The Jewish reasons to be vegetarian
By Naor Bar Zeev (Appeared originally in the Australian Jewish News in March 12, 2004). From a Torah perspective, vegetarianism was originally the norm. Initially permitted by God to eat only vegetables, it was only after animals were saved by Noah that humans were permitted to eat meat (Bereshit 1:28-9). Even then, wanton killing of animals is prohibited and animals must be slaughtered swiftly with a sharp non-serrated instrument. Many laws reflect the principle of not inflicting needless suffering or pain on an animal:
- One must never eat an animal while it is still alive (Bereshit 9:4)’
- One must send away a mother bird if one collects eggs (Devarim 22:7);
- One may not muzzle an animal while it is threshing to prevent it from eating (Devarim 25:4);
- One may not even raise one’s voice to yell at an animal if it eats while working (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 186);
- One should feed one’s animals prior to eating one’s own food (Berachot 40a); and
- One must care for a lost animal until its owner is found (Devarim 22:1-4; Shemot 23:4).