We believe that we have a moral responsibility as Jews, and if you will as religious Jews, to say that it is also improtant ... that principles of social responsibility, of social justice, be upheld. And be upheld publicly."

Herring said the organization has set mid-December as a target date for completing its guidelines



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

President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)

and Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV)

Associate Producer of A SACRED DUTY (
Director of Veg Climate Alliance (