Before I begin rambling on about my proposition, I’m going to preface this by boldly asserting that Judaism is the world’s most vegan religion. That’s right. We take the cake over Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. If followed correctly, Jewish law unambiguously enforces a vegan diet, lifestyle, and mindset. It’s all about wanting to find the truth and adapting.
As a kid, I was brought up in a strictly kosher household. My mom, who is one of the most well-intentioned people in the world, prided herself as an ardent observer of most Jewish laws. I was always told, not only by my mother but by our Rabbi, that it’s imperative for us Jews to follow a kosher lifestyle for the betterment of our health and because it’s the most ethical of choices. After all, Kosher Slaughter (Shechita) is designed to cause as little pain to the animal as possible. Moreover, the rules of separating dairy from meat have been given to us to avoid practicing animal cruelty (i.e. boiling a kid in its mother’s milk). Ironically, the dairy industry does just that; killing calves at the expense of extracting milk from their mothers. There is no crueler industry.
Anyway, from a very young age, I found it immensely hard to piece the logic together. I mean, you’re killing a sentient being with a soul against his or her will. Truth is, no living creature wants to die. Yet despite my uncertainties and my gut telling me it’s wrong, I placed my trust in their convictions. Though just like anything, a turning point presented itself and clumsily twirled my perspective like a beginner salsa student in a fast-paced class. The last straw for me was when I got caught up in the YouTube vortex and encountered a video exposing what takes place in kosher slaughterhouses. There was nothing ethical about what I witnessed and it was definitely not how I had imagined it. Why and how could God enable this? For years that question kept haunting me like a Jewish mother-induced guilt trip. So, I started reading the fine print and discovered a side of Judaism I never thought existed. A side many Jewish scholars conveniently chose to overlook. I’d like to change that and, with your help, amend Judaism’s laws of Kashrut.
Tza’ar Ba’aley Chayim
Even though the bible doesn’t prohibit us from consuming meat, dairy, honey, and eggs, Judaism unequivocally forbids humans from causing unnecessary suffering to animals. This Talmudic commandment is also known as Tza’ar Ba’aley Chaim, which literally means “The Suffering of Animals”, and that is all animals, including livestock. You see, back in Biblical times they didn’t know better. Nutrition wasn’t a key priority and they ate what they believed was good for them at the time. In many cases, the climate was so bad, they’d ostensibly have no choice but to eat meat, thus you could argue that the killing of the animals was necessary for them. Nowadays, things are very different.
It is now commonly established (by every Dietetic Association) and acknowledged that we do not need to consume animal products to live a healthy life. Humans can live nutritionally rich and healthful lives without meat and dairy. Vegans are a testament to that; millions of vegans are living healthy and long lives solely on plant-based diets. Professional athletes, celebrities, health professionals and even some Rabbis have relinquished animal products from their diets and could not be happier.
So, yes: we do not need animal products. We can live perfectly normal lives without consuming animal flesh and dairy.
That also means that the suffering animals endure daily, which includes having their lives (or loved ones) taken from them in the cruelest of ways, is in vain and yes, you know it- unnecessary. We can live without milk or cheese, so why separate a calf from his mother? We’re not living in biblical times. I know it can be hard to give up cheese, so I’ve included a free recipe book titled The Vegan Cheeze Bible. It has every classic cheese you can think of and teaches you how to make it from home in the easiest of ways!
So, if we don’t need to consume animal flesh and secretions, then the suffering and cruelty animals undergo is in fact unnecessary. Therefore, as evolved and educated Jews and human beings, it is our responsibility to not break Tza’ar Ba’aley Chaim.
Another Judaic commandment in support of my notion is Bal Tashchit, which prohibits all wastage, including food and the unnecessary killing of animals. Frankly, I can’t believe we have gone for so long without the Rabbinical Council addressing this. I also cannot think of anything more wasteful than an omnivorous diet, which uses 5 times more grain, 10 times more water, 15 times more land and 20 times more energy when compared to a vegan diet. That’s a lot of wastage!
Judaism furthermore requires us to maintain good health and take care of our bodies. In Devarim 4:15, God Commands us to preserve our physical well-being and keep our bodies in peak shape. Considering the World Health Organization has recently classified meat as a group 1 carcinogen (you’re 18% more likely to get cancer from eating meat), I can comfortably say that you’d be breaking that commandment. Meat eating has also been associated with a high risk of stroke, diabetes, and cardiac arrest. Dairy consumption has been linked to prostate cancer, lactose intolerance, acne, high cholesterol, ovarian cancer and weight gain. Bottom line: dairy is no better and is as unhealthy as it gets.
Speaking from my personal experience, since committing to a vegan diet and lifestyle, my body has never felt better; I sleep more soundly, wake up with more energy, think faster and my bowel moves like a well-oiled machine, so the results are not only scientifically backed, they are strongly felt! My company has created, for free, an Easy 3 Ingredient Recipe Book to get you started. I’ve been there myself, I know what it’s like!
I would love to touch on Tikkun Olam, which is an important Judaic concept that translates to ‘Repair the World’. But that’s another article for another time. The negative impact the meat industry has on the environment is unambiguously disastrous. Tikkun Olam can be fundamentally achieved by committing to a plant-based regimen. If you do it, you do it properly.
In summary, it’s imperative that, as Jews, we continuously evolve. I mean, let’s face it: we wouldn’t have survived as the minority of all minorities for thousands of years had we had not adapted to whatever obstacles came our way. Now it’s time to take a step back and assess. Are we so comfortable that we’re unwilling to progress? I’m not suggesting that we progress for sake of it, but because it’s the right thing to do. All I ask of you is that you go with your heart and don’t be afraid to use common sense. By following the outdated kosher laws, you’re breaking other fundamental Jewish laws which subsequently makes it not kosher. I suggest we look at the facts and follow the intended, newly contextualized word of God by going vegan.
I’ll finish with a quote by the inspiring Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz– “Food choices matter because they are the most consistent, ethical decision we make throughout our day”