Religion and Animals
used with permission from Pakistan Vegetarian Society
Seventh Day Adventists Ahimsa, animal rights and spirituality
A Buddhist perspective on vegetarianism A Jain perspective on veganism
A Buddhist view of vegetarianism Hinduism and vegetarianism
Christianity and vegetarianism The day I saw a meat-eater
Ethics, Christianity and vegetarianism Email course on Judaism and vegetarianism
Islamic duty of compassion towards animals Jewish philosophy of vegetarianism
Feasts of the Prophet: Ramadan and vegetarianism in Islam Judaism and vegetarianism

pages from Veges & Beyond

Links to Similar pages U Mean That's in the Bible Cow Protection
Vege Fact Sheet Vege Mormons Jesus of compassionate heart
Vege Christianity Vege Environmentalists Vaishnav Prasadam

Karma - and its intricacies Reincarnation - keep coming back to this page

Rights 4 Animals too - God's creatures

Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu - the forest animals came to be with Him

Seventh Day Adventists

Ellen G. White (1827-1915)

Ellen White was one of the founders of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. She was a vegetarian health reformer, and vegetarianism and other health teachings of the Adventists are due to her efforts. She believed that the human body represented God`s temple and therefore it should not be abused. She also denounced tobacco and alcohol.

About fifty percent of Adventists today are lacto-ovo vegetarians. There are about 2 million Adventists throughout the world, with about a quarter of them living in the United States. The Seventh-Day Adventists are strong promoters of good health. They have their own publishing company and produce many books and other publications. They also have many hospitals, natural food stores, and vegetarian restaurants. In addition, they have an institution of higher education, Loma Linda University.

Several studies have found that Adventists are significantly healthier than the general population. Vegetarians owe much to Seventh-Day Adventists, since much of what is now known about health effects of vegetarianism comes from their studies.
- Richard Schwartz


God gave our first parents the food He designed that the race should eat. It was contrary to His plan to have the life of any creature taken. There was to be no death in Eden. The fruit of the trees in the garden was the food man's wants required. - 1864

The majority of the diseases which the human family have been and still are suffering under, they have created by ignorance of their own organic health, and work perseveringly to tear themselves to pieces, and when broken down and debilitated in body and mind, send for the doctor and drug themselves to death. - 1866

The diet of animals is vegetables and grains. Must the vegetables be animalized, must they be incorporated into the system of animals, before we get them? Must we obtain our vegetable diet by eating the flesh of dead creatures? God provided fruit in its natural state for our first parents. He gave to Adam charge over the garden, to dress it, and to care for it, saying, "To you it shall be for meat." One animal was not to destroy another animal for food. - 1896

Let our ministers and canvassers step under the banners of strict temperance. Never be ashamed to say, "No thank you; I do not eat meat. I have conscientious scruples against eating the flesh of dead animals. - 1901

Flesh was never the best food; but its use is now doubly objectionable, since disease in animals is so rapidly increasing. - 1902

Animals are becoming more diseased and it will not be long until animal food will be discarded by many besides Seventh-day Adventists. Foods that are healthful and life sustaining are to be prepared, so that men and women will not need to eat meat. - 1902

Vegetables, fruits, and grains should compose our diet. Not an ounce of flesh meat should enter our stomachs. The eating of flesh is unnatural. We are to return to God's original purpose in the creation of man. - 1903

The moral evils of a flesh diet are not less marked than are the physical ills. Flesh food is injurious to health, and whatever affects the body has a corresponding effect on the mind and the soul. Think of the cruelty to animals meat-eating involves, and its effect on those who inflict and those who behold it. How it destroys the tenderness with which we should regard those creatures of God! - 1905

Animals are often transported long distances and subjected to great suffering in reaching a market. Taken from the green pastures and traveling for weary miles over the hot, dusty roads, or crowded into filthy cars, feverish and exhausted, often for many hours deprived of food and water, the poor creatures are driven to their death, that human beings may feast on the carcasses. - 1905

It is a mistake to suppose that muscular strength depends on the use of animal food. The needs of the system can be better supplied, and more vigorous health can be enjoyed, without its use. The grains, with fruits, nuts, and vegetables, contain all the nutritive properties necessary to make good blood. These elements are not so well or so fully supplied by a flesh diet. Had the use of flesh been essential to health and strength, animal food would have been included in the diet appointed man in the beginning. - 1905

Those who eat flesh are but eating grains and vegetables at second hand; for the animal receives from these things the nutrition that produces growth. The life that was in the grains and the vegetables passes into the eater. We receive it by eating the flesh of the animal. How much better to get it direct by eating the food that God provided for our use! - 1905

Islamic duty of compassion towards animals

Courtesy: Rafeeque Ahmad, UK

In view of the welcome news of a Muslim Vegetarian/Vegan Society and the recent contributions from other major religions to these pages, we reprint just a few of the following Islamic teachings on the duties of Muslims towards their fellow beings (with apologies for any orthographical inaccuracies).

"The Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) was asked by his companions if kindness to animals was rewarded in the life hereafter. He replied: 'Yes, there is a meritorious reward for kindness to every living creature'." (Bukhari)

All creatures on earth are sentient beings. "There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings - but they are communities like you." (The Quran, 6:38)

"The Holy Prophet (S) forbade the beating or the branding of animals. Once he saw a donkey branded on its face and said: 'may Allah condemn the one who branded it'." (Muslim)

"The Holy Prophet (S) forbade the setting up of animals to fight against each other." (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)

"The Holy Prophet (S) condemned those who pinion or restrain animals in any other way for the purpose of target shooting. (Al-Masburah and Al-Mujaththamah)." (Muslim)

"The Holy Prophet (S) said: 'It is a great sin for man to imprison those animals which are in his power'." (Muslim)

There are numerous Islamic laws forbidding vivisection (Al-muthia) on a live animal. Ibn Umar reported the Holy Prophet (S) as having condemned those who mutilate any part of an animals body while it is alive. (Ahmad and other authorities)

(S) stands for 'Salam', meaning 'peace be upon him'.

A Buddhist perspective on vegetarianism
Lin Ching Shywan, from Vegetarian Cooking -- Chinese Style, 1995

I have been a strict vegetarian for more than four years now. When I first gave up meat, quite a few of my friends and relatives expressed concern; most people seem to have the idea that vegetarian food lacks adequate nutrients. And being vegetarian can be a more than minor inconvenience with the amounts of meat and fish that people now eat. Chinese have a traditional notion that foods that are "warming" in nature, like meat, are important for building up physical strength; so in the minds of some of the older generation, one could not possibly get all the nutrition one needed form the "cool" bean greens, white radishes, and so forth that vegetarians favor. In their book, the only things that strengthen the body are foods like tiger phallus, snake blood, stewed chicken and crab in wine.

Before taking the big step, I didn't give nutrition, convenience, or building up physical strength a second thought, since my reason for becoming vegetarian had nothing to do with any of these. I became vegetarian because of my belief in Buddhism.

Why do Buddhists advocate vegetarianism? The main reason is "mercy", and because we "cannot bear to eat the flesh of living creatures." And our belief in karma tells us that we must eventually suffer the consequences of our evil actions. A Buddhist sutra says: "The bodhisattva fears the original action; the myriad of living creatures fear the consequences." This means that the bodhisattva knows the seriousness of the consequences and does not do evil things; neither does he think about the causes of bad consequences. Finally, I also believe that a vegetarian diet better enables one to keep a pure body and mind and this purity is an important foundation of self-cultivation. My conversion to vegetarianism was based on these three considerations.

"Mercy" is an important way of learning to be a better person. Being without mercy is simply incompatible with being a Buddhist. Having a merciful and compassionate heart will show up in all aspects of one's life; but the simplest and most direct way is to follow a vegetarian diet. Think of the intense pain of accidentally stepping on a nail is. So how can one have the heart to eat the flesh of creatures who have suffered the pain of being slaughtered, skinned, dismembered, and cooked? Being unable to bring ourselves to eat the flesh of these poor creatures is an expression of mercy.

The pain of creatures on the road to our table is not some fanciful concoction; it is excruciatingly real. Let us cite the cooked live shrimp and crab that are so popular today as an example. Meeting their end by being cooked in water is like being sent to a boiling hell. Their desperate but doomed efforts to crawl or jump out betray the unbearable pain they experience. Finally they give their life in sorrow as they turn bright red. What a painful end!

Frogs are put through even more suffering than shrimp and crabs. From the first made in their bodies to the time they are swallowed they go through the equivalent of eight different hells: 1. decapitation; 2. skinning; 3. removing the legs; 4. slitting of the belly; 5. frying or boiling; 6. salt, sugar and seasoning; 7. chewing; and 8. digestion and excretion. Anyone who put himself in take place of a frog would be unable to ever stomach another one.

Among the different kinds of suffering the human race can experience, the most intense is certainly that of war. Documentaries of the Nanking massacre and the Nazi holocaust leave few people unmoved and dry-eyed-and most indignant. But humans can go for years or decades without war; animals face suffering and death every day. For meat eaters, every banquet means the death of hundreds and thousands of animals. Is this any different from human war?

Preventing the suffering of living creatures by not using their flesh to satisfy our tastebuds and hunger is the minimal expression of compassion we can offer. We choose not to kill out of kindness, and not to eat out of compassion.

I felt deeply moved upon reading two stories on the theme of mercy; they will be etched forever in my memory. One is recorded in the book "Record of Protecting Life":

When a scholar named Chou Yu was cooking some eel to eat, he noticed the one of the eels bending in its body such that its head and tail were still in the boiling point liquid, but its body arched upward above the soup. It did not fall completely in until finally dying. Chou Yu found the occurrence a strange one, pulled out the eel, and cut it open. He found thousands of eggs inside. The eel had arched its belly out of the hot soup to protect its offspring. He cried at the sight, sighed with emotion, and swore never to eat eel.

This story tells us that the myriad living creatures are not without feeling and intelligence.

Another story in recorded in Buddhist sutra.

A king of heaven was stalemated in a war with a demon, and neither side emerged as winner. As the king of heaven was leading his soldiers back, he saw the nest of a golden- winged bird in a tree by the roadside. "If the soldiers and chariots pass by here, the eggs in the nest will certainly fall to the ground and be scattered," he thought to himself. So he led his thousand chariots back the same road by which they came. When the demon saw the king of heaven returning, he fled in terror.

The sutra's conclusion was that "if you use mercy to seek salvation, the lord of heaven will see it." This story tells us that mercy may not seem like much at first glance, but it is in fact extremely powerful. The Buddhist sutras frequently mention "the power of mercy," from this we know that mercy is indeed a potent force. If a Buddhist wants to learn to use this strength of mercy, he must be like the king of heaven in this story, and be ready to change the route of a thousand chariots rather than let a nest full of bird eggs fall to the ground.

The Surangama Sutra tells us that "if we eat the flesh of living creatures, we are destroying the seeds of compassion." That is, if we do not eat the flesh of living creatures, we are cultivating and irrigating the seeds of compassion," and to "cultivate a compassionate heart," I chose to become a vegetarian; and this is my main reason for doing so.

In Buddhist teaching, volume upon volume has been written regarding cause and consequence, but the basic concept is a simple one. "Good is rewarded with good; evil is rewarded with evil; and the rewarding of good and evil is only a matter of time." Viewed from this concept, we will have to pay for every piece of flesh we eat with a piece of flesh, and with a life for every creature's life that we take. Viewed over the long term, eating meat is an extremely frightening prospect. Before their death, living creatures experience not joy, and not fear, but anger; not complaint, but hatred and resentment. And who receives the "reward" for taking these lives?

It would be difficult to try to prove the existence of this concept of cause and consequence, and it may even sound a bit farfetched. However, in terms of this life, the negative consequences of eating meat include arterial sclerosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, encephalemia, stroke, gall stones, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer. In all these diseases, a link has been established to animal fat and cholesterol. So the consequences of eating meat are in fact immediate and in clear view. But even if you could still make it from day to day eating meat, the other advantages of being vegetarian-promotion of good health and being free from worry about future negative consequences-to me fully justify the decision to be vegetarian, and constitute my second main reason for doing so.

My third reason is to "purify body and mind." This one might seem to escape logical explanation. An American vegetarian physician summed it up well when he said that "It's good not having to worry about he conditions under which your food died." This statement points out that animals are not always healthy themselves, and before death, they secrete toxic substances. When we eat the flesh of animals, we also ingest disease-carrying microorganisms and toxins.

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, our bodies contain uric acid and other toxic waste products which turn up in our blood and body tissues. Compared to the 65% impure moisture content of beef, protein obtained from nuts, beans and legumes is markedly purer. Vegetarian food is indeed much cleaner than meat, and it also retains its freshness better than meat. Vegetarian food is in every case cleaner and purer than meat with comparable nutritious value. We know that meat spoils easily, and fish and shrimp begin to become putrid after being left out for just half an hour. Meat and meat products begin to decay after one hour. Vegetables, on the other hand, can usually e kept for three to five days. Although beans become rancid relatively quickly, the deterioration is very easy to detect and recognize.

One problem with vegetable foods today is contamination by pesticides; but even so, they are still much cleaner than meat. A person who habitually eats pure food keeps his body and mind in a pure state; this follows of course, and is beyond argument.

Another question that vegetarians are frequently asked is, "Why can't you eat scallions, chives, onions, and garlic?" This again relates back to purity. The Surangama Sutra says: "All living creatures seek the 'three kinds of wisdom,' and should refrain from eating the 'five pungent.' These five pungent foods create lust when eaten cooked, and rage when eaten raw." It goes on to say that "Even if someone can recite twelve sutras from memory, the gods of the ten heavens will all disdain him if he eats pungent foods in this world, because of his strong odor and uncleanliness, and will give distance themselves far from him." This means that pungent foods arouse lust, and give one an explosive temper and one's body a bad odor. These foods are unclean, and if a person's body and mind are not clean, how can he succeed at purifying himself through Buddhism? This is why yet another sutra says: "That which has blood and flesh will be rejected by the gods and not eaten by the saints; all in heaven distance themselves far from one who eats meat; his breath is always foul...meat is not a good thing, meat is not pure, it is born in evil and spoils in merit and virtue; it is rejected by all the gods and saints!"

In recent years, I have spent much time thinking about what I eat; in fact I don't have many great insights on vegetarianism. However, the three reasons I just stated are sufficient to make me feel confident about my choice. Issues like whether a vegetarian diet is more nutritious, whether there is great merit in following a vegetarian diet, whether it can promote world peace, and so forth, are all secondary.

What I strongly believe is that if a person wants to take joy in the Buddhist way and enter into the mercy and knowledge of the Buddha, he must begin at the dining table. There is a British promoter of vegetarianism named Dr. Walsh who once said that "To prevent human bloodshed one must start at the dinner table." Turning back to Taiwan today, one banquet takes a thousand lives; clothing oneself requires minks and silk spun by worms; shoes are made from alligator skin and leather; and lust and luxury are carried to extremes. To begin one's enlightenment of mercy and cause of consequence at the dinner table in this kind of an environment is perhaps more than a little difficult. The prospects for long-term peace and prosperity here are indeed cause for concern.

A Buddhist view of vegetarianism
Ting Jen from KVMI(Keluarga Vegetarian Maitreya Indonesia or Indonesian Maitreya Vegetarian Family)

Most people say that Buddhism is not far away from vegetarianism. Is it true? In fact, most of Buddhists are not vegetarian. Buddhists must do Five Sila 2, but most of Buddhists did not and do not obey the First Sila: "do not kill". Eating meat is the cause of killing animals and it is clearly a violation of the First Sila.

Buddha Dharma1 talks about dukkha 3 and how to overcome dukkha. So let us talk how to overcome dukkha. If we can control our heart and mind, then we can face the "challenge" of dukkha and get the "opportunity" of peace and happiness. But if we eat meat, there will be no self-control and there will be no peace and happiness at all.

A Buddhist should ease the dukkha not add the dukkha by killing animal or eating meat. Eating meat (the cause) and killing animal (the effect) will never be the teaching of true Buddha Dharma.

Buddhists want to save others from dukkha. This is the spirit of Boddhisatva. Boddhisatvas, however, must develop the heart of Metta or Maitri. Metta means Compassion or Mercy. Vegetarianism supports people to do Metta better.

"Save yourself first so then you can save others". This is the spirit of Arahat. Arahats, at least, should obey Five Sila to overcome dukkha. The First Sila, certainly, talks about vegetarianism.

Vegetarianism is surely the basic foundation to become Boddhisatva and Arahat in the same time. Because we do save ourselves from dukkha and we also save other living creatures from dukkha.

But some Buddhists often say, "Vegetarian? It's a funny idea. Cows are vegetarian, but cows never go to Nirvana 4. " But we are human not bovine. If we humiliate ourselves as carnivorous animal and do killing for living, actually we throw away the very precious opportunity to overcome dukkha. In fact, killing animal is avoidable dukkha and killing animal is against the spirit of Buddha Dharma that appreciates every life.

Buddhists believe that the next Buddha is Buddha Maitreya or Buddha Metteya 5. Some scholars say Maitreya will come several billion years later based on Buddhist scriptures. But some people believe He will come soon because, in fact, the technology do accelerate the years. Information Technology, for example, had broken down the national and traditional borders and it will ease Him to do His Great Work. One of His Great Work is spreading the teaching of vegetarianism. Now, through information technology, many religions and institutions adopt vegetarianism.

Maitreya or Metteya is a word derived from Maitri or Metta, so vegetarianism is absolutely the special character of Maitreya. Maitreya will always bless vegetarian people no matter what religions they have. That's why some people prefer to call Him as "Maitreya" rather than "Buddha Maitreya", because Maitreya belongs not only to Buddhists but also to every religious-vegetarian communities who wish peace and harmony in this earth.

Vegetarianism is surely the first step into the Holy Earth of Maitreya 6. People in the Holy Earth will do compassion and mercy towards animal and human. Human and animal will be one big community, live in peace and harmony. It is not an utopian world but a world of process. It depends on the process how to stop the killing of innocent ones.

It is our continuous struggle to make people realize that vegetarianism is a matter of human sanity as well as a matter of health and an ecological issue.

For more precise terminology, we will use Buddha Dharma instead of Buddhism. Western people translate "Dharma" as "ism". So Buddha Dharma is translated as Buddhism. But actually, Dharma is more than ism. Dharma means the TRUTH. BUDDHA DHARMA is the TRUTH of the whole MINDS, the whole HEARTS, the whole WORDS and the whole ACTIONS of BUDDHA.

Sila means Ethic or Rule. The Five Sila are 1] do not kill 2] do not steal 3] do not lie or cheat 4] do not do sexual affair or abuse 5] do not consume everything that can make you addicted (like alcohol, tobacco, opium, narcotic, etc). The purpose of Five Sila is preventing negative karma.

Dukkha means suffering, misery, pain, or something that cause sadness, discomfort or unhappiness. Buddha always spoke that life is dukkha because human tends to do negative karma. "Life is dukkha" is not a negative thinking but actually a real fact that we must face and solve with all of our sincere efforts.

Nir means no, vana means (negative) desire, Nirvana means extinguishing (negative) desire. And (negative) desire is the cause of dukkha, so we can say that Nirvana is another word of overcoming dukkha.

Buddha Siddharta Gautama Sakyamuni himself spoke about Maitreya as the Next Buddha. Maitreya is just like Messiah among Jews. Maitreya's movement was popular among Buddhists in India several centuries before Christ. In the same time, Messiah's movement was popular among Jews. Maybe the Silk Way is the only answer of this similarity.

Some Jews believe that in the arrival of Messiah, in the day when Heaven Kingdom is on Earth, people will be vegetarian. And the followers of Maitreya believe just the same. Some Jews are still hoping the arrival of Messiah. Some Buddhists are not only hoping the arrival of Maitreya but also preparing for it, spiritually and physically, through developing Buddhist- vegetarian families.

Buddha being approached by the Demigods to come and do what He did.

Christianity and vegetarianism
Rondi Elliottby

It had long been an enigma to me as a Christian why my family and my church could be so compassionate toward humans, and yet support societal norms which visibly contributed to animal suffering. I never heard anything to indicate that the way we regard our non-human brothers and sisters deserved a compassionate look. So when I began to study theology, I hoped that I would find in the scriptures confirmation for my vegetarianism and animal rights activism. I was not disappointed, and I also found contemporary theologians with supporting theses. I would like to share with my fellow TVSers some things that may help you to understand how vegetarianism and compassion to non-human animals is in fact confirmed, not negated, by themes that thread their way in Judeo-Christian teaching.

The Old Testament is very specific when it comes to what "God said" that we should eat. In the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis I, there is a clear mandate in 1:29: "Behold, I have given you every tree with seed in its fruit; this you shall have for food." This was God's intent in the Garden of Eden, but, humans being imperfect, things changed. It would seem that later, after the flood, God gives permission to Noah and his descendants to eat flesh: "every moving thing ... shall be food for you. As I gave you green plants, I now give you everything." How could God say that? But if we read on, "for the shedding of lifeblood, I will surely require a reckoning" (Genesis 9:2-5). What seems to be the point is that if we unnecessarily kill an animal, we will be accountable to our Creator. Of course, we now know that eating flesh is by no means necessary for human health; in fact, there is much evidence that it is, in fact, unhealthy to stray from a plant-based diet!

In the New Testament, Jesus did not give clear directives about diet, but neither did He give guidance about many other important issues. Since Jesus seemed so often to speak obliquely, we are challenged to study not so much the specific words, but the themes often repeated in His teachings. Prominent among these are repentance, the kingdom of God, loving one's neighbor, and "becoming as servant to the least".

Undoubtedly, we must repent for centuries of animal abuse. In the kingdom of God, non- violence to humans and animals will prevail. DNA research confirms that animals are indeed our neighbors, and who could be the least among us than those who have no voice (that we can understand)? It also seems significant that Christ, in His dying, became known as "The Paschal Lamb." Then, the ritual Jewish meal always contained a dead animal - a Paschal (Passover) lamb. Isn't it interesting that Jesus gave us bread and wine -- grain and fruit -- to eat thenceforth in remembrance of Him?

I know that mainstream western religions seem slow to embrace the non-violent lifestyle which we vegetarians try to live. But we must be cognizant that the churches move slowly because they take seriously their important role as the guardians of tradition. As seminaries graduate more and more scholars researching environmental and animal- related issues, I believe we will see change. Treating animals compassionately (and this includes not eating them) certainly seems consistent with the will of God for ALL of His created beings.

From The Gospel of the Holy Twelve, trans. by G.J. Ouseley

"The fruit of the trees and the seeds and of the herbs alone do I partake, and these are changed by the spirit into my flesh and blood. Of these alone and their like shall ye eat who believe in me and are my disciples; for of these, in the spirit, come life and health and healing unto man."

"Not by shedding innocent blood, but by living a righteous life shall ye find the peace of God .... Blessed are they who keep this law; for God is manifested in all creatures. All creatures live in God, and God is hid in them..."

Ethics, Christianity and vegetarianism
6th European Vegetarian Congress
Bussolengo, Italy, September 21 - 26, 1997

Luciano Valle

My aim here is look at the subject of ethics, Christianity and  vegetarianism from an Ecosophical point of view. At the end of the twentieth century, Ecosophy is the cultural movement carrying us towards what the Norwegian philosopher who founded Ecosophy calls "familiarisation with all surrounding elements". My contribution, then, will be a philosophical conversation inspired by Ecosophy, including some thinking points from Christianity re-examined in a critical light. Christianity has been accused (by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche for example) of anthropocentrism, colonization of nature, also of being the chief culprit for man's attitude of dominion and destruction towards nature, and consequently all life forms including animals.

Let us consider what has been happening around the world in the last 20 years.

Although historically Christianity can be accused of such negative effects, we can see that a change is taking place if we take a close look at the debates and theo-philosophical reflections of the last 20 years. We have to be able to read and interpret the signs of a "Copernican revolution" within the theo-philosophical concepts of church teaching as a whole and not just Catholicism.

I am referring here to Multmann in Germany, Panicar in Italy and Spain, and John Paul II's encyclicals and speeches. After 2,000 years of non-recognition, except by St Francis and a few others, the Pope recognized the dignity of animals in his 1990 speech "Peace With Creation And The Creator" in which he says that, "Animals too have a soul."

We have now got to the point of apologizing for our anthropocentric dominion over animals (Parliament of Religions, New Delhi, 1992), and we are opening up to a relationship of fraternity towards the world around us, including animals.

This is very important because it means that the moment has arrived for us to completely reassess the fundamentals of the whole Western philosophical and ideological structure of the last 2,000 years.

St. Jerome, a vegetarian and very significant figure in the first four centuries of the Catholic Church, said that the early Church's lack of understanding of the true Christ figure - Jerome believed Christ could only have been a vegetarian - comes from a closing of hearts (Letter to Jovian), which in turn comes from a crisis in fundamental beliefs, "wisdoms".

Today, then, we are facing such a reassessment, and are in a much better position than the Jewish culture of those times to understand subjects such as word being made flesh, the role of the economy of Creation, the role of the testimony of God made man, and the role of the ethics left by this testimony. I'm convinced we are witnessing an extraordinary event, since we can now reach a much deeper level of understanding than was possible in the then prevailing culture, which was a stoic and therefore anthropocentric one.

As we reassess these major areas we rediscover the concept of world. In the theology of Jewish Creation post-Moses and so of the Second Pact (Solomon 144, Hosea, Isaiah) it is clear that man is not the lord and master of nature, but a mere guest in a world in which he must live in a fraternal spirit in a new pact of alliance. In this context the world is "oikos", a Greek term which in its most metaphorical sense means "home", not a physical house but a place of atmosphere, history and spiritual wealth to live in: a world held together by God's wisdom and love. Christians have forgotten all this, and this is perhaps the biggest gap of the modern era: the unsuccessful analysis of this Christological role and the role of the pneumatological Holy Spirit. Christians have forgotten that the world is part of the love dynamic of Creation, and that according to the Trinitarian view the world is the expression of the dialectical relationship of the communication of love and wisdom between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The world, therefore, in all its life forms, of which vegetable, animal and human are the most striking and recognizable, is the expression of an act of love. ("…By Him were all things created." Council of Nicaea.) The Creatio Originalis of Genesis is regarded by Christians as the first creation which sees the coming together of the Trinity, a creation of relationships, dialectic.

Moreover, from a theological point of view the Incarnation brings God still closer to the world: the world as God's creature and the Incarnation as a closer relationship, closer solidarity between God and man, and also between God and the fibers of matter (atoms, molecules, from the most basic life forms to the highest). Throughout the Middle Ages Franciscans believed that the Incarnation was part of the Divine Plan, God's Word operating in the organization and order of the world. The Resurrection also should be seen in this light: the whole world participates in the glory of creation and re-creation. That is why we talk today about a new creation linked to the Christ event. The Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection introduce a new stage in the relationship between God and the world, a stage dominated by "pneuma". As we assess anthropology and the constitution of man, and questions such as, "Who are we?" and, "What is our role in the world?" pneuma has supremacy: it means a man who is no longer carnal, but open to a listening relationship, connected with all that surrounds him. The life of Christ Himself is nowadays being seen in this new light. The signs and symbols we see in it are not there by chance, but are precise choices of civilisation, typical of the Essenes' world, which was one factor conditioning the Christian message as it came into being, the other factor being stoicism. God reveals Himself to the little ones, in little things unnoticed by adults: this is the great subversion of ethics to which we are called.

Let us consider, for example, the Last Supper, which takes place in a strictly vegetarian setting - the room belongs to the Essenes, a Jewish vegetarian sect, the meal consisting of bread and wine). We are taught that our relationship with the sacred can go beyond the sacrifice known to Mediterranean cultures. With this supper, Jesus prepares the way out from the violence of the world. René Gérard, the great French anthropologist, in his writings on violence and the sacred, maintains, "It was necessary for God made man to take upon Himself the violence of the world so that from that moment violence should leave the world," In other words the sacrifice of the innocent lamb in order that no more lambs should suffer. All this was made necessary by the arrogance of the human race, anthropocentrism, man having understood "made in God's image" not in a pneumatological or agapic sense, not in the sense of the spirit of love, but in the sense of possession. At the beginning of the modern era, the catholic Descartes would take this idea further. Modern humanism would declare man owner and master of nature. This is the responsibility of historical Christianity.

I now move on to the second part of my reflections. Ecosophical thought can meet Christian testimony. How? The starting point for ecosophical reflection is the need for a knowledge revolution, a new epistemology. Barbara MacClinton, Nobel prizewinner for corn genetics, regards young corn plants as "alive", capable of joy and suffering. She invites us to see things with a different attitude. St Francis had a great ability to look into things with childish wonder, what Nietzsche called "morning philosophy". This is a valid approach to the field of knowledge, and not just ethics: it is a way of dealing with reality on a knowledge level. It is Pascal's "reason as heart", reason in which elements of intuition (Einstein) and empathy have a primary role. This represents a revolution in the field of ontology, the way we see what is. We must understand that all that surrounds us has dignity, both animals and things (Rilke), we must open up to the mystery of the things around us and to the complexity of modes of expression of what surrounds us. We cannot limit ourselves to loving animals only in a paternalistic, anthropocentric way, but must recognize the dignity of their being, the wealth of their language which we do not understand. The sense of the message, given also by Jesus, is that of man dissolving in relationships, even with the "little creatures", opening up to listen to the language of the world, and becoming a bearer of a message of spirituality and love for the complexity of the world.

translations by Hugh Rees, Milan - commissioned by Associazione Vegetariana Italiana (AVI)

Ahimsa, animal rights and spirituality
Claudette Vaughan

Ahimsa, or ‘Dynamic Compassion’ is a principle of non-harming and  non-violence. Human behavior that violates this ethical principle is seen, not only as morally wrong, but also as its original perspective as negative karma that reverts back onto the person responsible for the harm or violence done.

Possibly the most famous exponent this century was Mahatma Gandhi who was profoundly influenced by and propagated the Jain doctrine of Ahimsa. The first Jain spiritual father lived between 599 and 527 BC. He exhorted his followers to “regard every living being as thyself and hurt no one.” It was this statement that Gandhi acknowledged as pivotal to human ethics and it led him to adopt the principle of the harmless life. Ahimsa says that we have no right to inflict suffering and death onto another living creature and, that if harmlessness were the keynote of our lives, then this would do more to produce harmonious conditions than any other discipline.

Throughout the industrial revolution, the Western world is increasingly institutionalized violence towards both human and non-human species. Intensive agricultural practice (factory farming), in terms of the large number of sentient beings involved, is probably the most glaring example. For decades there has been an ongoing campaign for the abolition of battery egg production because of the cruelty to the caged hens. These animals have been deprived o their most fundamental needs such as soil and grass and are exposed to artificial light to deceive them into laying more eggs that they would do under natural conditions. Kept in these conditions the birds become aggressive because of their increased requirements for food and water and the interruption of their natural pecking order. Heat build-up in egg factories further aggravates this situation. The hens are de- beaked without the use of painkillers and unwanted male chicks are simply disposed of by gassing or suff9cation.

Anyone concerned about the welfare of animals must often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of negativity that assaults their sensibility on a daily basis. It is precisely at these times of disillusionment where corruption, inhumanity and chaos is ever evident that Gandhi’s influence should ring true. He did not treat every setback as an occasion to give up. He repeatedly emphasized that a person is only defeated when he/she ceases to struggle. He himself returned time and time again with new vigor into the fray.

The ultimate goal is to make the principle of Ahimsa permeate the whole of our society. This involves not only following a healthy vegetarian diet but also treating all beings with empathy and kindness in recognition of the fact that their sentience in the final analysis is no different to our own. One of the most basic laws of ecology is that every living thing exists for a reason forming part of a greater whole. For the student of Ahimsa, the concept of the environment and the earth as one body closely resonates with every aspect of reverence for life.

Our lack of understanding and the pain we directly or indirectly cause animals reflects a deep spiritual disorder in the collective psyche of our species. In the West we have been conditioned to think that big is better than small, that strong is better than weak, that fast is better than slow and that physical strength is greater than moral or spiritual strength. Gandhi wrote that, “Ahimsa is the highest duty. Even if we cannot practice it in full, we must try to understand its spirit and refrain as far as humanly possible from violence.” Perhaps inner strength requires that we endure being branded as ‘emotional’ or ‘irrational’ when we are motivated by our sense of compassion.

A major hurdle to overcome is not so much our lack of care but rather our ignorance of the plight of the animals. Fifty years ago things were very different. The farm’s trade was ‘animal husbandry’, their duty being to provide care. With factory farming animal husbandry has given way to animal science to the detriment of animal welfare. Today’s farm animals are kept in extremely over-crowded conditions and deliberately keep as immobile as possible. Applied science has found an artificial way to hasten a broiler chicken’s growth to such an extent that the vast majority of them have trouble walking or are crippled by not being able to bear their own body weight. Newborn calves are separated from their mothers and many dairy cows rest no more than three months between pregnancies. After their calf-bearing years are over, they are slaughtered to provide cheap hamburger meat. In intensive piggeries, sows sleep on bare concrete and it is not uncommon for them to be kept in small crates for their entire lives.

The challenge of Ahimsa is enormous. It encourages an active inner state of being rather than merely a passive state of refraining from violence. The intention to hurt another living being is apprehensible to the principles of Ahimsa for it is in this absence of conscious integration of compassion that we currently find ourselves. We acknowledge this situation intellectually yet we are sufficiently culturally desensitized to ignore it, allowing it to continue by default. Early peoples recognized the individual specialness of animals. They transformed our lives with their kinship, antics and even their sense of humor. These humans were at peace with the animals and spoke their language. Animals formed their totems, became their familiars and their teachers. It is that lost instinctive tie to the rhythms and patters of nature that Ahimsa exhorts us to regain.

One philosopher that has not ignored the subject of the treatment of animals is E.F. Schumacher. He observed that “there have been no sages or holy men/women in our or anybody’s history who were cruel to animals or who looked upon them as nothing but utilities and innumerable are the legends and stories which link sanctity as well as happiness with a loving kindness towards these creatures.” Modern visionaries can trace the beginning of the beef industry to the loss of the sense of the sacredness of ourselves, of others, of animals and of the earth. This loss mirrors itself as the callous and cruel exercise of power over other creatures more helpless than ourselves. There is no compassion in a science, philosophy or doctrine that ignores our interdependence with other species.

Compassion suffers miserably at the hands of big business. Per Singer’s excellent book, Animal Liberation, established that we already hold the high moral ground as our cause is just. Ahimsa training requires that we confront our indifference and lack of moral courage and acknowledge that animals have a silent dignity all of their own that we have violated.
 Cornering the linchpin of our own ignorance is not an easy task. When the mystic Gurdjieff arrived in the West at the turn of the century with his message that “Man is asleep. Man is a machine”, he was misunderstood. Fortunately, as we approach the new millennium, we are more willing to reassess our values. Vegetarianism and Ahimsa are rapidly becoming a rational and ethical requirement for modern day living.

 Perhaps, however, the last work should go to the animals, but since they do not speak our language they must rely on us to speak for them.

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creatures through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, we greatly err. For the animals shall not be measure by man. In a world older and more complete, gifted with extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings. They are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth. – Henry Beston

Source: New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Summer 1998/9

A Jain perspective on veganism
Pravin Shah, President, Jain Study Center of NC, and TVS Member

Comment: Jainism is a religion which perhaps most strongly advocates vegetarianism and non-violence.

Two years ago, I visited a dairy farm near Burlington, Vermont. Here is the summary of what I saw and learnt.

It was milking time (5p) and the machine was milking the cow at 3.5 minutes per cow, without regard to how hard it was on the cow. It was extremely difficult for me to watch the cows' sufferings during the milking. To extract the last drop of milk, sometimes traces of blood gets mixed with the milk.

Every morning hormones are injected into the cows to increase their milk yields.

Since cows produce the most milk during and after pregnancy, they are kept pregnant for their entire fertile life through artificial insemination.

If a male calf, of no use to the dairy industry, is born, he is shipped to the veal industry within two or three days of birth. The evening I was there, the farm was shipping three baby calves in a truck to a veal factory. The mother cows were crying when their babies were separated from them. I cannot forget the scene and can still hear the cries of the mother cows. The veal industry wants to raise very tender flesh, so for the six months that the baby calves are kept alive, they are raised in darkness, in a very confining crate which allows practically no movement, and are fed an iron-deficient diet.

Within two months of delivery, the cows are made pregnant again. I did not have the stamina to watch the process of artificial insemination that the farm was showing off to us.

About four to five times a year, this farm would take the cows outside for a walk. Otherwise, the cows are tied in one place and are forced to defecate where they are confined. It badly stunk when I was there; the farm would wash the confinement areas sometimes once or twice a day, but other times not at all and the cows would then live in their own waste.

The life expectancy of cows is about 15 years. However, after 10 years, their milk production drops significantly so these cows are sent to the slaughterhouse for meat.

Last year while in India, I visited a dairy farm near Bombay. I observed similar things; overall, things were actually probably worse because there are few enforced regulations.

Traditionally in India, cows have been treated as a part of the family, and after feeding the baby calf, leftover milk was consumed by humans. However, as my older daughter Shilpa always says, cows' milk is for baby cows and not for humans or their babies; no other animal consumes the milk of another species. We do not have the right to consume cow's milk for our benefit, and furthermore milk is not essential for our survival.

As I learned about the dairy industry, I at first found it hard to believe. On a personal level, I feared that it would be impossible for me to become vegan. How could I eliminate milk, yogurt, butter, ghee, and cheese from my diet? To become vegan means that I cannot drink tea, eat any Indian sweets, pizza, milk chocolate, eggless but dairy-containing cake, and many other items. However, the dairy farm tour made me an instant vegan.

From the Jain point of view, our survival is limited to elements such as vegetables, water, fire, earth, and air. The cow is what we call a Panchendriya (five-sensed) animal, and cruelty to Panchendriya is totally prohibited and considered the highest sin in our religion. In today's environment, I do not see the difference in cruelty between meat and milk production. In the production of milk, the cow is not killed instantly but she is badly tortured during her entire life and ultimately slaughtered before the end of her natural life.

Here is a summary of some of my health statistics before and two years after I became vegan:

Before After
Cholesterol (mg/dL) 205 160
HDL cholesterol (mg/dL) (a beneficial lipoprotein cholesterol) 34 42
Triglycerides or triacylglycerols (mg/dL) 350 175

After becoming vegan, I feel more energetic. I do not have any calcium deficiency. Of course, one has to monitor one's own body chemistry; in my case, my doctor is very pleased and has not put me on any vitamins or calcium supplements.

Hinduism and vegetarianism
Paul Turner - Priya Vrata dasa

While most major world religions are traceable to one particular founder, Hinduism has its beginnings in such remote antiquity that it cannot be traced to any one individual. Its roots, however, are firmly planted in the ancient Vedic texts.

Having well considered the origin of flesh-foods, and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let man entirely abstain from eating flesh. - Manusmriti 5.49

Interestingly enough, the word "Hindu" is not actually found anywhere in Vedic scriptures. The term "Hindu" is vague, and even a misnomer. The term was introduced by Muslims from neighboring countries who referred to people living across the River Sindhu, a people who actually held a vast array of religious beliefs. There is no one "Hindu religion."

The original Vedic system is actually quite different from contemporary Hinduism. Both the old and the new, however, converge harmoniously in regard to vegetarianism. Here are some quotes from the Vedas:

"You must not use your God-given body for killing God's creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever." (Yajur Veda, 12.32)

"By not killing any living being, one becomes fit for salvation." (Manusmriti, 6.60)

"The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts of the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it-all of these are to be considered meat- eaters." (Mahabharata, Anu. 115:40)

Cow protection

According to India's traditional scriptural histories, the original cow Mother Surabhi, was one of the treasures churned from the cosmic ocean, and "the five products of the cow" (pancha- gavya)-milk, curd, ghee, urine and dung-were considered purifying. The cow is respected in her own right as one of the seven mothers because she offers her milk as does one's natural mother. The cow plays a central role in the Vedic ideal for humanity: "simple living and high thinking," a life close to nature and God. Until recently in India's history, most people lived on tracts of land suitable for complete self-sufficiency.

The cow thus has always played an important role in India's economy. For example, cow dung serves as an inexpensive fertilizer. Stored in underground tanks, it also generates methane gas that is used for heating and cooking. Cow dung is also an effective disinfectant and is used both as a poultice and a cleansing agent.

The very name for the cows is aghnaya which means "not to be killed."

Vegetarianism and nonviolence

In the Manusmriti, it is stated that one should refrain from eating all kinds of meat, for such eating involves killing and leads to karmic bondage (bandha).

Elsewhere in the Vedas, the last of the great Vedic Kings, Maharaja Pariksit, is quoted as saying that "only the animal killer cannot relish the message of the Absolute Truth." Therefore, the Vedas inform us to obtain spiritual knowledge, one must begin with being vegetarian.

The Lord's Mercy

According to the Vedic scriptures, one should offer all foods as a sacrifice to God: "…all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me." (Bhagavad-gita 9.27)

The Gita also clarifies exactly what should be offered: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." (Bhagavad-gita. 9.26)

The Bhagavad-gita further declares that one who lovingly offers his food to God, according to scriptural guidelines, is freed from all sinful reactions and consequent rebirth in the material world: "The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sin because they eat food which is offered first in sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin. (Bhagavad-gita 3.13)

Remnants of such devotional offerings are called prasadam (literally, "The Lord's Mercy"). In India, the largest temples, such as Shri Rangam in south India and Jagannath Mandir, the main temple in Puri, all freely distribute sanctified vegetarian foods (prasadam) daily.

Animals and Spirituality

Long before Saint Francis was declared the patron saint of the animals, the sages of ancient India had already recognized spirituality in all living species. Vedic texts even describe incarnations of God in various animal forms.

Some of the more popular are the boar, the tortoise, the fish, and the horse-there is even a half man/half lion incarnation! ( Vedic literature does not promote polytheism, rather, the Vedas affirm that it is the same one God who appears in various forms).

The Vedic viewpoint even acknowledges the ability of ordinary animals to achieve exalted states of spirituality! This is so because of the viewpoint that spirituality is not limited to the human form and that ultimately the external body is a temporary housing for the eternal spiritual soul.

The Vedas say that the living soul transmigrates, from body to body, from species to species, until it finally reaches the human form, equipped with reason and the ability to inquire into the Absolute Truth. Exercising that human prerogative, one can end the cycle of repeated birth and death and attain the kingdom of God.

Here, then, is a religious tradition that emphasizes not only vegetarianism but also the spiritual equality of all living beings.

Sources: Diet for Transcendence by Stephen Rosen (Satyaraj dasa). Paul Turner (Priya Vrata dasa) is the global director of Food for Life and a member of the IVU Council

Material published does not necessarily reflect the views of the editor or the policy of the Pakistan Vegetarian Society.

The day I saw a meat-eater
Dr. S. Jayaraman. From Hinduism Today, October 1994

Having been born in a South Indian orthodox Hindu family, I was never told that one could live on foods of animal origin during my school days in Madras. There were then no canteens in school. We had to carry our food packets for consumption during the lunch recess. I had no exposure to the sight of persons actually eating meat until I got out of school. Our parents and grandparents told us that we will be committing acts which will invite God's wrath if we harm, let alone kill animals, for any reason except in self-defense. It deeply and unshakably put it in our minds that any animal has the same right to live in this world as we do. God had ordained that no animal can be harmed for pleasure, or on purpose, by us.

It was later, when I entered the Madras Veterinary College, that I had the real exposure, not only to my friend's actually consuming meat but also to the science of raising animals and birds exclusively for satisfying the human palate and food needs. The subject of meat inspection was part of my curriculum. Necessarily, any student of meat science had to handle meat and, in making the score card judgment of meat, he had also to taste meat and record his score. My school days and the unshakable faith and conviction imbibed in me due to the teachings of my parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, prevented me from this unpleasant act. I was lucky in that some meat-eating classmates would always oblige me by tasting meat and giving me his opinion which I would record as mine. With skill in this clandestine practice, acquired relentlessly in abundant measure, I could fudge my entry on this point even in the University examination, without any adverse result. Believe it or not, I had this way carried on successfully as a meat inspecter in the earlier part of my service, when I had to do meat inspection for three years. I also functioned quite successfully as the Government of India's Licensing Authority under the Meat Food Products Order in 1973, without tasting any meat whatsoever. I have remained a vegetarian all along.

How Hinduism helps to create in young malleable minds the virtues of vegetarianism can be seen from the instance I cite below, which is on the far end of the other side of the scale. One day, in February, 1967, in Sydney, Australia, while I was walking to my college from home after the lunch break, I saw a tiny bird sitting on the pavement and basking in the sun. I saw the bird suddenly collapse, but not die, following a gunshot sound. What I saw thereafter was a ghastly sight. A boy in his teens, toting a shot gun, walked towards the collapsed, gasping, half-alive bird, crushed it with his foot and dumped it in the roadside trash-bin. What did he achieve? I asked myself. As the logic of his action passed my comprehension, I asked him, "Why?" I was stunned by his reply, "I was practicing target shooting at tiny objects." Could there be a more barbaric way of target practice? I thought. Even in the wildest of dreams, a boy from my or my wife's background could not even imagine an act of that kind. I am convinced that vegetariansim, the backbone for which is ahimsa, non-violence, is best for human society and that Hinduism greatly helps shape people to that way of life. The lessons learned during childhood days from one's elders go a long way toward shaping one as a vegetarian. Not only that, he is also one who hesitates to kill an animal for any cause.

I am a strict vegetarian and maintain excellent health at the age of 67. So, also, is my wife, who is 60. I can say this about elderly relatives now in their 70s who have remained strict vegetarians. My mother, again a strict vegetarian, lived in good health up to 92 years of age before breathing her last on January 7, 1993. Meat is not at all essential in one's diet for maintaining good health. My wife and I enjoy excellent health and remain very active mentally and physically. So, it is really vegetarianism that we must promote-left, right and center. This will greatly help in the elimination of violence, and the ever-elusive world peace will become a reality sooner, rather than later.

Dr. S. Jayaraman, after more than thirty-six years of service in the Government of India, now lives in Madras with his wife. They have three children, all married with children of their own-all vegetarian.

Courtesy: Himalayan Academy

Email course on Judaism and vegetarianism
 Course conducted by Professor Richard Schwartzfrom EVU News, Issue 4/1998 and 1/1999

Professor Richard Schwartz will be giving a free course on Judaism and  Vegetarianism" using email, starting the first week in March, 1999, for ten weeks.

The course outline is

Judaism and vegetarianism

A vegetarian view of the Torah

Judaism, vegetarianism, and health

Judaism, vegetarianism, and animals

Judaism, vegetarianism, and ecology

Judaism, vegetarianism, and hunger

Judaism, vegetarianism, and peace

Vegetarian connections to Jewish holidays

Involving the Jewish community re vegetarianism

Related issues for, vivisection

Summary; next steps; responses to questions

Richard Schwartz is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism and Judaism and Global Survival and over 70 vegetarian-related articles and book reviews on the internet at the Virtual Yeshiva." He recently led a campaign to get material on Judaism and vegetarianism to over 3,500 North American congregational rabbis.

Each week material on the topic of the week will be sent out to each registered participant.

While the focus of the course is Judaism and Vegetarianism", participants will gain knowledge of basic Jewish teachings and general information related to animals, health and nutrition, ecology, resource usage, and hunger, as well as information about Jewish festivals.

It is hoped that some of the graduates" will speak in their local areas and perhaps that a Speakers' bureau" will be set up to help spread the Jewish vegetarian message throughout the US and beyond. All questions that come up will be seriously considered and discussed. If necessary, there will be consultations with rabbis and reviews of internet resources and other sources to get the most complete picture possible.

To register, people should contact Richard Schwartz at:

Professor Schwartz
Professor of Mathematics
College of Staten Island
2800 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island
NY 10314, USA
Phone: (718) 982-3621
Fax: (718) 982-3631

e-mail address:

Schwartz is Author of 'Judaism and Vegetarianism', 'Judaism and Global Survival', and 'Mathematics and Global Survival'.

Patron of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society.

His articles on Judaism and Vegetarianism are on the internet at http:// (in the "Rebbes" section), and at arrs/essays/schwartz/menu.html

Jewish philosophy of vegetarianism
Philip L. Pick from EVU News, Issue 4 /1997

Philip L. Pick (1910-1992) was the Founder and President of the Jewish  Vegetarian Society. He dedicated over thirty years of his life to the vegetarian cause, taking the small local society started by his daughter Vivian, turning it into a worldwide organisation with branches not only in Britain and Israel, but also in Australia, Canada, the United States, South Africa and all other English speaking parts of the world, as well as many other individual members in other countries. His special gift for public speaking and writing deeply felt articles won converts wherever he went. - VPM

The Jewish philosophy of vegetarianism is a way of life that reaches back into the mysterious morning time of our earthly abode.

Whether the record of man’s first existence in the Garden of Eden is based upon elemental truths, whether it is but an ancient legend, or whether it is (as we believe it to be) a profound declaration of man’s real relationship with his Maker, and a treatise dealing with the essential nature of his being, certain it is that it contains the seed of an eternal philosophy which points the way of his moral development and circumscribes his ambitions. It guides his spiritual progress along the circumference of a vast circle until he reaches his starting point, and once again reverts to his original position as a caretaker of a garden, and the guardian of all that dwell therein. The first command is contained in Genesis 1 29 and 30, "... And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life. I have given every green herb for food; and it was so."


On the completion of each phase of Creation it is written "And God saw that it was good" and on the sixth day "God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good". In total it was proclaimed "very good" which indicates that the Universe was as the Creator willed it, in complete harmony.


Until this Noahtic period it was a capital offence to kill an animal even as it was to kill a man. This is confirmed by the statement in Genesis "To man and all creatures wherein is a living soul." Note that the word ‘soul’ is applicable in the same way to man as to animals. Bearing this in mind many have wondered at the story of Cain and Abel, and in this context it becomes understandable. Why was the beautiful white lamb which Abel slaughtered, acceptable to God as an offering? And if this was so why did Cain whose offering was scant in substance and begrudging in spirit, kill Abel? The story has two morals. First, that in giving, one should be generous and openhearted and not count the cost. This Cain did not do, but Abel gave of his best. Secondly, notwithstanding this, the cardinal sin of killing a creature warranted capital punishment by the immutable law of retribution, and Abel paid the penalty.

Because of the murder, retribution also overtook Cain and Tubal Cain. The era of violence and consequent retribution had begun and has developed even unto the present day. The law, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, has been much criticized by people who have no understanding of its awesome truth. It does not mean the return of injury for injury, but that judgment with mercy shall be applied and shall be commensurate with the crime. Dictators have been known to execute people for political views; this is not an ‘eye for an eye’, it is the absence of justice. This particular law is immutable and absolute and operates whether we like it or not. The story of Cain and Abel lives on today, where man and beast alike kill without cause, and eternal retribution is exacted.

We now come to the end of the era of perfection. In Genesis VI it is written “...And it came to pass, when man began to multiply on the face of the earth ... And God said "My spirit shall not always strive with man” and He saw that the wickedness was great and all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. “And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before Me: for the earth is filled with violence through them".


Why then was not all life terminated? According to the Rabbis, God repented of His action in the same way as a parent will forgive and protect a child who has committed violence or even murder, and he put the rainbow in the sky as a promise never again to destroy the earth.

"For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth"; (Genesis VIII 21). The new era that followed accepted this fact. In the Noahtic laws, as in the consequent Hebrew laws given on Mount Sinai, statutes were not to be enacted which the people would not accept, as this would merely cause contempt for the law generally. Compromise was therefore essential in the hope that by a codified form of living man would eventually return to his original self. At this time therefore permission was granted to those who lust after flesh to eat flesh and it was accompanied by a curse "and the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every fowl of the air and upon all that moveth upon the earth and upon all the fishes of the sea — every moveth thing that liveth shall be food for you even as the green herb have I given you all things, but the flesh with the life thereof which is the blood thereof shall ye not eat".

The celebrated Rabbi Hacohen-Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, wrote a clear-sighted treatise entitled "The Prophecy of Vegetarianism and Peace", and in it he deals with the above paragraph as follows: "It is inconceivable that the Creator who had planned a world of harmony and a perfect way for man to live, should, many thousands of years later find that this plan was wrong". He refers to the dominion over the creatures as not being "the domination of a tyrant tormenting his people and his slaves only to satisfy his private needs and desires. God forbid that such an ugly law of slavery should be sealed eternally in the word of God who is good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works".

This reasoning is clear by the paragraphs which follow the permission to eat flesh, "... and surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will require it, and at the hand of man even at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man”. So here is the permissive doctrine and its penalties. It has been proven that these penalties are inescapable and are evident in the present day world.

When the I Hebrews were eventual1y established in Israel, the law of Moses, which contains 613 precepts, was duly initiated. Notwithstanding that a mixed multitude of 200,000 accompanied the 400,000 Hebrews on their long trek from Egypt to the Promised Land, it was the most serious crime, after murder, to kill an animal outside the gates of the Temple, and carried the most severe penalty next to capital punishment. The great philosopher, medico and bible commentator of the 12th Century, Moses Maimonides, stated "The sacrifices were a concession to barbarism". It must be remembered that child sacrifice was universal and as the story of the golden calf indicated, the people were surrounded with idol worshipping tribes. The sacrifice of animals was to lead to the abolition of child sacrifice until it lead to its own abolition. Sacrifice is an essential part of the human makeup, as is evidenced today by the way people react in time of war and willingly sacrifice their lives. Primitive people could not understand any other form of worship, and today sacrifice is still required, but is represented by charity and good deeds which satisfy this instinct.

It was customary among all tribes to drink the blood and cut the limbs from living creatures, with the false idea that they thereby took in the strength from the animal. This belief still holds good among primitive tribes and an example is the Hottentots who drink live elephant’s blood. The laws of Moses were designed to protect the animals from these cruelties, and to prevent the annihilation of the human species from the disease of flesh foods, by not consuming the blood "which is the life thereof". In this there was also a strong moral issue, and even today when a creature is slaughtered, some of the blood is buried in the ground and a prayer is said over it in order to remind the slaughterer that he has taken a life.

Although blood can be drained from arteries it is impossible to remove blood from the capillaries and this could therefore be construed as a prohibition against the consumption of flesh entirely. In order to avoid this problem the flesh is burned over a flame or salted for an hour. It might be said that this is begging the question, for, although it is no longer liquid blood, it remains in a solidified form.

The law contains many other precepts regarding compassion for animals. Some examples are, "Thou shalt not yoke an ox with an ass" (this was cruelty to the weaker creature), "Thou shalt not. muzzle the ox when he treadeth the corn". This is applied also to human beings; it was considered cruel to prevent a creature eating when it was hungry, whilst producing food for others. It is not even permitted to remove eggs from a nest when the mother bird is in sight, and the prohibition of eating milk and meat together stems from the forbidden practice of killing the young in front of its mother. These and other such laws are explained in the Talmud, a large section of which is devoted to "Tzar Baal Chaim" (The Suffering of Animals).

The Ten Commandments are the basis of the Jewish Faith, and in the Fourth Commandment domestic animals along with the family are commanded to observe the Sabbath Day. The Talmud discourses on this subject and the question as to how domestic animals may observe the answer is "No", they must be allowed freedom to roam the fields and enjoy the sunshine, air and grass, generally to enjoy the work of the Creation in the same way as man. A far cry from the present practice of permanent incarceration in darkened factory farms.

Again the Sixth Commandment "Thou shalt not kill", seals the general teachings relating to carnivorous habits. The implication is that one shall not kill unnecessarily and the oft used translation "thou shalt not commit murder" wrongfully restricts the original meaning of the word. Certainly today, the abundance of nonflesh health giving foods unquestionably means that every time a creature is killed for food a sin against God has been committed.

Orthodox Jews make a blessing for practically all benefits in life. There is a separate blessing for each type of food, but there is none for flesh foods – something that has been slaughtered cannot be blessed. There is a blessing on wearing new garments, but no blessing may be made over furs or other animal skins of any kind – you cannot destroy the works of Creation and at the same time bless God for having made them. There are blessings on seeing beautiful trees, famous people, thunder, lightning, etc. and the idea underlying it all is to acknowledge the supremacy of God and the dependency of man.

The festivals, many of which have been incorporated into Christian observance, are Passover (Easter), Pentecost (Harvest Festival) and Succot (Tabernacles) The fast days, however, have not been adopted.

On Pentecost when the Synagogues are decorated with fruits and flowers, no carcasses of slaughtered creatures are to be seen. On Succot, when the little booths are erected, they are decorated with fruit and flowers, no bodies or portion of bodies are used as decorations. Even on Passover the paschal lamb is purely symbolic, there is no instruction to eat it other than on the first Biblical Passover, and any food symbol can be used to carry out the ordinance that all generations shall remember the going out of Egypt; the departure from slavery to freedom. The paschal lamb was in fact a sacrifice and not permitted therefore since the destruction of the Temple.

On the solemn Day of Atonement, when all Jews fast and seek compassion from the Almighty for life and health in the coming year, no leather shoes should be worn in the Synagogue. The reason for this is not humility but to avoid hypocrisy. It is not devout to pray for compassion when one has shown no compassion in daily life; likewise it is a sacrilege to wear a fur coat which is for self aggrandisement and the product of extreme cruelty.

It should be observed that nowhere in the Bible are flesh foods promised as a reward for observing the commandments, but an abundance of corn and wine and oil, gardens of nuts and figs and pomegranates, bread to make one strong and oil to make the face shine, a land flowing with milk and honey (milk was an expression of plenty and honey was derived from dates, wine was actually grape juice). A land where each man shall rest in peace under the shade of his own fig tree. Not, let it be noted, under the shade of his own slaughter house. Great scribes, teachers and philosophers stride across the millenniums of Jewish history, imbued with these teachings; many of them were vegetarian.

Many followed the practice of sects in ancient Israel and helped keep the flame of compassion from being extinguished. One of these tribes, the Essenes who abjured all forms of flesh food and intoxicants still exist in large numbers in modern Israel. The Founder of Christianity was of this tribe, and it is rather surprising that discussion takes place in vegetarian circles as to whether he was, in fact, vegetarian. The answer should be obvious, and parables such as “the loaves and fishes” etc. bear other explanations, a realm into which this article does not penetrate.

It is interesting to note that a very much larger proportion of Jewish people are vegetarian than their neighbors. In many instances they take leading roles in furthering knowledge of this great subject. In Israel there have been three vegetarian Chief Rabbis in twenty five years and over four percent of the population are vegetarian, perhaps a higher percentage than any country in the world, excepting India.

The long winding road back, can now be clearly seen. May it be traversed ever more speedi1y and may the day not be far distant when the beautiful prophesy of Isaiah will be fulfilled. "For behold I create new heavens and the new earth and the former shall not be remembered – and they shall plant the vineyards and eat the fruit of them – the wolf and lamb shall feed together and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain".

Judaism and vegetarianism
Ted Altar

It is interesting to note that legislation was once introduced by Mordecai Ben Porat in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) proposing to outlaw meat-eating! Can you imagine any other country that had enough political support to venture such a bold proposal? Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass; unfortunate because this would indeed have been an interesting social experiment and Israel could indeed stand head and shoulders above all nations in its respect towards animals.

The recent chief rabbi of Israel, Scholomo Goren, is a strict vegetarian and so was the first chief rabbi of the modern state of Israel, Abraham Isaac Kook. Kook's successor, the late Isaac ha-Levi Herzog, wrote

Jews will move increasingly to vegetarianism out of their own deepening knowledge of what their tradition commands...Man's carnivorous nature is not taken for granted or praised in the fundamental teachings of Judaism...A whole galaxy of central rabbinic and spiritual leaders...has been affirming vegetarianism as the ultimate meaning of Jewish moral teaching.

There are several Jewish organizations currently working to promote vegetarianism. "The International Jewish Vegetarian Society" publishes a five page quarterly called the JEWISH VEGETARIAN, and has offices or chapters worldwide included the U.S. Canada, Australia, Britain, Israel, etc. There is also the "Jewish Vegetarians" in Baltimore who say:

We feel ourselves to be part of an ancient people and a living tradition -- one whose ethical principles, we believe, point towards vegetarianism.

Roberta Kalechofsky, head of Micah Publications and Jews for Animal Rights, in Marblehead, Massachusetts, publishes various works on Judaism and animal welfare. Among these is her HAGGADAH FOR THE LIBERATED LAMB, which serves as a guide for "a vegetarian (Passover) Seder that celebrates compassion for all creatures".

Here are just a few more interesting statements and quotes from the Jewish tradition that are of relevance here.

According to Rabbi Sidney Jacobs, author of the THE JEWISH WORD BOOK

The bottom line is that there can be no "humane" procedure when slaughter is involved, nor can factory farming ever be made merciful. Ironically, the dilemma of Jewish ritual slaughter could be resolved by switching to a vegan diet, the grain- based diet set forth in Genesis.
[from "A Jewish voice for Animals" published in THE ANIMALS' VOICE, 1989 (Aug): 48- 9]

From THE NINE QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK ABOUT JUDAISM by Dennis Prager and Rabbi Telushkin

Keeping kosher is Judaism's compromise with its ideal vegetarianism. Ideally, according to Judaism, man would confine his eating to fruits and vegetables and not kill animals for food.

According to Rabbi Simon Glazer's GUIDE TO JUDAISM

It appears that the first intention of the Maker was to have men live on a strictly vegetarian diet. The very earliest periods of Jewish history are marked with humanitarian conduct towards the lower animal kingdom...It is clearly established that the ancient Hebrews knew, and perhaps were the first among men to know, that animals feel and suffer pain.


According to rabbinic tradition, interpreting the Biblical record, mankind was not allowed to eat meat until after the Flood...Once permitted, the consumption of meat remained surrounded with many restrictions. According to the rabbis, the Hebrew word for "desireth" in the verse, "when the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy border and thou shall say: `I will eat flesh,' because thy soul desireth to eat flesh" (Deut. 12:20), has a negative connotation; hence, although it is permitted to slaughter animals for food, this should be done in moderation.


Moral and legal rules condemning the treatment of animals are based on the principle that animals are part of God's creation towards which man bears responsibility. Laws...make it clear not only that cruelty to animals is forbidden but also that compassion and mercy to them are demanded of may by God...In later rabbinic literature,...great prominence is also given to demonstrating God's mercy to animals, and to the importance of not causing them pain. ...The principle of kindness to as though God's treatment of man will be according to [people's] treatment of animals".


The Jewish attitude toward animals has always been governed by the consideration that they, too, are God's creatures...[and] the obligation to respect and consider the feelings and needs of these lower creatures...The non-canonical...writings strongly urge kindness toward animals, declaring that one who harms an animal harms his own soul". [1:330]

According to Professor Richard Schwartz (author of JUDAISM and VEGETARIANISM)

In Judaism, one who does not treat animals with compassion cannot be regarded as a righteous individual.

According to the CODE OF JEWISH LAW is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature, even if it is ownerless or belongs to a non-Jew.

According to the medieval Hebrew work SEFER CHASIDIM

Be kind and compassionate to all creatures that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in this world. Never beat nor inflict pain on any animal, beast, bird, or insect. Do not throw stones at a dog or a cat, nor kill flies or wasps.

Feasts of the Prophet: Ramadan and vegetarianism in Islam
Julian Bynoe

During the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, Muslims worldwide celebrate the major holi day of their religion; Ramadan. Occurring around January, Ramadan marks the period when the religion's founder, the Prophet Mohammed, received the holy words from Allah (God) and put them down into the Koran in the 7th Century AD.

During this period, adult Muslims must fast from dawn until dusk for 29-30 days to stir universal compassion and spiritual renewal for all.

According to scholars the Prophet Mohammed, although not a vegetarian, did prefer to eat vegetarian foods and had a great love and compassion for animals. His favorite foods consisted of yogurt with butter or nuts, cucumbers with dates, pomegranates, grapes and figs. He was known to have quoted: "Where there is an abundance of vegetables, a host of angels will descend on that place."

Like most of the world's religions (except Jainism), modern Islam does not fully support vegetarianism, although certain Muslim sects such as the Shi'ites and Sufis have vegetarian followers. Throughout the African, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian parts of the Islamic World, meat is a rarity, making vegetarianism a necessity and not a choice.

During Ramadan, Muslims begin the day with a pre-dawn meal (sehri) of porridge, bread or fruit. When sundown approaches, they slowly break their fast with something simple like bread and cheese or fruit, followed by a big dusk meal (iftar) like a hearty soup or stew. When the new moon is sighted, Ramadan ends in a huge feast for family and friends, lasting for several days, called Eid-ul-Fitr.

The following are just some of the tasty dishes served during or after Ramadan from various countries.

Serves 4

A popular vegetarian soup from Algeria.

1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves pressed or minced garlic
3/4 tsp. paprika
pinch cayenne or to taste
1/2 cup tomato puree
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 cup fine cracked wheat (or bulghar)
1/2 cup each of parsley, mint leaves and corriander leaf (cilantro), coarsely chopped fresh or dried
2/3 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
3-4 tsp. lemon juice or to taste
Salt to taste

Heat oil in heavy soup pot over medium heat. Saute onion until tender. Add garlic, paprika and cayenne, cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato puree and stock or water. Bring to simmer and add salt and cracked wheat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer gently, stir occasionally until cracked wheat is cooked, about 30 minutes (15 minutes if using bulghar). Remove from heat and cool slightly. Transfer soup to blender or food processor (optional). Add parsley, cilantro and mint; blend until almost smooth. Return soup to pot, stir in chickpeas and reheat. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve.

Serves 4-6

Usually served after sundown during Ramadan, this Palestinian lentil and rice dish is truly superb.

1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed or 1 (19 oz) can lentils
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Pepper to taste
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 cup dried brown or white rice
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
1 3/4 cups water
Plain or soy yogurt (optional)

If not using canned lentils, cook dry lentils in 3 cups water until tender for 45 minutes, then drain. Heat oil in large skillet or pot over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, pepper, cumin seeds and rice. Saute for 1-2 minutes, stir constantly so spices don¹t burn. Add salt and water, bring to a boil and cover, cooking for 40 minutes for brown rice, 15 minutes for white. Remove from heat, keeping cover on for 10 minutes. Stir cooked or canned lentils into rice, add salt to taste. Serve garnished with plain or soy yogurt, if desired.

Spiced potatoes & cauliflower

This Pakistani side dish is usually served with rice or flatbreads.

1 tbsp. clarified butter (ghee) or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ginger, powdered or finely grated
Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. cumin powder or seeds
1/2 tsp. cardamom powder or seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1-2 large cooked potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small head cooked cauliflower separated into florets
2-3 tbsp. reserved cooking water from potatoes and cauliflower
Salt to taste

Heat butter or oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Sauté onion until tender. Stir garlic and spices and continue to sauté for a minute. Add vegetables and reserved cooking water. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until vegetables are very tender for about 5 minutes. Mash slightly with a fork, salt to taste. Serve.

Source: Food For The Spirit:Vegetarianism & The World Religions ; Steven Rosen, Vegetarian Times, January 1995.

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