‘It is impossible to imagine the Master of all things, who has mercy on all creation, making it impossible for the human race to survive except by shedding blood, even the blood of animals.”
So wrote Rav Kook, the great scholar and mystic. He had famous precursors, including Abravanel, who wrote: “Eating meat is not essential to one’s nutrition. Rather it is a matter of gluttony … and gives rise to a cruel and evil temperament (on Ex. 16:4).”
There are good reasons — health, environmental impact and sustainability and the sheer cruelty of factory farming — that make vegetarianism desirable. After all, by the industry’s own claims, in the United States, about 3 million pounds of antibiotics are given yearly to humans and 17.8 million pounds to livestock, who frequently live in appalling conditions. The same people for whom eating a dog or cat is unthinkable eat animals as alive and aware. And sadly, no — kashrut does not ensure kindness.
Ultimately it resolves to questions of conscience and appetite. We eat 150 times as many chickens as less than a century ago, and 50 billion birds suffer and are slaughtered each year to slake our appetites. Even so-called “free range chickens” can be de-beaked, drugged, force molted and cruelly slaughtered.”
This is the moral question. What’s your moral answer?
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at www.facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.