How Should Jews React to the Polish Ban on Shechita?

Recently the Polish government banned the practice of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter). How should Jews react?

Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), of which I am President Emeritus, is against all slaughter, but we object when shechita is signaled out for criticism or is banned. Shechita was designed to minimize pain, but even if it is carried out with a minimum of pain, the many months during which animals are mistreated on factory farms should be considered.

People who think that other methods of slaughter are more humane than shechita should read the book, "Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry," by Gail Eisnitz. It documents the many problems at slaughterhouses where animals are stunned prior to slaughter, with many of the workers becoming sadistic and cruel under the horrible conditions of their daily efforts.

There is a familiar admonition that states that when one is given a lemon they should make lemonade, meaning make the best of what appears to be a negative situation. JVNA believes this can happen in the case of the Polish ban on shechita. While we appreciate that meat-eaters will understandably have a negative reaction to the ban, if it leads some Jews to shift to a vegetarian diet, there could be many benefits: .

* There would be a reduction in the widespread heart disease, several types of cancer, and other diseases afflicting many Jews and others.

* There would be a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases. While the world is increasingly threatened by climate change, a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, "Livestock’s Long Shadow," indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than is emitted by the cars and all other means of transportation worldwide combined.

* There would be a reduction in environmental problems, including deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, loss of biological diversity, and desertification.

* Resources would be used more efficiently. In an increasingly thirsty and energy-dependent world, a person on an animal-based diet requires up to 14 times as much water (mainly for irrigating feed crops) and 10 times as much energy as a person on a vegan (only plants) diet.

* There would be a reduction in the number of animals who suffer greatly from cruel treatment on factory farms.

* There would potentially be a reduction in the number of hungry people. At a time when food prices are skyrocketing, an estimated 20 million people are dying annually worldwide from hunger and its effects, and almost a billion of the world's people are chronically hungry, 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and 40 percent produced worldwide are fed to farmed animal. What makes that even more shameful is that the corn, soy, and oats that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates are converted into animal products that are devoid of these nutrients, but high in cholesterol and saturated fat that are so harmful to health.

It should also be considered that plant-based diets are most consistent with Jewish teachings on preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and helping hungry people. Also, such diets are consistent with conditions during the two ideal times pictured in the Jewish tradition: the Garden of Eden (based on Genesis 1:29) and the Messianic period, based on Isaiah's vision of a Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 11:6-9).

Hopefully, rabbis and other Jewish leaders will help increase awareness of the many benefits of vegetarianism and of Jewish teachings that point to it as the ideal Jewish diet. This would help revitalize Judaism by showing the relevance of its eternal teachings to current realities, bring many idealistic Jews back to Judaism, and help shift our precious, but imperiled, planet onto a sustainable path.

2 Replies to "How Should Jews React to the Polish Ban on Shechita? "

  • Laura Ziporah Tenenboim
    July 28, 2013 (9:12 am)

    Hi there,

    I was wondering if there is anything diffrent with the polish ban than with the
    existing ones (e.g. in Sweden, Norway, Switzerland,
    Luxembourg…)? It still allows the import of kosher meat so it remains available…

    I do agree with all of apove points but I would like to see a more drastic and
    political response. All forms of (industrial) slaughter are increadably cruel and
    the overconsuption of animal products are related to many diseases. I miss a
    movement to lobby for
    animal-product-free public places. Sounds crazy? Who would have thought that a ban
    of smoking in public areas would be possible only 20 years ago?

    It is an imperative for Jews to act on this. It makes me sick to think that
    politicians today use the ban of shechita to show of as animal rights activists
    while still allowing uncountable and extrem forms of cruelity while raising and
    slaughtering creatures.

    The ban of shechita is not only based on hidden antisemitic tendencies but increses
    them! ( As in: Christians treat animals decently, Muslims and Jews are cruel.) Noone
    should get away with drawing a picture like that!

    So yes, do promote a vegetarian an vegan lifestile in the Jewish
    communities but also promote it outside and let people know about the cruel deeds of
    the food industry in which everyone plays a part.

    Greetings from Berlin,

    “As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had
    the same thought: In their behaivior towards creatures, all men were Nazis. The
    smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplify the most
    extreme racist theories the principle that might is right.”
    Isaac Bashevis Singer
    in: Enemies A Love Story

  • Richard Schwartz
    July 28, 2013 (1:13 pm)

    Many thanks for your thoughtful comments, Laura. I agree especially with your comments about cruelty and diseases. You might be interested in my later related blog on the Polish government’s shechita ban at .

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