The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are now well-documented, as are
the increased risks of cancer and heart disease that come with eating meat.
these are personal benefits, and personal risks; most people are content
view such a "lifestyle" decision, like the decision to smoke, as a matter
Would it were that easy! Today, with the advent of "factory farming,"
considerations must come into play. Mathematician Schwartz, while never
resorting to emotional appeal, wants us to realize that modern meat
production is a completely automated, entirely impersonal, mechanized
industry, with billions of animals spending their entire lives - 24 hours
day, seven days a week - in tiny pens or cages, never seeing the sun,
being allowed the freedom to walk even a few steps. How many of us can
complacent in the face of such institutionalized cruelty?
Is it enough, he asks, that an animal is killed painlessly, if its whole
is spent under such conditions? Is this what God intended when He gave man
"dominion" over the animal kingdom?
No, it is not, answers Schwartz, who cites many biblical and rabbinic
to prove that the biblical permission to eat meat was only a temporary
concession to human weakness; humanity before the Flood was vegetarian,
will be so again in the messianic era.
Indeed, Schwartz argues powerfully that the pursuit of universal peace and
justice, and the end of world hunger - all hallmarks of the messianic age - requires Jews in particular, in their role as "a light unto the
nations," to be in the vanguard of the vegetarian movement.
Did you know, for example, that 70 percent of the grain grown in the
States is used to feed animals destined for slaughter? Or that 80 percent
the water used in the US goes toward animal agriculture? Or that land
potatoes, rice, and other vegetables can support 20 times as many people
land producing grain-fed beef? Or that many leading scientists now rank
environmental damage caused by the meat industry as second only to that
caused by the use of fossil fuels?
In this fact-filled volume, Schwartz goes to great lengths in proving that
vegetarianism in no way conflicts with Orthodox Judaism, and points out
many leading religious Jews both past and present - Rabbi Shear Yashuv
Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa among them - have concluded that a
plant-based diet is something which all "noble souls" should embrace.
"Judaism and Vegetarianism" devotes entire chapters to answering commonly
asked questions, supplies ammunition which vegetarians can use in
the skeptics, and provides extensive lists of Jewish vegetarian groups and
books for further reading. Every argument is supported by facts, and every
fact is documented. Schwartz has made a case that is difficult to refute,
in a book you will find difficult to ignore.