There is much of interest at the intersection of a plant-based diet and the oldest monotheism. Although many Orthodox Jews have claimed that the two are mutually exclusive, statistics show that to be untrue. A hint towards that is that Jewish State of Israel counts the highest percentage of vegetarians and vegans in the world. But let’s go into some detail how Judaism actually might discourage non-plant foods.

Not all restrictions of the Jewish diet concern animal produce (non-Jewish wine, bread, cooked food, leavened foods on Pesach, grain before it’s time, fruit from too young trees, veggies of the Seventh year, etc.) but much of it centers around forbidden meats (and eggs, milk and cheese). I understand this through the following two parallels.

There is a prohibition to step on ants on Shabbat purposely, unless it can’t be helped. Only on Shabbat. But it sends a message for every day. Ants are alive — don’t just destroy them as you don’t want people to be destroyed. So when I want to remove ants from my house, I first scare them (banging) and then plug up the wholes after they left. If needed, only then I spray some poison. That’s what a kind person should do.

One should not go drink non-Jewish wine (or uncooked kosher wine that a Gentile opened, poured, moved or touched) because one should avoid marrying Gentiles — not because there is anything wrong with Gentiles, but rather because we should perpetuate a Jewish lifestyle, which cannot be expected of Gentiles (unless they want to convert). Now, one could ask: may drinking beer together not also lower thresholds and lead to intermarriage? Yes, it could, but wine is kind of ceremonial and just the wine rule sends enough of a message. Judaism is full of hints.

So I take the many injunctions against eating this and that kinds of bloods, beasts, birds, creepers, insects and fish also as saying: how certain are you that you want to eat animals at all? And the Torah trice mentions an Injunction for Jews against cooking meat in milk. In itself that’s cruel, because milk (as eggs) is for the young to survive, for perpetuation of the species. Then how can one use it to prepare the result of killing?

Some other details on Jews and veganism you may find already in my How to be a partial vegan – pros and cons: Religious obligations.

PS: News of honors for an in-vitro-meat grower proves how confused the scientific world is about artificial meat or how much it caters (pun not intended) to financial interests of the bio industry. See: this post.