The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog


Posted on April 14, 2014 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jay Lavine, MD

Based on manuscripts published as a book after his death (*The Emergence
of Ethical Man*, 2005), it turns out that the preeminent 20th century
Jewish scholar, the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, known to be a
rationalist and independent thinker, was a strong proponent of ethical
vegetarianism. He points out that the first rule in the Bible was that
“man, like animal,” should “live solely upon vegetables and fruits.” He
describes the Biblical attitude toward meat eating as being very
negative: “There is a distinct reluctance, almost an unwillingness, on
the part of Torah to grant man the privilege to consume meat. Man as an
animal-eater is looked at askance by the Torah. There are definitive
vegetarian tendencies in the Bible.”

He goes on to say that, when humans became corrupted before the Flood,
man “overreached himself, created a new demand, a sinful insistence upon
something which by right does not belong to him, namely, on life that is
equal to his, on flesh that is not different from his own…” A
concession was made to allow man to eat meat, at which time “the Torah
began to regulate the ‘murder’ of other lives, to restrict its
practice…” He points out that the Bible later describes the craving for
meat as a “lust, illicit demand.” He continues, “Animal hunters and
flesh-eaters are people that lust. Of course it is legalized,
approved. Yet it is classified as “ta’avah,” lust, repulsive and brutish.”

Unlike many religious leaders, he does not place humans in a separate
category from that of the other animals: “Particularly man and animals
are almost identical in their organic dynamics that is equated with
life, and there is no justifiable reason why one life should fall prey
to another.” He adds, “Not only human life, but life in general is
divine…” While not equating humans with non-human animals, he
nevertheless places all life, from plants to humans, on a continuum, and
he talks about the similarities among all of the higher animals,
including humans. For him, vegetarianism is not merely an unattainable
ideal but rather a goal that all should pursue.

More of Jay Lavine’s writings are at

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