QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
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
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
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
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
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]