Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Misunderstanding vegans as just eating lettuce (2)

(The first part one finds here.)

Just like there are many types of Jews, there are many classes of vegans. There are vegans who will never eat animal products, but there are those who would never purchase them but when they would be given to them by others (or thrown out by others), they would eat them. There are those who would never eat eggs but hidden eggs (not for Eastern but like in mayo) they would. Then there are flexitarians: they eat less meat or fish (only on Shabbat and the Festivals or only twice a month or never on Mondays). There are people who do not eat meat but they’ll eat poultry; or neither but do eat fish and/or eggs, or honey. There are people who don’t buy leather shoes or belts or silk stuff but there are those who would wear secondhand leather or silk – not causing any killing. Some are careful not to buy anything that prompted unnecessary animal testing (yet another hand cream that had to be tested).

At the moment, 5% of the Israeli population is vegan and 13 % is vegetarian! Of the 120 Members of Knesset no less than 10 are vegetarians. This jives nicely with the idea that Jews are a merciful People. The Israeli Army always accommodates for the soldiers’ beliefs (pacifists may have a hard time though). Religious Jews, Christians, Muslims, Behai, Druze, etc. have special rules to enable them to hold on to their pious practices and be a soldier. Vegans get vegan food and get more pay because supposedly vegan food is more expensive, artificial leather boots and a black fleece beret.

The First Chief Rabbi in Palestine, Rabbi Kook (pun not intended), held that in the future we will all be vegetarians, but at the moment, not eating meat would pose spiritual problems. When his holy son wanted to stop eating meat, his father ordered him to master the art of ritual slaughter instead. And he did – of course. The Rabbi explains that when most people stop eating meat, they would begin to exhibit aggression for their follow man that meat eaters implicitly demonstrate towards animals. Being vegan is therefore not good for everyone. We do see this. A decade ago, the man who would most definitely win national elections in The Netherlands was point blank assassinated three days before the polls opened by … a vegan – who was worried that the policies of that guy would not be animal friendly.

Jewish religious vegans are sometimes attacked by meat eaters for being inconsistent if they put on leather phylacteries straps or agree to listen to Torah readings from scrolls written on hide (though no animals are killed for this; this is harvested as a spin-off of the meat industry). However, religious Jews have no other options. To be as vegan as possible is not incoherent. Rather, any principle can be done so much into the extreme that it becomes absurd. Carnivores who think that vegans should not do this, should talk to their rabbis about dispensation (good luck – there is none).

Some Jews hold that meat and fish on festive Jewish days are a must. However, there are many prominent rabbis who are vegetarians (what more proof does one need?) and most rabbis can tell you that the commandment to enjoy meat or fish does not count for people who would not enjoy eating that.

Then there are people who rationalize and justify eating meat because that can elevate the soul of the killed animal. In most cases that’s highly presumptuous, because one needs to be on a higher ethical level than the animal in order to do that. Who can be sure to be so holy? Animals do their whole lives what they need to do and so are morally innocent. Which people can honestly claim that about themselves?

Learn from people who ere vegans but gave up. Do not take restrictions upon yourselves before you are ready. Don’t go fanatic is that’s not your thing. Cut one thing out and see how it goes. Talk with others on you difficulties. Established vegans and vegetarians often know vegan alternatives that may help you. Techina sticks even better than egg.

There is an unbelievably long list of good reasons to be a vegan, vegetarian of flexitarian. I’m not going to make a complete list here. Some of these arguments are popular and well-known – others might only find few people who’d like them:

  • Eating animal produce shortens one’s life. Sometimes it’s because of the hormones and antibiotics injected in animals, in sea fish we find the junk we’ve dumped into the oceans, sometimes because roasting and heating of the meat forms carcinogens, sometimes it could contain parasites that also would live in humans, sometimes it’s the high protein content that makes spoiling possible by bacteria that also like to live in humans. (More energy is spend at cooling animal produce.) Meat eaters tend to eat much too much protein and ignore much other food stuff that we need for good health, especially fibers. (No, not all vegan food is health-inducing. Refined sugar, opium, whiskey and milled glass are all vegan.)
  • The bio-industry is destroying the environment. Animal flatulence is heating up Earth, excretions are ruining rivers, rain forest is destroyed to create grass lands for farming, animals (and their fodder) take an enormous amount of water, and they need seven times more protein that they “give.” What a waste – especially with millions of people still starving! (The biggest waste is to order meat or fish and then throw it out because you had enough or don’t like it.)
  • Don’t blame the farmers. They cannot prevent all hurting of their animals if they want to stay in business. All depends on cutting corners and the animals are often the ones carrying the burden. The amount of meat eaten in the Western world is absolutely insane. Not just once a week; every day, often several times a day and even as snacks in between. (There is much hidden Milk cows suffer more than their free roaming meat cow sisters. Free-range chickens might have a better life, but their non-laying brothers are sometimes milled alive into dog food. Silk threads are harvested from silk cocoons by throwing them into boiling water. Killing so many animals at high speed cannot be painless.)
  • Many people are fooled by profit driven culture that if one really would care for one’s health and one is poor, one should at least buy as much milk, meat, fish and eggs as possible. Robbing the poor is probably one of the worst things one could do. (No, chicken soup does not cure. A little oil in a vegan soup makes it also hotter than 100° Celsius to open up your sinuses.)
  • Most people (including many vegans) would agree that killing humans is always murder (except in an accident or in self-defense) but that killing animals is not in the same category. However, even those who think so, should consider that many people seem to become callous about people dying by seeing animals being killed. Animal killing becomes a lot more serious if by stepping heartlessly on ants, killing for sport or for food we train our children to end up cruel. (Some antagonists of vegans then start that eating carrots is murder too. This is of course ridiculous. Hurting trees for nothing is painful, but harvesting crops is just fine and beautiful – especially when trees are not hurt in the harvest. There is a fundamental difference between plant and animal life. Do some people like to eat meat in a desperate attempt to feel better than an animal? Arrogance is seldom a good counselor. More humility would better protect “our” Planet.)
  • Jews who eat an animal-free diet avoid many problems in kashrut.
  • Cleaning dishes is much easier without animal-fat or grime.
About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To find his earlier blog posts on a certain subject XXX, among his over 1200 ones, go to the right-top corner of the Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". His second daily active less tame blog, to which one may subscribe, one may find here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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