International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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IS THERE A BASIS IN JEWISH ETHICS FOR MANDATORY VEGANISM OR A HUMANE FARM ANIMAL DIET?

By Phineas E. Leahey


I. Introduction

In the last decade, Jewish scholars have increasingly promoted strict vegetarianism, and even varying degrees of veganism, as an ethical choice based on inhumane conditions in modern agriculture and the perceived negative effects of animal-based diets on human health and the environment. Some religious authorities have also interpreted Jewish law to support "vegetarianism" as a permissible, if not ideal, diet for similar reasons. Although halacha, or Jewish law, has not responded in a comprehensive fashion to the strict vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, the issue has been discussed, at least since the 1990s.

At least three main perspectives on Jewish veganism have emerged from these discussions: Anti-veganism (requiring animal-based diets at least on certain occasions), Permissive Veganism, and Mandatory Veganism. The most controversial approach would be mandatory veganism. The possibility of a certified humane animal diet has not received adequate attention, in part due to the limited availability or expense of such products. Following a critique of the first two perspectives, this article proposes that mandatory veganism and/or a humane animal-based diet is a justifiable view. Such a view would be based on concerns about supporting violations of the prohibition against ts'sar balei chayim, or cruelty to animals, not concerns for human health or the environment, which may, however, provide a certain degree of ancillary support.

The full article - in MS Word format (updated March, 2005), 17 pages, 143k. Right-click/save-as to download, or left-click to open then save, depending on your browser. If your system opens the document on Wordpad by default, reset to Word or WordPerfect to avoid the omission of footnotes or other formatting problems.

Copyright © Phineas E. Leahey 2003 - pleahey@juno.com (the author welcomes comments).