Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

ABOUT SERV




1. SERV stands for "Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians." 

a. Do SERV members hold that the best reasons for being vegetarian are 
religious (or at least ethical)? 

I do, but I believe that all the reasons for being vegetarian may be based on 
religious and ethical values. For example, in the conclusion of my book, 
"Judaism and Vegetarianism," I ask: "In view of strong Jewish mandates to be 
compassionate to animals, preserve our health, help feed the hungry, preserve and protect the environment, conserve resources, and seek and pursue peace, and the very negative effects animal-centered diets have in each of these areas, will you now become a vegetarian, or at least sharply reduce your consumption of animal products?"

I also believe that a person's motivation is secondary, and the important thing is that a person be a vegetarianism or, better yet, a vegan, since animal-based diets and agriculture have so many negative effects on humans, animals, 
and the planet.

b. What about health reasons, which motivate the majority of English-speaking vegetarians? or perhaps ecological and world hunger reasons? 

All of these reasons can be based on religious values. For example, the 
health-related quotations below are all from the SERV Jewish quotations section. 
Similar quotations can be presented related to hunger and ecological concerns.

Views on Health

"You may not rob yourself of your life nor cause your body the slightest injury... Only if the body is healthy is it an efficient instrument for the spirit's activity... Therefore you should avoid everything which might possibly impair your health... And the law asks you to be even more circumspect in avoiding  danger to life and limb than in the avoidance of other transgressions.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 62, Section 428.

Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God - for one 
cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator if he is ill - therefore he must avoid that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is helpful and helps the body become stronger.

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deot, 4:1

Limiting our presumption against our own body, God's word calls to us: "Do 
not commit suicide!" "Do not injure yourself!" "Do not ruin yourself!" "Do not 
weaken yourself!" "Preserve yourself!"
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 62, Section 427

Following the many precedents prescribed in the Code of Jewish Law, we would have little difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that, if indeed eating meat is injurious to one's health, it is not only permissible, but possibly even 
mandatory that we reduce our ingestion of an unhealthful product to the 
minimal level.

Rabbi Alfred Cohen, "Vegetarianism From a Jewish Perspective", Journal of 
Halacha and Contemporary Society, Vol. 1, No. II, (Fall, 1981), 61.

As it is halachically prohibited to harm oneself and as healthy, nutritious 
vegetarian alternatives are easily available, meat consumption has become 
halachically unjustifiable.
Rosen, Rabbi David, "Vegetarianism: An Orthodox Jewish Perspective", in 
Rabbis and Vegetarianism: An Evolving Tradition, edited by Roberta Kalechofsky 
(Micah Publications: Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1995), 54.)

c. Is there a place in SERV for vegetarians who aren't motivated primarily by religious insights, teachings, and understandings, or would such vegetarians be better advised to network elsewhere and perhaps learn and contribute through another network of vegetarians?

I believe that everyone is welcome to join SERV provided that he or she 
participates consistent with our goals to promote vegetarianism through religious 
values. If a person is not motivated primarily by religious insights, 
teachings, and understandings, he or she might prefer to network elsewhere and perhaps learn and contribute through another network of vegetarians, but that is up to the person involved.

[Responses by Richard Schwartz]

 

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