It has been a long held belief that there is a strong connection between Judaism and veganism. The Torah is brimming with references about our responsibility to respect other lives and the earth we share with them. Alongside this, there is a growing body of research that shows that a switch to a vegan lifestyle would benefit the environment and human health and help alleviate world hunger.
Educational vegan campaign, ‘Go Vegan World’, recently launched in the UK and is appearing on billboards, video screens, buses, taxis and at underground stations.
The award winning campaign, which is the largest campaign of its kind in the world, features powerful, thought-provoking visual representations of animals along with the message to the human world to stop using them.
Common to all belief systems, including Judaism, is the ethic that it is wrong to kill. Other animals’ lives have as much value to them as our lives have to us.
Most people are pleasantly surprised to find that it is easy and enjoyable to be vegan, especially when motivated by the deepest values of justice and fairness, which are part of the Jewish faith.
There is substantial research that demonstrates that other animals share the human capacity to be consciously aware and to experience physical feelings of pain and pleasure, as well as a similar range of emotional states. Breeding them for our use and taking their lives is extremely harmful to them. For example, we have been raised to believe that hens lay eggs for humans. Closer examination reveals the torment that they go through so that we can exploit their reproductive system, torment that applies equally whether they live on factory farms or organic or back yard systems. In their natural state hens are like any other wild bird; they lay two clutches of eggs a year to hatch their young. Selective breeding makes their own bodies their prisons, causing a range of illnesses such as osteoporosis, prolapse, infection and reproductive cancer, regardless of how they are treated. The problem is not how we treat them. It is that we use them in the first place.
We have not always lived this way. Anthropological evidence suggests that at one time we lived on the earth peacefully, as equals with them. According to Genesis, the first book of the Torah, the original diet of humanity was vegan.
“I give you all plants that bear seed everywhere on Earth, and every tree bearing fruit which yields seed: they shall be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:29-31)”
Some statistics suggest that there are a larger proportion of vegans amongst the Jewish community compared to the population as a whole. But we must be cautious about taking these statistics too literally. It behoves us to examine what it means to be vegan at a deeper level.
Some people think of veganism as a 100% plant diet. It is much more than that. It is a non-violent philosophy and way of living that abolishes all animal use in an effort to respect all sentient life as equally sacred, values that are at the heart of Judaism.
Veganism not only avoids using other animals as food, it also abolishes their use as clothing, for entertainment and research, or for any other use. Veganism also pertains to how we treat each other.
A non-vegan way of life contributes significantly to the destruction of the environment and climate change, thus robbing all of life of the resources of the earth on which we all depend. It causes intersectional harm at the level of unequal distribution of the world’s resources, thus contributing to world hunger, and it impacts on the extremely poor working conditions of those employed in animal exploiting industries.
Most of us are too appalled to learn how a non-vegan lifestyle harms other animals to ever investigate the truth of the horror they endure as they are transformed from conscious, feeling beings into the substances we call food, clothing, and other objects of human use.
As long as we compartmentalise violence according to some arbitrary factor in our victims such as their language, race, gender, their perceived intelligence or their species, we will never target it at its roots or eliminate it from our lives. Difference and distance are not factors that justify violence, which is a notion close to the heart of Judaism. It is vital that our behaviour is in line with these values.
It should be no more acceptable if a human at some distance from ourselves and our kin is harmed, than it is if one of our own is harmed. It should be no more acceptable if a non-human life is harmed, than it is if one of our own species is harmed.
The Go Vegan World campaign is committed to the principle that injustice is not less when its victims are not human. The campaign requires us to acknowledge that and stop using them. This begins by being vegan.
Being vegan, should, in theory, be easy for the Jewish community because it is a philosophy of peace and fairness. The Golden Rule, ‘do unto others as you would have them to unto you’, not for self-gain, but because it is the right thing to do, is an ethic that is close to the heart of Judaism. It is a rule that applies despite any perception of difference to, or distance from others.
You can download the campaign’s free Vegan Guide here: www.goveganworld.com