(IL/US) Jews ban beef to save the world?
Most Jews are not vegetarians, but some may consider a dietary shift
after seeing A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the
World. Sponsored by Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), the
documentary (which premiered at the Orthodox Union's Israel Center in
Jerusalem last week) tackles three major themes: the current peril of
global warming and other environmental threats; teachings in Judaism
that may guide our response to these threats; and how a shift toward
vegetarianism can both alleviate environmental problems and help us
fulfill our Jewish duty.
"I hope to awaken the world to the fact that we are headed toward an
unprecedented global catastrophe," Dr. Richard Schwartz, the film's
producer and president of JVNA, told The Jerusalem Post prior to
film's premiere. "A shift toward plant-based diets is essential to
address global warming and tikkun olam (healing the world)."
The first part of the film presents global environmental concerns
specifically as they affect Israel. Air and water pollution are two of
Israel's biggest ecological issues and Israeli environmentalists worry
not only about the health effects of these problems, but also about
the lack of government concern.
FOR SCHWARTZ and his supporters, one lifestyle change in particular
can have far reaching effects: a shift to plant-based diets. Driven by
a 2006 United Nations report which showed that 18% of greenhouse gases
come from livestock agriculture, Schwartz concluded that a vegetarian
and vegan lifestyle was the answer to staying healthier and healing
For the Jewish community, this dietary decision has particular
significance. Eating an animal-based diet is "no doubt damaging the
world and is in violation of the Jewish mandate to protect and care
for the earth," said Jerusalem rabbi Adam Frank in the documentary.
Schwartz agrees. He even takes it further, insisting that meat-eating
is actually in violation of Jewish law, which requires us to "take
care of the body, show compassion to animals, conserve resources, help
hungry people, and seek and pursue peace."