Commentary Magazine


Ecological Compassion

To the Editor:

In his article, “Kosher Ecology” [February] Newtol Press states that “children who are taught to be kind to animals are often surprised to find that kindness to animals is not listed among the Ten Commandments.”

Yet in the fourth commandment, we are told that beasts of burden must share in resting on the Sabbath Day. It takes little imagination, especially for children, to understand that a day of rest is given to animals because Judaism requires that kindness and compassion be applied to animals as well as to humans. While only cattle are “listed,” kindness to all animals is clearly implied in the Ten Commandments.

Jack D. Spiro
Richmond, Virginia

_____________

 

To the Editor:

In “Kosher Ecology” Newtol Press posits a hypothesis which, however true, nonetheless ignores ethical considerations and sound hygienic practice.

In assuring us we were meant to eat the meat of a cow, he writes: “Our digestive tracts are predisposed to meat. . . . we have the guts . . . of [omnivores].” He warns that vegetarian diets could lead to kwashiorkor and that we can insure our protein nutrition by regular consumption of meat.

Now cow meat does indeed have neat packets of protein. But because of the way most beef cows are factory-farmed, deprived of elemental comfort (particularly those destined to be veal), and then slaughtered purely to fulfill human wants (not needs), there is a moral question that enjoins ethical vegetarians from supporting such practices. These vegetarians show their distaste by eschewing beef. Further, it is difficult to read a newspaper that does not warn us in some way of the dangers of an excessively high cholesterol count. In biblical times, animals were not factory-farmed and cholesterolemia did not, to our knowledge, exist.

There is a way out. Most vegetarians are not extreme; that is, they allow themselves the luxury of dairy products which, if consumed in modest amounts—or even with gusto in the case of fat-free milk and other fat-reduced dairy products—will avoid the dangers of a meat-laden diet. Then, too, some people allow themselves fish dinners. Strictly speaking, they may not be considered vegetarians since their dietary habits involve the harvesting of sentient creatures. But at least these fish do not suffer the lifelong hardships of factory farming.

Mr. Press’s article, however sound in its other aspects, erroneously assumes that one must be either a plant-and-legume eater or a beefeater. The factory farming and slaughter of sentient creatures for man’s food is unnecessary and immoral.

Harvey S. Karten
Brooklyn, New York

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Newtol Press writes:

Jack D. Spiro and Harvey S. Karten deserve the gentlest of responses to their well-intentioned letters. Although perverse readings are possible, Mr. Spiro’s interpretation of Scripture is traditional. If kindness to animals were commanded in plain words, instead of requiring exegeses, the arguments of those who speak for dumb beasts, such as Mr. Karten, would be spared much of their stridency. Mistreatment of cattle is abhorred by Mr. Karten, who might, however, feel less sanguine about his own sources of protein if he were to visit dairy farms.

Both writers share a common moral theme: we should refrain from abusing the beasts that serve us. It is in our self-interest to do so, even for the wrong reasons.

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