Jews and Meat

Jews and Meat

Rabbi Reuven Bulka, head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa, hosts Sunday Night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA. This article is in answer to the question of Jews and Meat “Is it a virtue not to eat meat?”

Many doctors and food experts will tell you that it is a health virtue not to eat meat, or at least not to eat too much meat. But you are obviously not asking about health virtues. You are asking about virtues.

Those who refrain from eating meat because of health concerns could not be considered virtuous because of that, since the abstinence from meat is not based on anything but self-preservation. Unless we ascribe virtue to people who overcome a strong desire to consume something they like but, for health reasons, hold off.

In such instances, it would be as virtuous to refrain from the sugary treat or the harmful alcohol or the dangerous smoke as it would be to "not eat meat."

Some people do not eat meat because they do not like meat. Hardly virtuous. But there are those who out of concern for the animals refuse to eat meat. I might argue about the wisdom of their choice, but certainly the decision to go meatless, rooted as it is in a noble concern, is worthy of being deemed virtuous.

The virtue is manifest in the sensitivity to the animals being eaten. By the same token, it is virtuous to refrain from any activity that is harmful to animals, most notably hunting for sport. It embraces a wide range of activity that is not friendly to animals, including anything that is physically taxing to the animal.

On the matter of the virtue of keeping away from meat, it is also virtuous to be moderate in the consumption of meat. Not only the abstainer, but also the one who cuts down on meat consumption out of concern for the animal, is virtuous.

As a society, we have incorporated meat consumption into our diet almost as a daily staple. Not only is this unwise from a health perspective, it is also insensitive and virtually questionable.

Religious Opinion

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