Friday, March 19, 2010


With experience with my wife being a vegetarian for some two decades, but now again eating meat and others such as Rav Moshe Tzvi Segel zt"l, and with the new Foer book out, I caught this and thought it interesting:

Sir, – It is unfortunate that, in the course of reviewing Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book Eating Animals, Mark Rowlands (March 5) never once questions any of the premisses of Mr Foer’s arguments, which are specious at best. All evolutionary and biological evidence points towards a reality that human beings were destined to eat meat. In fact, it is the core thesis of the Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire that it is cooking with fire, specifically cooking meat with fire, that is responsible for the major developments of human evolution.

Moreover, Foer’s focus on the subjectivity of the eating experience is destructive at best: eating (and the production of food) is a communal act and not a platform for expressing one’s personal queasiness over the fact that food production often demands blood and harm. We are only able to live exclusively on a vegetarian diet due to the “high-value” nutritive qualities of modern agricultural crops that have been refined over generations, and widely available processed vegetable oils, such as olive oil. Try eating the types of wild oranges an orang- utan enjoys and you will receive little in the way of nutrition or relief from hunger. The point is that vegetarian diets, in many ways, are illusory, possible only because of the vast monocultures on which they are grown, which are harmful to the environment at large and local ecologies in specific.

While it is true that the breeding and slaughtering of livestock in modern, industrial conditions is morally repugnant and unacceptable, such conditions are not an argument for changing the diet of humankind, but rather for changing the conditions of such breeding and slaughtering. In fact, one easy remedy would be to stop growing vegetative crops in vast monocultures and return to smaller farms, which grow diverse crops on fields rotated between pasture and tillage, where livestock provides labour, fertilization and, yes, at some point, food.

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yoni said...

nothing against any individual taking on the discipline of vegetarianism, but this makes sense to me.

Y. Ben-David said...

In the classic Stanley Kubrick-Arthur C Clark science fiction movie "2001", they show in the segment "The Dawn of Man" a group of ape-like creatures who come in contact with the "monolith" and as a result they become more intelligent than neighboring clans of similar creatures. This increased intelligence manifests itself by these creatures learning to make war on their neighbors and by learning to eat meat.

If the movie were made today, they would never show these scenes....not politically correct!

Anonymous said...

Was rabbi Moshe Zvi Segal vegetarian?! I would like to know!
Nechama Schwartz

YMedad said...

Of course. I knew him, his wife and ate at his house from 1970 until his passing 14 years later.