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    Judaism & vegetarianism

    I am convinced that vegetarianism is ethically superior to meat-eating, which involves killing and consuming fellow creatures.

    It cannot be stated too often that God’s original design at the time of creation was that man should be vegetarian.

    It was only after the flood that meat-eating, under strictly controlled conditions, was permitted as a concession to human weakness. This is quite clear from Genesis 1:29-30 and 9:3, and underlined by Rashi’s comments on these verses and by the Talmudic comment in Sanhedrin 59b.

    “The Royal Table”, a book on the Jewish dietary laws by Jacob Cohen (Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem and New York), commences with the statement, “In the perfect world originally designed by God man was meant to be a vegetarian.”

    Cohen goes on, “Vegetative life was originally created to serve as food for animal beings… The Utopian order of endless life was too dazzling for man’s weak intellect… To the new humanity God gave a new dispensation, permitting the use of animals as food… The reasons for this permission were manifold. First, man having proved his inability to control his appetite under the old order, God found it necessary to make a concession to his weakness and permit him a wider latitude in the choice of food…”

    The careful structure of the laws of shechitah is based on the determination to ensure that, if this concession is to form part of Jewish life, it must be controlled for the sake of kindness and dignity.

    But let me add that vegetarians who are able – for reasons of ethics or health or both – to control their appetite still further and to refrain from meat-eating are fulfilling God’s original intention and harei zeh meshubach, are to be considered praiseworthy.

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