A Letter ...
JUDAISM AND VEGETARIANISM
author Richard Schwartz
Dear Pamela, I wish to strongly commend you and the Viva Vegie Society for the excellent job that you are doing in making more and more people aware of the many benefits of vegetarianism. By putting together and distributing the "101 Reasons Why I Am a Vegetarian" and engaging in dialogues with people at various events, you have shown the kind of creativity and personal involvement that should serve as a model for many similar activities. I have been greatly honored at being selected as one of the editorial consultants of The Viva Vine, along with creative and dynamic activists Karen Davis and Henry Spira. I am eager to continue that role as you convert words on paper to electronic information "on line."
Based on the realities of meat-based diets and livestock agriculture, I have been becoming increasingly convinced that vegetarianism today is not only an important personal choice, but also a societal imperative. The excellent article, "Pace Picks Up on Export of American Diet" by you and Alan Rice in the May/June, 1995 issue, showing the strong efforts to get other countries to adopt very harmful and unhealthy typical U. S. diets, only reinforces this conclusion. Hence, your wonderful efforts are becoming increasingly important and I wish you much continued success with them.
I also urge other VivaVegie Society members to adopt creative and courteous approaches similar to yours to help bring that day when, in the words of the prophet, Isaiah, there shall be an end of violence and destruction. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Show the links between animal-based diets and current financial problems at the city, state, and national levels. Total health costs in the United States have soared from $80 billion in 1970 (6% of the national GNP) to $1.06 trillion in 1994 (14% of
the GNP), and is projected to reach 20% of GNP in 10 to 12 years; hence, close to one dollar of every seven dollars presently spent in the U. S. is for health care, and this is projected to reach one in five dollars early in the next century. These very high medical expenditures have contributed to huge annual budget deficits, and this has contributed to a total U. S. debt of about $4.8 trillion dollars in 1995, a number five times greater than just 15 years ago. These startling statistics correspond to recent proposals for major cutbacks in education, health care, and other important services.
2. Relate the realities of livestock agriculture (factory farming) to the many ecological threats, including potential global warming, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other important habitats, ozone depletion, soil erosion and depletion, and air and water pollution, that are increasingly in the news today. As Keith Akers, author of the Vegetarian Sourcebook, has persuasively argued, the most important thing that an individual can do for the environment is to become a vegetarian.
Comprehensive coverage of health, ecological, and other diet-related issues may be found in many recent wonderful books, including The Power of Your Plate by Neal D. Barnard, M. D. (Book Publishing Co., 1990), McDougall's Medicine: A Challenging Second Opinion by John McDougall, M. D. (New Century Publishers, 1985), Diet for a New America by John Robbins (Stillpoint Publishing, 1987), and Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin (Dutton, 1992).
3. Respectfully challenge members of religious communities with questions such as: in view of the strong religious mandates to be compassionate to animals, preserve health, help feed the hungry, protect the environment, conserve resources, and seek and pursue peace, and the very negative effects animal-centered diets have in each of these areas, shouldn't you seriously consider switching to a vegetarian diet?
4. In addition to reaching out to the general public, select a key person (or several key people), such as a teacher, a religious leader, a politician, a labor or business leader, a writer or editor, etc., and personally make that person aware of reasons why he or she should become a vegetarian and should use his or her influence to educate others about vegetarianism.
Very truly yours,
--Richard H. Schwartz, Professor, Mathematics, College of Staten Island, author of Judaism and Vegetarianism
A LETTER FROM NEW YORKER, EDDY BIKALES:
Pam: I was sorry to hear about the possibility of HARD COPY EDITION OF The VivaVine folding. But you have provided a wonderful service for many people for a long time, so I hope you view it as having been a success, even if it has to end. Whatever happens, I certainly have enjoyed the hard copy version, and consider myself lucky to be able to continue to receive it via your Listserve as email ...
-- Eddy Bikales