For Immediate Release:
April 28, 2009
Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)  Phone: (718) 761-5876  Cell: 917-576-0344

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

The current widespread breakout of swine flu, related to the close confinement of thousands of animals in unsanitary conditions, where their manure piles up and viruses can proliferate and easily spread and mutate
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should be the latest wake-up call to the need to consider the many ways that animal-based diets are inconsistent with basic Jewish teachings. One is tempted to consider the song dayenu (“It would be enough”) sung at Passover seders, because of the many reasons that by themselves should be enough for Jews (and others) to shift to plant-based diets. Please consider:

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. Dayenu!

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. Dayenu!

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. Dayenu!

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. Dayenu!

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. Dayenu!

We have indicated "dayenu" after each of the arguments above, because each 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.

A shift toward vegetarianism is especially important today, with almost daily reports of severe droughts, floods, storms and wildfires and the rapid melting of glaciers and polar icecaps  and with some climate scientists, including James Hansen of NASA, warning that global climate change may spin out of control within a few years with extreme consequences unless major changes are soon made..  According to a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (18% in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars, ships, planes and other means of transportation combined (13.5%), and this difference will sharply increase because the number of farmed animals is projected to double in 50 years. Hence, without a major societal shift to plant-based diets, it will be impossible to obtain the greenhouse gas emissions that climate experts think are essential to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

Israel is especially threatened by global warming. It is now experiencing the worst drought in its history, and the reduced rainfall the last few years has so diminished the level of the Sea of Galilee that the pumping of water from it had to be stopped. In 2007 a report by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense projected that if current trends continue, Israel will experience major heat waves, storms and floods, a decrease in average rainfall of 20 to 30 percent and an inundation of the coastal plain where most Israelis live by a rising Mediterranean Sea.

In view of these great threats to Israel, all of humanity and all of creation, JVNA believes that it is essential that the Jewish community fulfill our mandate to be a 'light unto the nations' and lead efforts to address these critical issues.

JVNA is urging that tikkun olam-the healing and repair of the world -- become 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,” stated Richard Schwartz, president of JVNA.

JVNA urges rabbis and other Jewish leaders to make Jews aware of these issues and to put the many moral issues related to our diets on the Jewish agenda..

Further information about these issues can be found at JVNA will provide complimentary copies of its new documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD and related materials to rabbis and other Jewish leaders who will consider using them to involve their congregations on the issues.


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 (