Saturday, July 10, 2004


The Ethics of Vegetarianism and Animal Rights

My post decrying any analogy between the Holocaust and industrial farming drew a number of reactions on line and off. I should say that, in the main, most people agreed with my critique. Empathy with my outrage was expressed by a number of people.

Quite naturally, I turned to Dani'el, my husband, a second-generation vegan and son of two Holocaust survivors asking his opinion on the matter. That is to say, my husband's vegan parents are Holocaust survivors. He found the analogy of cattle cars that carry cattle to the cattle cars that transported human beings to Treblinka repulsive, excessive and the product of obsessed minds or, perhaps, the disingenuous acting out on vested personal interests.

Dani'el then thought a minute and said: "I seem to remember that the Nazis, may their memory be blotted out, adopted ethical vegetarianism as a 'moral' principle (and, it transpires, a propagandistic expedient as well). Surprised, I searched Nazi+Vegetarianism. I came to the links below. I hope that you will read them carefully.

I am most certainly not touting eating meat. I am, however, seriously concerned with misguided ethics in whatever form it may take.

Just as many adjustments have to be made in the planned path to an object far from us in space, no matter how painstakingly we calculated the original trajectory, so painstaking moral calculation, and continuous rethinking in light of error, must be made if we are to arrive at an elusive moral target.

We are confronted with moral dilemmas when we attempt to be moral. As we scale the highest levels of human existence we encounter levels of being that are characterized by paradox. At the lower rungs of existence, the world is characterized by disjunction, i.e., this or that. At higher levels, as we approach ultimate resolution of contradictions, reality is characterized by conjunction, i.e., this and that. Boundaries blur as we approach infinity. It is for this reason that we must be solidly grounded in common sense. While our heads may be in the heavens, our feet must be firmly planted on the ground, lest we become confounded. The source of evil is not the base, but rather the sublime improperly apprehended.

Please read the following links and rethink very carefully about the ethics of vegetarianism and animal rights.

Please allow me to say that the following excerpts from the link directly below best describes, in part, my husband's approach to vegan vegetarianism. Another issue for him personally is the reigning in of appetites that, given free reign, not only impact negatively on one's physical health, but, allowed to take root in the personality and become habit, impinge upon one's self-control and character generally.

These are the excerpts from the excellent article:

"When the lines are blurred, when both human and animal life is considered equally sacred, this can trigger a dangerous philosophy that regards killing a human being as no more heinous than killing an animal."

"Vegetarianism based on the idea that we have no moral right to kill animals is not an acceptable Jewish view."

"Vegetarianism for aesthetic or health reasons is acceptable; indeed, the Torah's mandate to "guard yourselves carefully" (Deut. 4:15) requires that we pay attention to health issues related to a meat-centered diet. Some points to consider include the contemporary increase in sickness in animals created by factory farm conditions, and the administration of growth hormones, antibiotics and other drugs given to animals. All of these may be possible health risks to humans."

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel