Thursday, May 22, 2014 | return to: views, opinions


Vegetarians ready to dialogue on ‘humane’ meat practices

by jeffrey cohan

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The “humane” meat movement, which has planted its flag at your local Whole Foods and in so many hipster restaurants, is now making its presence felt in the Jewish community.

At first glance, this might seem like a most welcome development. After all, the movement does present itself as an alternative to the well-documented and videotaped horrors of factory farming.

9_V_jeffrey_cohan_avatar_with_nameBut if its proponents feel compelled to bend the truth beyond recognition, spew logical fallacies and sloppily propagate outright falsehoods, then you might want to question the entire premise.

A perfect case in point appeared on these pages two weeks ago (“Urban Adamah deserves respectful dialogue, not bullying,” May 9). Author and shochet (ritual slaughterer) Yadidya Greenberg took exception to the efforts of Jewish Vegetarians of North America to save the lives of 15 young, innocent hens, who were to be killed by the nonprofit organization Urban Adamah at a kosher-slaughter workshop in Berkeley on May 4.

Contrary to what Greenberg would have you believe, JVNA sought to open a dialogue with Urban Adamah before a protest was even contemplated. After all, we are in alignment with Urban Adamah on most issues, and we would much prefer to work with the organization, not against it.

Unfortunately, Urban Adamah’s executive director did not return our messages.

Moreover, Urban Adamah flatly rejected a sincere offer to transfer the hens to farm-animal sanctuaries, where the birds could live out their natural lives in peace.

Of course, if you had only read Greenberg’s piece, you wouldn’t know any of this.

Faced with Urban Adamah’s unresponsiveness to our outreach and rejection of the sanctuary proposal, we were left with two unpalatable choices: Either let the hens be killed, or make an appeal to the attendees of the slaughter workshop.

For JVNA, the overriding consideration was the lives of the chickens, who are intelligent and social individuals and who, in Jewish belief, have a covenant with God.

Plans for a protest were laid, centering on having animal-sanctuary officials present outside the workshop with their transport equipment visible. The hope was that workshop attendees would question why the birds were about to be slaughtered when a viable and compassionate alternative was readily available.

This would have created an uncomfortable predicament for Urban Adamah, to be sure. So it wasn’t surprising when the organization opted to cancel the workshop.

The lives of the hens are still hanging in the balance. Urban Adamah has not announced what it intends to do with the birds.

But in an act of good faith, the plans for the protest were quickly canceled, and efforts to find a mutually agreeable solution were renewed.

I am delighted to report that in the aftermath of the workshop cancellation, Urban Adamah has graciously opened a line of communication with JVNA, which we appreciate and respect. We seek to play an intermediary role between our brother Jewish organization and our pro-animal allies.

Yadidya Greenberg and other defenders of the “humane” meat movement have questioned why JVNA would focus on Urban Adamah, an organization that treats its chickens relatively well until it decides it wants to kill them. Why aren’t we directing our ire against the factory-farming industry, which slaughters millions of chickens every day in the U.S. alone?

What seems like a valid question is actually based on a faulty premise.

Critiquing the “humane” meat movement and railing against factory farming are not mutually exclusive propositions. We can — and do — do both.

What Greenberg, Urban Adamah and other practitioners of small-scale animal agriculture conveniently ignore is that their movement is joined at the hip with the factory-farming industry. This is not a matter of opinion.

The reality is, you will never hear spokespeople for the industrial-livestock companies criticize or complain about the “humane” meat movement. And there’s a good reason for that. The “humane” meat movement is perpetuating the idea that it’s perfectly OK to kill young animals if you like the way their flesh tastes. And in so doing, the movement is sustaining the industry.

The real threat to the factory farmers, and the object of their public condemnations, is the vegetarian-and-vegan advocacy movement.

JVNA is fighting for the soul of Judaism and is working to promote the highest ideals of the Torah, in which God instructs us to adopt a plant-based diet (Genesis 1:29), inflicts a plague on meat-eaters (Numbers 11) and connects meat-eating to a curse (Genesis 9) and to human lust (Deuteronomy 12:20).

If Urban Adamah, Greenberg or anyone else would like to debate what the Torah presents as the ideals to which we should all aspire, we welcome that debate.

Jeffrey Cohan is the executive director of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. He lives in Pittsburgh.


For an opposing view on this issue, read "Conscientious meat eating is not an oxymoron."


Posted by chickenadvocate
05/22/2014  at  02:41 PM
"Humane" meat movement inseparable from "factory farming"

Jeffrey Cohan is correct in stating that the so-called humane meat movement is joined at the hip with animal factory farming, for the reasons he eloquently gives. It is all the same violence and shedding of blood without the slightest nutritional necessity. “Humane meat” is nothing but feelgoodism for a foodie, but to be slaughtered does not feel good to the victim. “Humane meat” is just another term for Bad Faith.

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Posted by Veggie18
05/22/2014  at  03:08 PM
JVNA leads the Jewish way. Urban Adamah lied & immorally secretly killed the chickens!

Jeffrey’s great article is outdated by the fact he acted in good faith to negotiate with UA for the safe release of the chickens, not knowing they had already been killed.  Adam Berman, the Urban Adamah and staff deceived this Jewish organization who trusted them and gave them time they requested.  The caring community honored UA’s request.  Trusting these unethicall Uraban Adamah people cost these poor chickens their lives.

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Posted by Veggie18
05/22/2014  at  03:20 PM
Cruel killers lie!

As George Bernard Shaw wrote: a person who wouldn’t hesitate to be cruel wouldn’t hesitate to lie about it.

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Posted by Beth Aaron
06/02/2014  at  05:03 AM
Mercy, Empathy and Religious Imperative

As a child, I loved animals, all of them. I was often taken to engage with soft, warm, cuddly infant calves, lambs, cows, and other furry friends and we always had dogs. As deep and natural as my affinity for animals was, I also ate them. Why question the prevailing food paradigm when that’s just what was on my plate, what family members ate, what was served at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and weddings. Why even reconsider what was as normal and consistent as going to Temple for Yom Kippur, or   visiting aunts and uncles for a family Pesach Seder. Oh that sweet manischvitz was GOOD!  Who knew that the diet we were consuming was so harmful and went against the main precepts of Torah to care for our health, our environment, protect animals from needless suffering, and ensure justice was imparted to all those who are vulnerable.  Who knew that slaughterhouses were hell holes where sentient animals, capable of feeling pain and suffering immensely, went to be butchered after a short life in filth, and after being treated so horribly.
Growing up in suburbia, the topic of veganism was never mentioned at home or in Hebrew School, (strangely since in Judaism, our treatment of animals is of major ethical and moral concern)so it never entered my mind. I, like millions, was ignorant of where meat and dairy came from, the conditions my fellow earthlings were forced to endure, and the violence required to take their terrorized bodies through the process of slaughter, the ugliest word in human vocabulary.
After ten years of learning the broad ramifications of animal agriculture on public health, 65 BILLION land animals killed every year, the imperiled environment and climate issues from 51% of GHG emissions of methane and Co2 from this sector, it was the easiest and most empowering choice( knowing gives us choice, not knowing stunts our ability to make better ones)I’ve ever made, although a bitter sweet choice after seeing that animals are still being tortured in life and to death for food that is killing human bodies and the larger body we all earth.
It gives me great pride to know that Judaism explicitly teaches that a plant based diet is Gds Ideal and we do have obligation to protect animals from unnecessary suffering. Since animal protein and animal fat, dairy, eggs, fish, are not required, and in fact unhealthy and unsustainable, there is no necessary requirement to eat or feed children animals.
I am so thrilled that athletes, celebrities, doctors, and more mainstream citizens, are learning that a plant strong diet helps every aspect of our lives from health to the environment to reducing suffering for animals. Thanks to prophetic men and women in the Jewish Vegan Movement, we can aspire to live Gds ideal and help manifest the sacred words, “On Earth As It Is In Heaven.”  Shalom!!! Eat More Kale.

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