UK bread and cereal bars found to be contaminated with glyphosate
Monday, January 13, 2014 by: PF Louis
(NaturalNews) The UK and EU populace doesn’t embrace Monsanto’s propaganda, and their governments are somewhat less dominated by Monsanto minions than the US government is. So traces of glyphosate in major British non-GMO food brands should be a huge red flag for us here in America.
UK news site The Ecologist featured a study performed by a British anti-GMO group called GM Freeze. Two major food brands contained traces of glyphosate. The research disclosed that all four cereal bars produced by Jordans and 34 out of 40 bread products sampled from Walburtons contained traces of glyhosate. These are both big name brands in the UK.
Those traces were below the EU maximum allowable glyphosate residue amounts for cereal products. But many disagree with the maximum allowable amounts, pointing out that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor and thus shouldn’t be tolerated at any level.  
Parsing the glyphosate RoundUp issue
So how does glyphosate show up in those biscuits and breads where GMOs aren’t grown? Well, RoundUp is such a popular herbicide that it’s used on non-GMO grain fields. Normally, RoundUp destroys all plant life that’s not grown from RoundUp Ready GMO seeds that are designed to keep the pesticide from killing those GMO corn or soy crops.
But farmers can use it on non-GMO fields before planting to get rid of or prevent weeds from choking the new crops, and they can be used just before harvesting to make combining easier. That’s how glyphosate can show up in foods from non-GMO grain sources. Only organic crops will be free of any pesticide residues.
In Europe, GMO soy and corn is allowed in most countries for livestock feed only. And that guarantees that the Monsanto herbicide RoundUp gets sold abundantly to those farmers who sign extremely binding and limiting contracts with the evil corporation.
This affects non-organic farm animals adversely. A Dutch pig farmer raised a stink beyond even his large factory farm when he compared the differences in animal health and reproduction between GMOfeeds and non-GMO feeds.
With non-GMO feeds, he experienced far less still births or spontaneous abortions and deformities among newly born piglets and less need for antibiotics among the pigs, who clearly showed better health even within the confines of a factory farm. 
This situation had occurred among Midwest American livestock farmers also. Several of them had reported issues of an even greater extent using GMO feed with their pigs, cows and cattle to retired Purdue professor emeritus of plant pathology Dr. Don Huber.
Huber investigated and discovered that the RoundUp pesticide was creating soil and plant issues that at least robbed the plants of nutrition and protection from disease. Huber also hypothesized that a unique and novel pathogen was developed in the process. 
Here’s where the glyphosate issue gets dicey
Glyphosate alone is not the most toxic pesticide ingredient, although it’s commonly considered as such.But it’s the only substance used for testing by the EPA and government agencies worldwide. So the EPA has allowed larger amounts of glyphosate usage even as it has been showing up in human blood.
RoundUp’s extreme toxicity comes from combining glyphosate with chemical adjuvants to ensure rapid plant absorption of glyphosate. Glyphosate is considered the “active ingredient,” while the adjuvants are considered “inert,” pretty much like vaccines and their toxic adjuvants.
The RoundUp adjuvants aren’t considered, while Monsanto claims proprietary rights to avoid revealing what those “inert” ingredients are. But the two-year Seralini rat study that produced premature deaths and horrific tumors after nine months did decipher what those adjuvants are. 
Using scientific instrumentation, the Seralini group isolated inert ingredients and noted their toxicity. RoundUp’s glyphosate combination with certain chemical adjuvants create a toxic and carcinogenic cocktail that makes it’s way up the food chain. [5a]
If the recent Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology retraction of Seralini’s work has you confused, consider these two facts: Almost 800 scientists and thousands of other professionals have petitioned objections to the journal’s condemnation of Seralini’s work, and just prior to that journal’s retraction, a former Monsanto scientist slithered into the journal’s editorial staff.
David Schubert, Ph.D. biology professor with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, offers an excellent write-up defending Seralini’s work here (http://www.utsandiego.com).
Note: Grazing animals are part of a natural system and can help soil fertility by tilling it from the top without turning it over. Overgrazing, on the other hand, is destructive. It is hard to see how grazing cattle on desertified land is going to help it rebound. Sheep are the worst grazing animals because they rip out grass roots and all.
How Grazing Cows Can Save the Planet, and Other Surprising Ways of Healing the Earth
The Savory Institute helps farmers to holistically manage their livestock in order to improve soil quality and heal the environment. In fact, according to Savory, an African ecologist, dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock is the only thing that can reverse desertification (when land turns to desert).
This was Savory’s first conference, and turned out to be quite a memorable event. Judy has summarized a big portion of what was presented in that conference in her book. But what made her hone in on the issue of soil health to begin with?
Surprisingly, it all began with an investigation into the economy. Around 2008, just before the economic downturn, she’d started writing about the transition movement:
“One of the things that transition initiatives were dealing with was local currencies,” she says. “Looking into local currencies kind of helped me understand how local economies work and primed me to ask questions when the economic downturn hit, like ‘What is money? What is wealth?’
I was on that trajectory, writing about environmental economics and new economics… Basically, it’s the notion that our economy can and should serve the people the planet as opposed to the other way around.
This I fear is the scenario that we’ve kind of gotten stuck in – that people and the planet, meaning all of our natural systems, exist to serve the economy.
From that framework, I started looking at ecology and observed the disconnect between our financial system and the natural world, which just cannot be separate. That disconnect doesn’t work.”
The Environmental Impact of Conventional Farming
This led her to learn more about soil health, economical land use, and how modern agricultural practices affect our environment.
For example, did you know that our modern agricultural system is responsible for putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the actual burning of fossil fuels? Understanding this reveals an obvious answer to pressing global problems.
There are only three places for carbon to go: land, air and water. Our agricultural practices have removed massive amounts of valuable carbon from land, transferring it into air and water. By paying greater attention to carbon management, we have the opportunity to make a dramatic difference in this area, which is having major negative consequences to our agriculture, and the pollution of our water and air.
As explained by Judy, early this past summer, concentrations of atmospheric CO2 crossed the 400 parts per million-threshold—the highest it’s been in thousands of years. According to an organization called 350.org, scientists believe our CO2 levels need to be around 350 parts per million in order to maintain favorable living conditions on earth.
Carbon management is a critical aspect of environmental health and the growing of food.
That said, CO2 levels are not constantly or continuously rising in a straight line. The level rises and falls, and this is a clue to what’s going on.
“Depending on the season, depending on how much photosynthesis is happening, it dips down, and then goes up again,” Judy explains. “When we’ve got a lot of plants, as we get towards the warmer part of the year, more photosynthesis is happening, and the CO2 levels drop slightly.
That’s so important to know, because photosynthesis is key to what we’re talking about.
When I talk about bringing carbon back into the soil, I’m talking about supporting and stimulating the process of photosynthesis – in other words, growing more plants. Those plants then take in the CO2. They make carbon compounds. Those carbon compounds are drawn down, and they go into the soil.”
Sequestering carbon in the Earth’s soils is a good thing. There’s actually more carbon in our world soils than in all plants, including trees, and the atmosphere together. However, due to modern agricultural methods, we’ve lost between 50 and 80 percent of the carbon that used to be in the soil… This means there’s plenty of “room” to put it back in.
“It’s useful to understand that the notion of bringing carbon back into the soil, one thing that it does is withdraw carbon down from the atmosphere. That’s hugely important,” Judy says.
“Carbon is the main component of soil organic matter. That’s the good stuff that you want in soil anyway for fertility. It also absorbs water. When you have carbon-rich soil, you also have soil that is resilient to floods and drought. When you start looking at soil carbon, the news keeps getting better and better.”
The Importance of Holistic Herd Management
Another major factor that needs to be considered is the management of livestock. Herds raised according to modern, conventional practices contribute to desertification—turning land into desert—which, of course, doesn’t support plant life and photosynthesis, thereby shifting the equation in the wrong direction. When land turns to desert, it no longer holds water, and it loses the ability to sustain microbial life and nourish plant growth…
One of the reasons Allan Savory has become so popular is his promotion of holistic herd management, which causes desert areas to convert back to grasslands that support plant life. As explained by Judy:
“It occurred to him that the land needed the animals in the same way that the animals needed the land. He began to really observe how animals functioned on land, and came to understand the really intricate dynamics, the system, that had been naturally in operation.
Basically, when grazing animals graze, they’re nibbling on the grasses in a way that exposes their growth points to sunlight and stimulates growth… Their trampling [of the land also] did several things: it breaks any capped earth so that the soil is aerated. It presses in seeds [giving them] a chance to germinate, so you have a greater diversity of plants. [Grazing herds] also press down dying and decaying grasses, so that they can be better acted upon by microorganisms in the soil. It keeps the decaying process going. Their waste also fertilizes the soil.”
This natural symbiotic relationship between animals, soils and plants—where each benefits the other mutually—is a powerful insight. And it’s one that can be replicated with great benefit. Besides the environmental benefits, grass-fed, pastured livestock is also an excellent source of high quality meat. In fact, it’s the only type of meat I recommend eating, as raising cattle in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) alters the nutritional composition of the meat—not to mention such animals are fed antibiotics, growth promoters and other veterinary drugs.
You Can Make a Difference in More Ways Than One
As for recommendations for what we can do to get us going in the right direction with regards to improving not only animal and human health but the health of the planet, Judy says:
“Most recommendations are very simple. The simplest thing is to avoid having bare soil.Because when you have bare uncovered soil, the land degradation process begins. When you have bare soil, that means that the carbon is binding with oxygen and becoming carbon dioxide.”
We also need to shift our focus to emphasize the biological system as a whole. Soil is not a static “thing.” It’s a living symbiotic system, and soil microorganisms also play a very important role in this system. When I visited Elaine Ingham at the Rodale Institute, I learned the value of compost tea for promoting beneficial soil microbes, and I now use a vortex compost tea brewing system to revitalize my own garden. Interestingly, the better you farm or garden, the less land you need. According to Judy, a biological farmer using appropriate methods can grow on 1,000 acres the same amount of food another farmer might need 5,000 acres to produce…
Another factor is the importance of integrating animals on the land. Most biological farmers understand this, and will tell you that in order for soil to get to its highest potential of productivity and health, there needs to be animals on the land. (According to Savory, grazing large herds of livestock on half of the world’s barren or semi-barren grasslands could also take enough carbon from the atmosphere to bring us back to preindustrial levels!) But what if you’re not a gardener yet, or a farmer? How can you help achieve this much needed shift?
“I think people can make a difference in all sorts of ways that people make decisions every day, such as asking yourself how the food you’re buying was grown,” Judy says. “Because once you start asking where the food comes from, even posing that question, will lead you to make different choices.
Apart from food, what decisions are being made in your community about the use of land? Can your community save money by working with soil rather than, say, putting in an expensive waste or water treatment plant? That’s another thing, getting involved on a local level. There are all kinds of organizations that are working on different environmental and different food aspects locally and nationally, etc.”
Biological Farming Solves Many Pressing Problems
My first passion and career was being a physician, then an Internet educator, and now I’m moving into high-performance biological agriculture because I really believe it’s the next step in our evolution. We must shift the way we produce food because the current system is unsustainable. And while this information really is ancient, it’s not widely discussed. There’s only a small segment of the population that even understands this natural system, and the potential it has for radically transforming the way we feed the masses AND protect the environment at the same time.
I thoroughly agree with the recommendation to get involved personally, because it’s so exciting. For me, it’s become a rather addictive hobby. Once you integrate biological farming principles, you can get plant performances that are 200-400 percent greater than what you would typically get from a plant! What’s more, not only does it improve the quantity, it also improves the quality of the food you’re growing. These facts should really be at the forefront of everybody’s mind when they think about farming, as it’s the solution to so many pressing problems. Judy agrees, noting:
“The challenge is that we’ve been led to believe that our agricultural model, which is an extractive model, is the way it needs to be. But we can shift to a regenerative model. That’s where we need to go.”
As Judy says, there’s a lot to be optimistic about, because whether we’re talking about the degradation of the environment or our food supply, there are answers!
“Many people just sort of give up and say, ‘I can’t do anything about this.’ I was speaking to someone the other day who said that her son, who just finished college, said, ‘You know, it’s over. We’re doomed.’ To me, that is just so sad. How can we let the next generation feel that way? I think that betrays a huge lack of imagination. Because when we talk about our environmental challenges, one thing we don’t talk about is nature’s desire to heal itself. Once we ally with that natural process, it’s amazing what we can do.”
Ending the burning of fossil fuels is not the one and only way for us to turn the tide on rising carbon dioxide levels. Granted, solar energy and wind power would certainly be preferable to burning fossil fuels. But even if we didn’t stop burning fossil fuels, we can still reverse rising CO2 levels by addressing the way we farm, using sound, time-honored agricultural principles.
And—something else to consider—even if we completely stop burning fossil fuels but do not change agriculture, we’ll still be left with problems like lands turning to desert, flooding, and drought for example. In short, we really must address how we manage our lands and soils… You can learn more about biological farming by reviewing the related articles listed in the right-hand side bar on this page. I also highly recommend Judy’s book, Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth. It’s a great read for anyone wanting to learn more about this topic.
“Food” is a 30-minute documentary that investigates how demand for more and cheaper food has dramatically altered the entire food chain. Today, food production revolves around efficiency—the ability to produce more for less. The ramifications of this mindset are wide-ranging and far-reaching…
As KPBS’ Joanne Faryon reports, “the food chain no longer looks like it used to.” Fish no longer eat other fish, and cattle eat very little grass, which is their natural food source. Instead, cattle eat corn, chickens eat corn and fish, and fish eat cows and poultry… Similarly, fresh produce like fruits and vegetables are primarily sold to foreign markets.
California oranges, for example, are exported to far flung places like Japan, while Americans eat oranges from Australia—presumably because Americans prefer the deeper orange color of Australian oranges, and the fact that they’re easier to peel. As a result, the carbon footprint of most foods sold in your local grocery store is massive, having made its way thousands of miles from where it was grown.
The Beef About American Cattle Farming
While food prices appear to be on the rise, we actually spend less on our food today than we did a generation ago, thanks to modern food production practices. The ultimate price, however, may be greater than anyone ever expected.
For starters, modern agricultural practices are taking a heavy toll on soil and environmental health, and the way we raise animal foods, especially in the US, results in animal products that are far inferior compared to their ancestral past.
The practice of raising animals in confined feeding operations (CAFOs) is also having a major detrimental impact on our environment and is a primary source of environmental pollution and rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Last year, 63 million tons of beef was produced worldwide.1 As stated in the film, while making up only five percent of the world’s population, Americans consume nearly 20 percent of all the beef produced globally.
But just how is all this beef produced? The film summarizes how the typical cow makes its way from birth to slaughter in the US. A generation or so ago, cattle would be mostly pasture-raised and sold for slaughter around the age of two or three. The meat would then be taken to the local market.
Today, California cows start out being raised on pasture for about six months before being sold, typically changing hands twice, before ending up in a CAFO feedlot. Feedlots, which were introduced after World War II, are large pens that house tens of thousands of cattle—some can hold herds up to 100,000 animals.
Here, they’re fattened up on a corn-based diet before being slaughtered about four or five months later. All in all, today’s beef is grown in about half the time compared to a generation ago.
Besides corn, virtually all beef sold in American grocery stores comes from cattle injected with hormones. Corn fattens the cattle, but consumers don’t like all that grizzly fat, so hormones are used to make the animal produce more lean muscle tissue. This improves profits, as it increases the animals’ growth by about 10 percent.
Ironically, as Faryon points out, it’s the corn that makes the cattle fat, so if we didn’t feed them corn, we wouldn’t have to give them hormones to minimize fat production. Another question well worth pondering is this: with all this hormone-laced beef, along with the American corn-based processed food diet (think high fructose corn syrup), is it any surprise Americans are growing fatter, faster, as well?
Farmed Fish—Feedlots of the Sea…
Industrial fish farming, or aquaculture, is the fastest growing form of food production in the world.2 About half of the world’s seafood now comes from fish farms, including in the US, and this is expected to increase. At first glance, farmed fish may seem like a good idea to help protect wild seafood populations from overfishing while meeting the nutritional needs of an ever-expanding global population.
In reality, however, the industry is plagued with many of the same problems surrounding land-based CAFOs, including pollution, disease and inferior nutritional quality. It’s getting so bad that fish farms can easily be described as “CAFOs of the sea.” Here we see an even greater distortion of the food chain. Wild fish eat other fish, but farmed fish can be fed a concoction of ingredients they’d NEVER encounter otherwise, such as soy protein and beef or chicken byproducts, including cattle blood, bone, and chicken feathers.
The reason for this is because, as explained by Jeffrey Graham in the film, it takes about five pounds of fish to produce one pound of growth in salmon. This clearly negates the original rationale for fish farming, which is to prevent the depletion of natural fish stocks. The solution is to replace the fish meal in the diet with soy protein and other protein products…The question is, is this really a healthy solution?
Europe has banned processing byproducts from cattle due to the potential risk of spreading mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE), a neurodegenerative disease that can affect humans eating contaminated beef. While there have been no reports of humans contracting mad cow from eating farmed fish, the theoretical possibility is there. Besides that, it seems clear that a fish that eats meat byproducts opposed to its natural diet of other fish is not going to have the same nutritional makeup as wild fish.
Then there’s the increased risk of fish diseases spreading to wild fish. The close quarters where farmed fish are raised (combined with their unnatural diets) means disease can spread quickly, and because farmed fish are often raised in pens in the ocean, pathogens can spread like wildfire and contaminate any wild fish swimming past. I wrote about this last summer in the article “Salmon Confidential.”
The Unsavory Truth About Factory Farmed Chicken
Large commercial chicken facilities typically house tens of thousands of hens and can even go up to hundreds of thousands of hens who, yet again, are fed a diet consisting primarily of corn. Processing byproducts such as chicken feathers can also be added to the feed. Antibiotics are routinely used in most facilities, but hormones are not permitted in American-raised chickens. When it comes to labels such as “free-range” and “natural,” it’s buyer beware…
The definitions of “free-range” are such that the commercial egg industry can run industrial farm egg laying facilities and still call them “free-range” eggs, despite the fact that the birds’ foraging conditions are far from what you’d call natural. True free-range eggs are from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.
When you’re housing tens of thousands of chickens, you clearly cannot allow them all to freely roam and scavenge for food outdoors. At best, CAFO hens may be let out into a barren outdoor lot for mere minutes a day. Your best source for pastured chicken (and fresh eggs) is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. If you live in an urban area, visiting a local farmer’s market is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality chicken and eggs.
Can We Grow a Fair and Sustainable Food System?
Many believe the answer to world hunger is further expansion of large-scale agriculture; others place their bets on genetically engineered (GE) crops. But are factory farms and large-scale GE farming really going to solve the problem? Evidence suggests the answer is a resounding NO. In fact, our modern agricultural system is the very heart of the problem…
Modern monoculture has severely depleted soils of essential nutrients and microorganisms, and poor soil quality is a core problem facing farmers across the globe. Monoculture (or monocropping) is defined as the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence of rotation through other crops. (Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques. As discussed above, corn and soy are two of the primary ingredients in feed given to livestock, be they chickens, cattle or fish.)
The Earth’s soil is now depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced due to our chemical-based agriculture system. Massive monoculture has also led to the extinction of 75 percent of the world’s crop varieties over the last century. Additionally, modern agriculture is extremely energy dependent. It is estimated that every consumer in the Western world eats the equivalent of 66 barrels of oil per year. That’s how much oil is needed to produce the food on your plate.
Do You Really Want to Eat Factory Farmed Animals?
If you were to grow food for you own family, my guess is that you would do so with extreme care, using the best seeds, the healthiest animals, and the least amount of chemical additives. Yet, when most people buy their food, they have no idea where it actually comes from, and conversely the people who grow this food have no idea who ends up eating it. When people are able to grow food for the faceless masses, I think it somehow justifies these terrible practices that have become commonplace: pumping animals full of hormones and drugs, dousing vegetables with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and introducing genetically modified seeds into the environment.
If you had to see the animal you were about to eat before it makes its way to the supermarket or your dinner table, would you choose one that had lived out its days in a filthy, crowded cage? One that had been mutilated and tormented, then pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, while being fed pesticide-laden grains it was not designed to eat?
Or would you choose one that had lived a nurtured and well cared for life, free to roam on pasture, see the sunlight and breathe in fresh air? One that was fed its natural diet and nothing more? The choice is obvious, which is exactly why agri-business has done such a masterful job of concealing what really goes on from the vast majority of Americans. All you see is a cellophane-wrapped package, maybe a picture of a barn with happy cows and chickens standing near. In many cases, if you could really see how that animal was raised, you would likely shield your children’s eyes, then turn away in disgust.
Factory farms allow us to be removed from taking personal responsibility for raising our own food. There is no one to be held accountable for raising garbage food or treating animals inhumanely because the system has taken on a life of its own. By far, the vast majority of food at your local supermarket comes from these polluting, inhumane farm conglomerations. So if you want to stop supporting them, you first need to find a new place to shop.
Become Part of a Growing Movement
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to find a humane and reliable source for your food — sources that are growing food with the health of the environment and the animals as the driving forces. At LocalHarvest.org, for instance, you can enter your zip code and find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, all with the click of a button. For an excellent list of sustainable agricultural groups in your area, please also see Promoting Sustainable Agriculture — this page is filled with resources for high-quality produce and meats in your area.
The more we all make it a point to only buy food from a source we know and trust, the faster factory farming will become a shameful practice of the past. Farmers and lovers of real food show us that change IS possible. But your involvement is required. Here are a few suggestions for how you can take affirmative action:
Buy local products whenever possible. Otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products.
Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to selling local foods.
Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food.
Avoid genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Buying certified organic ensures your food is non-GM.
Cook, can, ferment, dry, and freeze. Return to the basics of cooking, and pass these skills on to your children.
Grow your own garden, or volunteer at a community garden. Teach your children how to garden and where their food comes from.
Volunteer and/or financially support an organization committed to promoting a sustainable food system.
Get involved in your community. Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board. Effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings. Learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice, and let your congressperson know what you think.
Spread the word! Share this article with your friends, family, and everyone else you know.
Amy Meyer wanted to see for herself where her food was coming from. But in the state of Utah, she discovered, that was against the law.
On February 8, Meyer drove to Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah, and took a look from the side of the road. She gasped as she peered through the barbed wire fence and saw what appeared to be a sick cow being treated like rubble as it was carried in a tractor. So she did what many people would do in this day and age. She got out her smartphone to begin recording.
For this, Meyer was arrested and prosecuted under Utah’s new “ag-gag” law.
It turns out that similar laws are now in place not just in Utah, but also in Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, and Missouri. And many other states are considering similar legislation.
The goal of these laws, it would appear, is to keep consumers from seeing where modern meat really comes from. Considering that 94 percent of the American public believes that animals raised for food should be free from abuse and cruelty, the modern meat industry has some good reasons to fear the public finding out that Old MacDonald’s farm isn’t so happy these days.
Charges against Meyer were subsequently dropped, but Utah’s law is still on the books. And now Amy Meyer is joining with award-winning author Will Potter and a team of organizations in filing a lawsuit challenging her state’s controversial law in the courts.
Soon thereafter, in Kansas on June 28th, a photographer working for a publication not generally seen as promoting a radical agenda, National Geographic, was arrested and briefly jailed after taking aerial pictures of a feedlot for a series on food issues to be published some time next year.
George Steinmetz has taken award-winning photos in many dangerous situations, including a series depicting post-Gaddafi Libya. But it was his photographs of U.S. feedlots, taken from a paraglider in an area with hundreds of thousands of cattle, that got him put behind bars.
Apparently, the feedlot executives may have considered paragliding to be a form of illegal entry, and they wanted Steinmetz to feel the force of the law. Industry officials said they believe his actions represent a “food security issue.” Steinmetz had also parked and taken off from private property, so “trespassing” is central to the charge he now faces. But do you really think he’d have been arrested for parking there had he merely stopped to read a book?
The spread of ag-gag bills is alarming for many reasons. Aside from exposing specific incidents of animal abuse, undercover videos have also drawn attention to industry practices such as housing chickens in cramped battery cages that hasten the sickening of birds and the spread of salmonella.
Elizabeth Holmes, an attorney with the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, comments: “The reason these are public health issues, and not just animal rights issues, is that those unsanitary conditions provide breeding grounds (for disease).”
Holmes has a point. Keeping animals alive in wretched conditions requires the use of massive amounts of pharmaceutical drugs. Nearly 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals, not people. The antibiotic overuse that allows meat producers to keep animals in filth and misery is spawning drug-resistant superbugs.
Earlier this year, an Environmental Working Group study found antibiotic resistant “super bugs” on 81 percent of the ground turkey and 55 percent of the ground beef in America’s supermarkets.
With antibiotic resistant bacteria costing us more than $55 billion and killing tens of thousands of people each year, you could even argue that today’s factory farms have become a form of biological weapons factory.
But don’t we have meat inspectors who monitor animal treatment? Isn’t it their job to insure that the laws against excessive animal cruelty to animals, however weak they may be, are enforced? Aren’t they being paid to look out for the public interest?
Unfortunately, thanks to the weight of agribusiness interests, even USDA meat inspectors don’t always feel free to protect animals or public health.
After 29 years as a USDA meat inspector, Jim Schrier was recently stationed at a Tyson Foods slaughter facility in Iowa where he reported clear humane handling violations to his supervisor. That’s what he was supposed to do — report the violations to his superior in the chain of command. But when Schrier presented his concerns, the supervisor reportedlybecame very angry, and a week later required Jim to work at another facility 120 miles away. Then the USDA reassigned Jim permanently to a plant in another state.
In what looks an awful lot like a form of whistleblower retaliation, after 29 years of service, Schrier must now choose between his job, and his family.
When Jim’s wife, Tammy, launched a petition on change.org exposing this story and calling for Jim Schrier to get his old job back, some of the first signers were other employees who had worked at the same plant and who corroborated Schrier’s findings. Instead of being punished, they said, he should be rewarded and the whole plant should be inspected.
The significance of all this is huge. The first amendment to the United States constitution states: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”There are serious questions about whether ag-gag bills, and retaliation against whistleblowers like Jim Schrier, are even constitutional. But whatever the courts decide, we are already paying a terrible price for the climate of repression they institutionalize.
Shutting up people like Amy Meyer, George Steinmetz, and Jim Schrier makes it hard for any of us to know where our food comes from. Shutting them up also allows the meat industry to get away with treating animals terribly, and with jeopardizing public health by breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria. But there’s more.
Tyrants of all stripes thrive in the darkness. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “A properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate.”
If journalists and whistleblowers aren’t allowed to speak the truth, we’re going to have an awfully hard time retaining any semblance of a functioning democracy. Ocean Robbins is co-author of Voices of the Food Revolution, and serves as CEO and co-host (with best-selling author John Robbins) of the 100,000+ member Food Revolution Network. Find out more and sign up for free here.
Agricultural policies in the US are contributing to the poor health of Americans, and, specifically, government-issued agricultural subsidies are worsening the US obesity epidemic, concluded a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.1
At the root of the issue?
“Government-issued payments have skewed agricultural markets toward the overproduction of commodities that are the basic ingredients of processed, energy-dense foods,” the researchers wrote.
This includes corn, wheat, soybeans and rice, which are the top four most heavily subsidized foods.
By subsidizing these, particularly corn and soy, the US government is actively supporting a diet that consists of these grains in their processed form, namely high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soybean oil, and grain-fed cattle – all of which are now well-known contributors to obesity and chronic diseases.
Despite this widespread knowledge, public health officials have had little to say about this agricultural practice, yet it seems quite clear that they should. With the 2013 Farm Bill set to be finalized by the end of September 2013, this could be a key time to implement important policy changes in the near future.
The Farm Subsidy Program Is Junk — Literally
The US farm subsidy program is upside down, subsidizing junk food in one federal office, while across the hall another department is funding an anti-obesity campaign. This hypocrisy shows just how broken and wasteful our regulatory system really is.
Farm subsidies bring you high-fructose corn syrup, fast food, junk food, CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), monoculture, and a host of other contributors to our unhealthful contemporary diet.
Why would a farmer choose to plant lettuce or Swiss chard when the government will essentially “insure” their corn crops, paying them back if the market prices fall below a set floor price? Likewise with wheat and soybeans, the second and third most heavily subsidized crops, respectively.
Most of them wouldn’t… and that’s why the US diet is so heavily loaded with foods based on the surplus, nutritionally devoid crops of corn, wheat and soy. One of the effects of the farm bill is creating a negative feedback loop that perpetuates the highly profitable standard American diet. The US government is, in essence, subsidizing obesity and chronic disease!
“American agricultural policy has traditionally failed to offer incentives or support for fruit and vegetable production. Farmers are penalized for growing specialty crops (such as fruits and vegetables)
If they have received federal farm payments to grow other crops. In other words, federal farm subsidies promote unsustainable agriculture while also failing to reward good stewardship.
Further, although farmers may generate higher marketplace revenue from fresh produce, substantially lower economic security makes growing fruits and vegetables a risky proposition in an already risky industry.”
Just Eight Crops Make Up Virtually All of US Cropland
If you’ve ever wondered why corn and soy products are so ubiquitous not only in US processed foods but as feed for livestock, including cattle, you need look no further than the makeup of US cropland. It’s reported:3
“In 2004, 96% of U.S. cropland was dominated by the eight main commodity crops: corn (30%); soybeans (29%); wheat (23%); cotton (5%); sorghum (3%); barley (2%); oats (2%); and rice (1%).
According to the American Soybean Association, 70% of the fats and oils consumed by Americans are soy oil, found primarily in cooking oils, baking, and frying fats. A large percentage of cropland is cultivated on a 2-year rotation that favors soy one year and corn the next, another purported contributor to obesity.
A conservative estimate of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) consumption suggests a daily average of 132 calories for all Americans aged > 2 years, with the top 20% of consumers ingesting an average of 316 calories from HFCS per day.
Another important contribution of grains and oilseeds to the prevalence of obesity is their use as feed for livestock… As grain-fed livestock contribute to the oversupply of the commodities required to feed them, the harmful effects of grain and oilseed production are as widespread as they are indirect.”
Farm Subsidies Favor Large Corporate Farms, Force Small Farms Out of Business
Many are under the mistaken impression that farm subsidies are beneficial to small farmers, allowing them to stay afloat in years of poor harvests. Yet commodity subsidies are overwhelmingly going out to a select few mega farms — not to the small farmers who need them most! In fact, the broken farm subsidy system is responsible for not only encouraging monoculture but also for putting many small farmers out of business — while corporate-owned mega-farms grow ever larger.
“Subsidies also have resulted in fewer farms and diminished agricultural diversity. Large farms often devote their entire capital and experience to producing one or two commodities, leaving smaller players to be regularly winnowed out at the profit of corporate farms and contractors. In 2001, large farms, which constitute 7% of the total, received 45% of federal subsidies, whereas small farms, constituting 76% of the total, received 14% of total payments.
Between 2003 and 2007, the top 10% of subsidized farmers received an annual average of $68,030, whereas the bottom 80% averaged $2312. Disproportionately allocated subsidies have contributed to forcing hundreds of small, biodiverse farms out of business at the profit of industrialized food processing.”
Farm Subsidies Are No Longer a Needs-Based System
While farm subsidies initially were created to protect staple crops during times of war, reduce crop surpluses and provide monetary support to farmers when crop prices fell, today mega-farms receive subsidies whether they need them or not. The transition away from a needs-based system came in 1996, when lawmakers developed a “market transition” payment system for farmers.
The idea was to phase out the subsidies over a seven-year transition period, during which farmers would receive an annual fixed cash payment based upon the number of acres on the farm (these direct payments were given as long as the land was not developed — even if nothing was planted). Of course, this ensures that the largest farms also receive the largest payments, and contrary to its original intent, the payments have not declined annually nor has the program gone away. As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) explained:5
“The industrial agriculture lobby has been defending the controversial “direct payment” form of taxpayer-funded subsidies ever since they were first authorized. These fixed, automatic checks go out every year to the largest growers of commodity crops, such as corn and cotton, whether farmers need them or not and despite the fact that farm household income has eclipsed average U.S. household income. Farm income for the largest operations, in particular, has soared sky high.”
And if you thought this all couldn’t get any more outrageous… it can, as it’s been revealed that under this absurd system, even dead farmers have received payments from the government. So have non-farmers who moved into residential areas that once were farmland, along with wealthy farmers who have received annual payments even when they are no longer growing the subsidized crop.
To Put It All in Perspective, Check Out Peter Jennings’ Classic Video
A classic video on the US government’s fatally flawed agricultural subsidy programs, and how they affect your nutritional choices and health, is “How to Get Fat Without Really Trying” with Peter Jennings. Although it’s several years old and Peter has passed away, the video still speaks the truth because virtually nothing has changed. If anything, the situation has, sadly, actually worsened.
Redesigning the System Could Help Fight Obesity and Protect the Environment
The time is ripe for change, and redesigning the system could help move us toward economic, and nutritional, recovery. The money is already there, but if we’re going to subsidize, let’s subsidize in a way that helps restore the health of our citizens and our land—programs that might just pay for themselves by the reduction in healthcare costs they bring about. The researchers noted:6
“A redesign of the subsidy system, rather than its elimination, is likely to yield more sustainable changes in the agricultural industry. Such revision could take the form of decoupling income supports from program-specific crops, and rewards for agricultural diversification.
The trickle-down effect of providing increased government support to farms growing sustainable, bio-diverse crops would not only help farmers reap greater economic benefits (as fruits and vegetables are among the products with the highest farm-retail value) but would contribute to large-scale efforts to address obesity by increasing the availability of fresh produce. Overall, government and public health activists should support policies that help disincentivize monocultural overproduction, not policies that fuel it.”
It sounds so logical, so obvious, doesn’t it? Yet it is the exact opposite of what is currently being done with farm subsidies. Mark Brittman of the New York Times similarly argued, back in 2011, that subsidy money, which is already IN the budget, could be redirected toward helping smaller farmers to compete in the marketplace.7 The money could be redirected, for example, in the following ways:
Funding research and innovation in sustainable agriculture
Providing incentives to attract new farmers
Saving farmland from development
Assisting farmers who grow currently unsubsidized fruits and vegetables, while providing incentives for monoculture commodity farmers (corn, soy, wheat, rice) to convert some of their operations to more desirable foods
Leveling the playing field so that medium-sized farms can more favorably compete with agribusiness as suppliers for local supermarkets
Help Support Small Farms with a Farm Bill That Works
If you don’t like the idea of your tax dollars lining the pockets of wealthy corporations that flood the market with sugary sodas, soybean oil and corn chips, now is the time to speak up. The Environmental Working Group has started a petition urging Congress to enact a Farm Bill that protects family farmers who help us protect the environment and public health, and you cansign it now.
But remember, you can also voice your opinion every day by voting with your wallet. Support small family farms in your area. Even if it means buying just one or two items at your local farmers market, instead of the big box store, those little purchases add up.
Return to a diet of real, whole foods—fresh organic produce, meats from animals raised sustainably on pasture, without cruelty, and raw organic milk and eggs. Say no to junk food producers by not buying it. Eating this way will earn you a long, healthy life—whereas the typical American diet may set you on the path toward obesity and chronic disease.
VISITATION UNDER THE ARBOR?
HOW THIS BOOK BEGAN
It was a perfect summer evening in Seattle. There was a full moon. That was the pretext for inviting friends over for dinner. We ate on the back deck, under the grape arbor. We looked at the moon, low in the southeast, a few clouds slowly passing in front of it. “That is really a big moon!” we kept saying. As host I raised my glass and gave the toast: “People talk about the good old days. Well, I’m here to tell you that we are living the good old days right now.” There was applause. We ate more. We talked. More friends arrived. As I reflect back on it now, I have to say everything about it had a dreamlike quality.
I like to eat. I was a bachelor back then. So I learned how to cook. It is empowering for a bachelor to know how to cook for himself. That day I cooked up my favorite recipes. A lot of the food I served was food I grew in my gardens, front and back. At the time I was growing mustard, collard, kale, cabbage, onions, leeks, garlic, chives, mint, evening primrose, nasturtium, borage, asparagus, parsley, stinging nettle, bok choy, fava beans, peas, pole beans, new potatoes, and fennel. I was also growing fruit: raspberry, fig, prune plum, mulberry, apple, kiwi, peach, pear, and many grape varieties. I get a lot of pleasure from my garden. I find it amazing that most people grow nothing edible in their yards, that most people think of food only as something that comes from a grocery store. My guests must have liked my food because they ate a lot of it.
Since 1981 I have been a vegan vegetarian, which means I eat no meat, no milk, and no eggs. I eat what I call a “green diet” of raw and cooked greens, sprouted and cooked grains, sprouted bread, fruit, nuts, wild growing greens such as dandelion flowers, and flax. Flax is very important if you eat a green diet. It is one of the few plants rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Health was my first reason to adopt this strange diet and “eat green.” My father had heart trouble beginning in his 40s. I had been a distance runner in high school, a swimmer in college, and a duffer-and-hacker tennis player all along, but at age 29 I began feeling angina pains in my left shoulder. I had blood pressure of 130/90. I was worried. My mind opened to other dietary possibilities. I cut down on animal fat. I learned how to cook plant-based food and found it tasty and satisfying.
That night on the back deck we ate green.
This is a good place to interject that when it gets to be summer here in Seattle, it’s a summer you can enjoy. A Mediterranean temperature inversion sets in. For four months it’s like the Riviera, with temperatures getting up into the 70s, edging into the 80s sometimes, and with very little rain—too little to suit me and my garden. It is far different from the bottom lands of the Mississippi River delta where I grew up, near Promised Land, Mississippi County, Arkansas, a crossroads on US Route 61. Promised Land had a general store, a gas station, a cotton gin, and several fundamentalist churches. People back there are friendly, but the physical environment is not: You bake in summer and freeze in winter. The insects will eat you alive if you don’t keep moving. And to understand the place you have to remember that only 140 years ago the county was a quarter slave, and the other three-quarters thought that was the way god meant things to be.
Highway 61 was the music road—from New Orleans to Memphis to St. Louis to Chicago. My dad played big band and Dixieland music up and down Highway 61 during the Depression. He was drummer, singer, and song writer. I always have a melody going through my head, and I thank Dad for that. Maybe the South is so rich in musical creativity because it is so rich in songbirds. They sing a concerto each morning. Some sing all through the night. The mockingbird is phenomenal; it sings a dozen other species’ songs, one right after another.
I moved west in the 1970s, first to British Columbia and then to Washington. I love the mild, rainy winters and the temperate summers, so temperate that homes are not air conditioned. I enjoy sleeping with my windows open, breathing the delicious air.
It’s time to get back to my tale of what happened that summer night: A tall, slim woman arrived. Deborah was her name. “Are you hungry?” I asked. She nodded vigorously. I gave her a bowl of my lentil soup. She slurped as we talked. I assumed she was a friend of a friend.
She looked like the woman on the cover of this book, except her face wasn’t abstract and distorted. The different expressions you see in the face on the cover are a collage of different expressions Deborah displayed at various times as we talked. Well, we talked and talked—just the two of us.
We talked about all the things that were getting worse: The sea level rising three feet by the end of the century. The population rising a billion per decade. Crime on the rise. Road rage. Weapons getting more computerized and deadly. Wars going on somewhere all the time. Monopolization in business and the media. A third of all people going hungry and living without safe drinking water and good sewers. A third of all people infected with TB. An economic system that enriches the few, works the middle class overtime, and leaves the rest impoverished, with women and children suffering most.
“And the amazing thing about all of this is that most people consider this to be normal!” she exclaimed. “Why, the rich think it’s the best it’s ever been!”
We also talked about the positive signs: The Cold War over and the growing likelihood that we might not blow ourselves up after all. Slavery—although alive under other names—illegal everywhere. Racism—although common in private—now repudiated officially. Women recovering their rights after 6,000 years of suppression. Child labor banned in most countries. The spread of electoral democracy. The number of enlightened and peace loving people greater than ever before. It was a heavy discussion.
“Can I have more? she asked.
“How about some stir fry with spicy peanut sauce?”
“Good.” Vegans enjoy food more, partly because they can eat more. When meat eaters finish eating, they seem to lose all interest in food, even to be disgusted by food. Vegans can always eat a little more. I came back with a plate for each of us.
We talked with our mouths full. I not only tolerate, I encourage people to talk with their mouths full—especially when it’s my food. Deborah was wearing baggy, men’s corduroy pants with pleats, and a vest over a plaid work shirt. She wasn’t wearing any makeup. She was tall, skinny, and flat-chested.
I became absorbed in our conversation and pretty much oblivious of others. As we talked I sat back in my chair and took it all in. I let her talk. She apparently felt she had found a kindred spirit, because she expressed her feelings freely. “Who,” I wondered to myself, “is this outspoken and self-confident woman?”
At times she showed disappointment, like a mother who is unhappy that her children have grown up to be criminals. At other times she was defiantly confident. She made me think of the Australian pediatrician, Helen Caldicott, the founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Helen believes that the only thing preventing us from civilizing the world is our lack of faith in our ability to do so.
“We have been deceived,” Deborah said. “We take the credit card offers and get sucked into debt, and then we have to work non-stop. We have no time for politics.”
“And no time to pay attention to what the big corporations are doing,” I added.
“And not enough time for the people we love.”
“Then why are you optimistic?” I asked. “Are you are optimistic?”
“In the long term, yes, I am optimistic, because there are more people than ever working for peace.”
“Maybe we should be out organizing all the time—instead of having a party,” I suggested.
“No, we have to know happiness to spread happiness. We have to rely on good people in other time zones to carry out our calling while we rest.”
Calling! I liked her use of the word.
“If I hear you right, I think you’re saying things are getting better and worse at the same time.”
“Well, how is it going to turn out?”
She took a deep breath. “They have all the money, but we have all the good ideas. Of course we are going to win. Calculate the odds: Love and peace are just more attractive than violence. Even a villain had a mother who loved him.”
“But why is it taking so long?” I asked.
She took a deep breath. “Because violence is hard to stop once it gets started. Father beats son. Son beats up other kids in the neighborhood. They all grow up to beat their sons and wives. We breed dictators who have a crazy need to beat up the world. Plus, we are addicted to growth. There’s a fortune to be made building weapons. We need a war every few years to test the weapons and use up the old inventory. Then we have to restock the inventory with new and better weapons. Sons need to prove to the dads who beat them that they are ‘tough,’ so off they go to war.”
“Almost demonic,” I said.
“It is demonic. We are descended from a long line of victims. We store the violence down in our reptilian cortex. There it lies quietly within us until something sets off the demon within.”
“Everyone has an anger management problem to some extent,” I added. “How do you undo something like that?”
“Moral education. People are much more likely to behave ethically if they study ethics.”
“How do you teach ethics?” I asked.
“You are a lawyer, right?” I nodded. “You are obligated to do pro bono work, right?” I nodded. “Okay, I’ll give you an assignment, Mr. Lawyer. Start with one very basic ethical point and build on it. Start a movement to teach people not to hit each other.”
“Tell me more.”
“Go into schools and talk to kids, teachers, parents. Your main theme is ‘NO HITTING.’ Put it on the Internet. Put it on bumper stickers and buttons. “Nobody hits anybody” is the basic principle. Adults don’t hit adults. Adults don’t hit kids. Kids don’t hit kids. Recruit other attorneys to do the same thing.”
“What do you do if someone is actually hitting someone?” I asked.
“Teach the kids and teach everyone: If you feel like hitting someone, shut up and leave the room. Leave the house. If someone is getting angry or hitting you, back away. If they are dangerous, leave the room or leave the house. Call 9-1-1. Don’t put up with it.”
“Teach kids that when someone is hitting someone, and if you are bigger than he is, or if you have him outnumbered, then hold him. Don’t hit him; just hold him. Tell him ‘No hitting.’ Hold him and tell him to calm down. If kids are fighting, grab them both and stop the fight.”
“Teach kids that law applies to them. Teach kids to speak up for the other kids who are being beaten and demand that it stop. Teach them to be little lawyers for each other. Teach them to appeal to higher authority until the violence stops. Teach them to file suit. Teach them that the rule against “ratting” is the devil talking. If someone is beating on someone, you have to stop him, and you must report him. Adults are asleep on this point. We enforce laws against adults hitting adults and laws against adults hitting kids, but we accept it as a given that kids will beat up other kids.” There was a little anger in her voice.
“Once I wanted to be a law professor in college. Instead, I could be a law professor in grade school.”
“You might do more good that way.” We both laughed.
“The right not to be assaulted is the most important law,” I said. “Kids assault kids on a regular basis. If adults did to adults the things kids do to kids, they would go to jail.”
“We are all damaged goods,” she said.
“Sort of like original sin?”
“That’s a good analogy.”
“I’m a part-time theologian,” I said. “There’s a longstanding debate in Christianity: Does the sin of Adam adheres to us as an inevitable taint or did Adam merely introduced a highly contagious sickness which pretty much everyone catches, but which is not necessarily impossible to cure. Tell me, do you believe in original sin?”
“Yes, I think that would be a correct metaphor for our defects as a species.”
“Are we a defective species? What is our original sin?”
“It’s not so much an original sin as an original defect. We have these huge brains, but they’re mostly blank computing space badly programmed. We’re not inherently evil. We’re just inherently gullible. We are conformists. We are willing to be led astray, especially when there is money in it for us. We fall for the big lies.”
“Lies such as?”
“Violence is one. Growth is the other. We say, ‘Growth is good,’ but that’s a lie. Capitalism likes growth. Growth means more consumers, which means more sales, and more workers, which keeps the cost of labor down.”
“How are we ever going to stop growing?” I asked.
“It’s going to be hard. We think growth is okay if it’s slow growth, but it’s still growth.” The problem is that time extends infinitely into the future. It takes longer to reach the result, but it’s the same result: no stability.”
“I’ve read the party platforms from start to finish, Democan and Republicrat. When it comes to population explosion, there’s not a word in either one. But both of them say ‘grow the economy’ in every other paragraph.”
“We set up corporations. Their job is to increase profits constantly. There is never enough. They hire platoons of lawyers and accountants and marketing experts. They go on auto-pilot, doing things we wouldn’t do as individuals.”
“But laws limit what corporations do,” I said.
“Come on, get serious, James. Laws just nip around the margins. Democracy is a weak force. Political parties have to keep the economy cranked up or they’ll get voted out. So it’s grow, grow, grow. It’s one of the problems with the way the world is set up. We need another force, a moral force, to give democracy more backbone.”
“Religion could do it, but religions only deal with the next world.”
“Are you saying religions should deal with this world?”
“Now you are getting my point,” she said with enthusiasm. “To change the subject slightly, have you heard there is an Eleventh Commandment?”
“You mean, after the Ten Commandments, there is an Eleventh Commandment?”
“Yes, well it’s a rumor I heard. I may have started it myself.” She smiled.
“Now wait. I went half way through seminary, but I never heard of any Eleventh Commandment. What is the Eleventh Commandment?”
The Eleventh Commandment is: “Do unto other species as you would have them do unto your own.”
“Hey, I like that. It’s an environmental commandment: Don’t wipe out other species.’”
“That’s part of it. We kill off species faster than we can name them. We take away the places where animals can live—so we can cut down trees and grow more beef.”
“We’re natural born killers,” I said.
“Like in the Oliver Stone movie.”
“Yea, I hear Woody Harrelson is a vegetarian.”
“And we don’t just kill them; we torture them first. We torture them their entire lives. And people don’t even think about it.”
“What do you think I could do about it?”
“People generally respect lawyers. You could teach people that animals are conscious beings which should be treated with a certain level of dignity. This is relevant to your profession. We can’t be vicious to animals without damaging our legal structure.”
“With the grade school kids, I could illustrate the point with one of my science fiction stories.”
“Excuse me?” I was beginning to lose her.
“Okay, here’s the plot: Extraterrestrials come to earth. They check us out. They see how bad we treat other species here on earth. They abduct people to try to figure out what is wrong with us. They decide we are morally defective, and they just leave. They are afraid if they get to know us we will have a bad influence on them.”
“Sounds like a plausible plot to me.”
“Or maybe they leave because they are afraid we might get around to eating them.”
“May I give you my legal opinion?” I asked.
“The punishment does not fit the crime. Actually there is no crime. It’s not like these are evil animals that have committed crimes against us and we have tried them and put them in prison for it. They are totally innocent.”
She interrupted, “We treat them as if they have committed the worst crimes imaginable.”
“Another human defect?” I asked.
“No, it’s the same defect. Bad programming. We are programmed for violence. We are programmed for growth. When it comes to the animals, it’s both our defects working together. Mistreating animals is profitable.
We stuff them into small cages to cut down on the rent. We spread out over the face of the planet to grow feed for them and graze cattle. It’s not original sin so much as original ignorance. Whenever there is a buck to be made, we are blind to moral considerations.”
“And most people don’t even see it as an issue.”
“That’s the defect: That we don’t even think about it.”
“We go to church and pray for forgiveness for all our sins except the ones that really matter. Are we hopelessly flawed?
“That’s what the Christian religion says. But I don’t believe it. I just think humans are just morally asleep. We need to wake them up. Our goal should be the moral perfection of our species.”
“That’s a tall order. Why such optimism?”
“Because I choose to be optimistic. We have to civilize the world before we destroy it. It’s one or the other.”
“It’s like “White Hat to the rescue.” I hummed the tune to her. (do-do-la-so-do-mi.) “He’s running to untie Pearl Pure Heart from the tracks before the train gets there and runs her over.”
She laughed. “You really are a cornball! Where are you from anyway?”
“I fell to earth in the northeast corner of Arkansas, a few miles from the Mississippi River and a few miles from the Bootheel of Missouri.”
“You don’t have much of a Southern accent.”
“It comes back after two beers.”
I got another laugh out of her. Then we were silent. I sat there feeling a little overwhelmed. I don’t very often meet someone who is so unashamed to speak her mind. But I didn’t look down on her for being bold. Life is short. We should come to the point and say what’s on our minds while we can.
One of my younger guests needed some help. I roused myself from my trance. “Will you please excuse me?”
I returned in five minutes, but she was gone. I looked around, but she was nowhere to be found. “Tom, where is the woman I was talking with?”
What woman?” he asked.
“Deborah. She is wearing pants and a vest. She’s about 45, brown hair with a little gray in it, intelligent looking, tall, quite attractive.”
“I haven’t been paying much attention,” Tom said. “There’ve been a lot of people here, but I think I would have noticed.”
The party wound down. A few friends hung around and helped me clean up. That night I dreamed about Deborah. In my dream she took on mythic proportions. She sat with her legs crossed, meditating, wearing a karate ghi with a black belt. She was even wiser, even more profoundly disappointed with what has become of her world, even more defiant and confident that she would win in the end.
In my dream I asked myself why enlightened messengers from god have to be male? I dreamed of the female prophets of the past who were not given the same standing as the male prophets—because there was a long period when only men wrote history. I dreamed of a new environmental prophet, this time a woman with a message of how to bring peace. I often dream theological dreams.
I asked myself: “If a prophet or an angel came for dinner, what would I serve her? What if Jesus showed up? Would I serve him the flesh of an animal that had been tortured? As in the Cain and Abel story, would god or the goddess be pleased with my offering?”
I slowly awoke. The entire thing had been a dream—the dinner with friends, Deborah’s visit, our complex conversation, and the dream within the dream. Her face came from the watercolor Patti had sold me years before, the one on the cover of this book.
It was almost sunrise. The window was wide open. The full moon was low in the west, shining into my bedroom. The twilight was full of bird songs. There was rustling in the back yard. I snuck out of bed and peeked over the window ledge. There was a big mother raccoon with her two kits, checking out the garden. “Nothing yet, Mrs. Raccoon,” I whispered. “The grapes are not ripe.” I returned to bed and sat with a comforter around myself. I crossed my legs and meditated.
I thought about my calling as a teenager. It happened on a warm summer night at church camp. I was walking back to my cabin from evening chapel.
I was born Catholic but my parents raised me in a protestant sect where we studied the Bible rigorously. The fact that my parents changed religions several times opened my mind to the idea that truth was not as black and white as the pastor said. I took my religion seriously, but I also took my science seriously. The teachings of my church conflicted with my academic studies.
I was alone that night. As I walked across the ball field I stopped and looked up at the stars. “How Great Thou Art” was one of the songs we sang, and I pondered the lyrics. It was at a time when I was trying to decide what to believe and what profession to take up. I remember the moment very clearly. I uttered a prayer in my thoughts: “How can I know which way to go?”
In a split second an answer came back to me in my mind: “Search for truth and follow it wherever it leads you. And don’t fear the truth you will find. Truth is the one thing not to fear.” I became physically dizzy and sat down in the dewy grass. Later I learned the term “peak experience.” That was a peak experience.
Sitting in bed, I thought back on my teenage calling, “This is a truth I should follow.” I resolved then and there: “I will treat this as a special moment. I will focus on what’s really important. Everyone dies, but before I die, I will come to the point and say what’s on my mind: How can we expect to stop the violence among humans and the violence against the environment if we don’t stop the violence against the animals?” I turned on the light and started writing this book.
The stories of Genesis are symbolic and allegorical. For one who is not afraid to interpret them in a non-literal way, there is much history to be found there. Scholars such as J.J. Bachofen and A.M. Hocart believed in the “historicity of myth.” (J.J. Bachofen, Myth, Religion, and Mother Right; p. 75.) Greek historians such as Herodotus and Strabo acknowledged the ancient Greek stories to be mere legends and distilled history out of them. Those who insist that Genesis or any other book of the Bible be taken completely literally are, ironically, the only ones who are unable to identify the real historical facts they contain. Judaism regards the creation story as part of “esoteric lore.” (Encyclopedia Judaica, “Creation,” 1997 CD edition.) Judaism never accepted the Christian theory of Adam’s fall as constituting an original sin which affects all humanity. This theology first appears in the Christian 2 Esdras 3:10. Genesis belonged to the Jews first, and their interpretation of it should prevail over the Christian interpretation. The first chapters of Genesis and Ezekiel formed the core of the highly symbolic kabbalah. (“Cabala,” www.JewishEncyclopedia.com.)
There was peace in Eden as there was peace in Old Europe before 4300 B.C.E. and in the Old Near East before 5500 B.C.E. All that changed when Semitic patriarchs stormed into the Old Near East and Aryan Kurgans invaded Old Europe. Genesis tells of the loss of peace and the descent into constant warfare. One aspect of the peace was that animals were treated peaceably. There is a legend referred to in the Talmud and the Bible that from the time of Adam to the Deluge, Adam’s descendants did not eat meat. According to Sanhedrin 59b: “Adam was not permitted meat for purposes of eating.”
According to Genesis: And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1:29 f.)
And to Adam he said, “…[T]horns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (Genesis 3:17 ff.)
Note that even the animals eat only plant-based foods.
The reason why early humans were forbidden meat to eat, according to 13th Century Jewish scholar Nachmanides, was
… because living creatures possess a moving soul and a certain spiritual superiority which in this respect make them similar to those who possess intellect (people) and they have the power of affecting their welfare and their food and they flee from pain and death. (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 2; quoting from Rabbi Alfred Cohen, “Vegetarianism from a Jewish Perspective,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Vol. I, No. II, (Fall, 1981), p. 45; see www.all-creatures.org/articles/jvrsfaq.html.)
The Jewish literature on vegetarianism is enormous, fascinating, and a door to many other aspects of Judaism and ancient history in general. Schwartz’ book and web site are a good place to start.
The life spans of the legendary patriarchs who lived before the Deluge were very long, Methuselah living to be 969 (Genesis 5:21), and the reason for this, according to Jewish scholar Nachmanides, was their vegetarianism. (I.B. Levinson, The Jewish Encyclopedia, Volume 12, p. 405; cited by Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 3.)
“Adam” may derive from the Hebrew word adamah, a feminine noun which means “earth.” I hypothesize that there had been a matristic version of this legend, before the patriarchal invasions, in which the hero of the story was Adamah, a woman. I hypothesize that the patriarchal editors put Adamah through a historical “sex change operation.” According to Theodore Reik, the predecessors of the Hebrews worshiped a female goddess. (Pagan Rites in Judaism, p. 100.)
Another role reversal involved the vilification of the serpent. The serpent had been the symbol of the goddess religion and a symbol of healing. Moses employed the Caduceus, a serpent coiled around a cross, as a healing symbol (Numbers 21:8, 2 Kings 18:4), and this harkened back to the matristic era. The Pythagorean and vegetarian physician Hippocrates—supposed author of the Hippocratic Oath—used it as a symbol of healing, and it is still the symbol of physicians today. Nevertheless, the patriarchal redactors of Genesis 3 presented the seducer of Adam and Eve as a serpent.
Scholars are generally mystified as to the meaning of the Genesis legend of the ‘sons of God” and the Nephilim:
[T]he sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose. Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…?. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. (Genesis 6: 1-9.)
I find my own theory the most convincing: The “sons of God” in this story represent the patriarchal Semitic invaders of the Old Middle East. The Semitic patriarchs conquered the old pre-Hebrew matristic, partnership culture, in many cases killing off all the men, women, and boys, sparing only the virgin girls, and taking them as wives or concubines, referred to in this story as “the daughters of men.” The Nephilim were their offspring. (See Ronald S. Hendel, “When the Sons of God Cavorted With the Daughters of Men,” ed. Hershel Shanks, Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reader from the Biblical Archaeology Review, p. 167 ff.; Cf. Numbers 13:28, 33; Deuteronomy 9:2; Joshua 15:13.) The term “Nephilim” itself is a reference to some kind of angel, however, their behavior was not at all angelic, and the application of the term to them was probably made at a later date in the development of the myth. This is perhaps a story of a holocaust, as revised and recorded in a garbled form by later patriarchal editors. It was not a holocaust of water but of invasion, murder, rape, child abuse, and enslavement.
The patriarchs, referred to in Genesis 6 as the “sons of God,” conquered the pre-Hebrew partnership cultures, but they were outnumbered by those they conquered, and they may have brought few women with them. So they married or took as concubines enormous harems of those pre-Hebrew virgin girls who survived the holocaust. (Compare Numbers 13:28, 33, quoted on page 44.) The girls became the mothers of the second generation, the Nephilim. I suggest that the virgins knew their goddess traditions well and were able to pass them on to their children. The patriarchal culture allowed only the boys to become priests, unlike the partnership culture which preceded it, in which it appears that both boys and girls could aspire to the priesthood.
In the long history of the pre-Hebrews this is the narrow middle of the hour glass. I speculate that much of the sand of tradition never flowed through and was lost forever. But enough of the tradition did flow through to make it possible for us to reassemble the pieces. I suggest that the warlike, masculinist religion of the invaders was blended with the matristic, partnership religion to produce an initially warlike, pre-Hebrew religion which killed off entire tribes and introduced animal sacrifice.
On the mother side of the pre-Hebrew religion, god may have been female or may have had a feminine side, the ruach, or spirit of god. Judaism today considers god to be both male and female. This combined maleness and femaleness of god can be seen in the Jewish mystical tradition known as kabbalah, in which the feminine side of god is called the shekinah. (Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, p. 112.)
The original root of the pre-Hebrew religion was very strong on the mother side, and as time passed the partnership paradigm was reasserted, with the invader religion surviving as a thin veneer: While men continued to control the leadership of the Hebrew religion, the core of the religion reverted to many aspects of the pre-invasion-holocaust partnership paradigm.
By the time of Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah, after 500 B.C.E., feminine themes—justice, ending the violence to fellow humans, and ending the killing and sacrificing of animals—worked their way into the consciousness of such prophetic leaders. In most other ancient patriarchal religions such as Brahmanism and Zoroastrianism, the feminine root was expunged much more completely. Druidism, the religion of the European Celts, was likewise a merger of the masculine dominator and feminine partnership religions; among the Celts, some feminine themes survived, and women could own property and divorce.
My hypothesis is that the old teachings from the matristic, partnership era survived by being grafted into legends from the father side. The religion of mostly priestesses and some priests was replaced by a religion of priests only. The gender of god was changed from female to male, from a goddess of ethics, law, and medicine into a god of war, conquest, and ethnic cleansing. Stories were revised by the invader religion; matriarchs became patriarchs.
I suggest, however, that the goddess side of the pre-Hebrew religion survived and gradually reasserted itself in Judaism, which by the time of the Prophets had become a progressive, philosophical religion that stressed high ethical standards. Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism allow women to become rabbis, and Orthodox Judaism is now ordaining a few women as rabbis. Women have never been barred from studying the tradition. Both the feminine side of god and the ancient teachings from the mother side are stronger in Judaism than in the other major patriarchal religions—Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism.
In the Cain and Abel story as we have it (Genesis 4), Cain sacrificed grain and vegetables, and his sacrifice was not pleasing to god. Able sacrificed animals, and his sacrifice was pleasing to god. According to my theory, Cain and Abel were reversed by meat eating patriarchs who rewrote the story. I suggest that in the original pre-patriarchal story, Able offered a vegetable sacrifice that was pleasing to god, while Cain offered an animal sacrifice, which was not pleasing. I suggest the story was changed to make meat the preferred sacrifice in order to validate the customs of the conquering patriarchs.
That this reversal has taken place in Genesis 4 is quite plausible because Adam’s progeny—in the original matristic vegetarian version of pre-Hebrew history—did not eat meat from Genesis 1 thorough Genesis 9. Abel was one of Adam’s pre-Hebrew progeny, and it is unlikely he would have offered an animal sacrifice if he did not eat meat. It was generally food items that were sacrificed, vegetables, grain, meat, and wine—although incense was sacrificed too. In sacrifices in the Bible, only a few animals were burned entirely, leaving nothing to eat—referred to as “burnt offerings” or “whole burnt offerings.” Of the majority of sacrifices, only a part was burned. The remainder was distributed to the priests and those who brought the animal to be sacrificed. The priests kept all the leather. My point is that sacrifices were primarily made of things that were eaten, and if animals were not being sacrificed, they probably were not being eaten; conversely, if animals were not being eaten, they were probably not being sacrificed, and the meat sacrifice of Cain would have been displeasing to god.
However, there is another interpretation of this strange story, and it comes from Henry Bailey Stevens. Eden was a place where the tree was central. God had a special relationship with the trees, as would be appropriate in a time when trees where worshiped. Cain offered as fertilizer to the trees a mulch of only plant matter. They grew well enough. However, Abel poured the blood, bones, and manure of animals around the trees, giving them a large dose of nitrogen and minerals. They grew better and produced more fruit. In this way the god of the trees preferred Abel’s sacrifice. (The Recovery of Culture, pp. 64-67. This is on my list of must-read books.)
THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL EDEN
Can we prove there were vegetarian societies in prehistoric times? I know of no archeologist who has reported finding village dumps from 5000 B.C.E. in which there are no animal bones. Would a village dump containing no bones completely biodegrade and be harder to find? I would think that broken pottery and cutting tools would still survive.
Did a vegetarian Eden ever exist? Were there tribes that gathered but did not hunt? The tentative proof is threefold: First, there is historical documentation of the existence of Pythagorean vegetarian societies in southern Italy in the Sixth Century B.C.E. and in Palestine and Egypt by the time of Jesus. Second, Pythagoras, Plato, and other Greeks claimed there was a Golden Era in the distant past when the best societies did not kill animals for food. Third, Genesis and the Talmud claim that humans from Adam to Noah ate a vegetarian diet. Greek and Hebrew myth generally grows around a seed of historical fact. Fourth, there have been and are many religions which practice a part-time vegetarianism or a vegetarianism of the priesthood, which would mean that some within these religions and societies admired vegetarianism and pursued it to different degrees.
On the other hand, mythological statements about what happened in the past are sometimes best interpreted not as statements of how things actually were in the past, but how things should be in the present. Perhaps Pythagoras, Plato, and the writers of Genesis and the Talmud said there had been a vegetarian Golden Era in order to say that their own ages should be vegetarian.
The Near East and Old Europe, before around 5500 B.C.E. and 4300 B.C.E. respectively were largely free of warfare. Women were the equal of men or even their superiors. Things took a big change thereafter, with the invasions of Aryan and other patriarchal invaders and the massive increase in animal herding which they introduced. These invasions mark the beginning of generalized war, genocide, slavery, the abuse of women and children, environmental destruction, the domestication and abuse of animals on a mass scale, and a great increase in the consumption of meat.
For most of our species’ duration, animal-based foods made up a smaller part of the human diet than they do today. The earliest humans ate mostly vegetation, supplemented with insects. They lacked the weapons to kill large animals. The bow and arrow appeared only around 30,000 years ago. For most of human history we did not herd animals, and when we hunted, it provided an occasional, not a daily, source of food. Fish was probably commonly eaten in coastal and riparian societies, although the Phoenicians refused to eat fish. Meat of land animals probably did not become a regular source of food for most humans until agriculture developed starting around 10,000 years ago, and even then meat was probably not consumed on a daily basis as it is today. Even in the 20th Century, even up until the end of World War II, the typical diet in the United States contained much less animal products than it does today.
THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL DELUGE
An inquiry into the flood story is relevant to our topic because it is a dividing line in legends regarding food history. Before the Flood, the descendants of Adam were vegetarians; thereafter they were allowed to eat meat.
There are legends of a Deluge in ancient traditions around the world. The Hebrews told of Noah. The Greeks told of Deucalion—mentioned by Apollodorus, Apollonius Rhodius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Ovid, Hesiod, and others. (http://www.geocities.com/tmartiac//thalassa/themis.htm).
The flood stories may have come from vague memories of an especially destructive local flood or tsunami. For example, the mega-volcano island of Santorini near Crete blew up around 1450 B.C.E., and this created huge tsunamis. Ash may have fallen on Egypt, creating plagues that helped Moses get the Israelites out of Egypt. Ash probably covered wide areas, disrupting agriculture, and causing population decline. The partnership Minoan civilization declined after this time and was overrun by the patriarchal Mycenaeans.
However, there could be other sources for the flood myths: For example, as the last Ice Age was ending around 10,000 years ago, there was a pluvial age in which there were lengthy periods of extremely heavy rain. Glaciers were melting, sometimes very quickly, with entire ice sheets slipping off land masses, raising sea levels perhaps several meters in a matter of days. The sea level rose around 400 feet shortly after the end of the last Ice Age. Ice dams broke, flooding low areas and quickly filling lakes.
A combination of generally rising sea levels combined with rapidly calving glaciers, combined with large storms, low atmospheric pressure, high tides, and high winds, could have produced disastrous floods. Continental shelves were submerged. Perhaps the legend of the Deluge derives from this rapid rise in sea level.
Before the end of the last Ice Age, most lived along sea coasts, just as most do today. Speculative historians look for the mythical Atlantis out in the Atlantic or on some other continent, however, they should be looking on the submerged continental shelves of the world—under 400 feet of water—along the old coastlines. As the oceans rose, those who lived along the coastlines journeyed inland to what became the new coastlines. In moving inland they may have displaced upland herders, perhaps forcibly. Perhaps these evicted herders, resentful of the coastal people who drove them north and east, became the Aryan Kurgans and the Semitic patriarchs which later took revenge and invaded Europe, the Near East, and India.
While the oceans, including the Mediterranean, were rising, the Black Sea was not. It was a fresh water lake, walled off from the Mediterranean by a solid Bosporus barrier. However, around 5500 B.C.E., the barrier gave way, and the level of the Black Sea rose quickly, flooding out those who lived on its old banks. The fast and devastating flooding of the Black Sea could have given rise to the legend of the Deluge.
Albert Einstein endorsed the theory that the end of the last Ice Age a Deluge of worldwide proportions could have been caused by the shifting of the lithosphere, that is the earth’s relatively thin crust, in relation to the more elastic mantle it floats on. Einstein and Dr. Charles H. Hapgood considered this to be the only plausible explanation for the abrupt end of the last Ice Age in North American around 12,000 years ago, at the same time as the abrupt cooling of the climate of eastern Siberia.
According to their theory, the location of the north pole moved at that time from the central area of Hudson Bay to its present location at our North Pole. Such a shift, occurring in stages over a period of months, years, or decades would have caused huge waves. (Charles H. Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age, p. 177.)
Orthodox geologists do not find a large pole shift or a lithosphere shift occurring around 12,000 years ago. However, such a theory is not outlandish: Scientists acknowledge that shifts have occurred at earlier times, perhaps as a result of the destabilizing effect of the enormous weight of Ice Age ice. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Rock Magnetism,” 1979 ed., 15:946; Jon Erickson, Ice Ages: Past and Future, p. 97 f.) German Scholar Martin Claussen of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and others, say that around 9,000 years ago the earth’s tilt on its axis shifted from 24.14 degrees to 23.45 degrees, where it is today, and that this contributed to the drying up of the Sahara and other climate changes. (Claussen, M. ; Kubatzki, C. ; Brovkin, V. ; Ganopolski, A. ; Hoelzmann, P. ; Pachur, H.J., 1999, “Simulation of an Abrupt Change in Saharan Vegetation in the Mid-Holocene,” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 26 , No. 14 , p. 2037, 1999GL900494; J.E., Kutzbach and P.J. Guetter, “The Influence of Changing Orbital Parameters and Surface Boundary Conditions on Climate Simulations for the Past 18,000 Years,” Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 43, 1726-1759, 1986.)
These authors do not say whether the 24.14 to 23.45 degree shift resulted from the lithosphere shifting or from the entire earth from the core out to the surface shifting. It would appear that Einstein and Hapgood were right at least at least in some way about the poles shifting but wrong about the mechanism. The serious flaw in their theory can be seen by looking at the string of volcanoes that make up the Hawaiian Island chain. They represent new and old volcanoes which are situated over a hot spot in the mantle, which punches through the lithosphere. The island chain runs from east to west because the crust moves slowly from west to east over the hot spot as the Pacific shrinks in size. The same pattern appears in the case of Yellowstone. Assuming that the poles do shift, which seems to be true, the only mechanism which could accomplish this would be the entire earth shifting on its axis—or at least the lithosphere and mantle together sifting over the molten outer core of the earth. But what enormous force could accomplish such shifts? The weight of polar ice is extremely great, but it is still tiny compared with the weight of the entire earth. Dr. Walter O. Peterson points to the one force great enough to shift the entire earth on its axis: solar electromagnetism. www.poleshift.org.) Even a small pole shift of 24.14 to 23.45 degrees, by whatever mechanism, would have caused enormous waves, which could have given rise to flood legends.
Plato believed there had been a worldwide cataclysm. He relied on the reports of his ancestor Solon. After Solon wrote a new constitution for Athens that radically redistributed land ownership, he departed for Egypt where priests allegedly showed him ancient historical records telling of a cataclysmic destruction of most of humanity. Solon told of flood and fire that destroyed not only the mythical Atlantis but also wiped out all life in Greece and the rest of the world except for a few shepherds who lived in the highest mountains. (Plato, Timaeus, Critas, Cletophon, Menexenus, Epistles, Loeb Classical Library, p. 29 ff.; Plato, Laws, Book III, Loeb Classical Library, p. 177 ff.) The Zoroastrians of Persia believed that history began in the year 9660 B.C.E. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident: The Origin and Development of the Essene-Christian Faith, p. 96.)
According to my hypothesis, the Biblical story of the Flood in Genesis 7-9 could represent a confusion or conflation of two legendary but historical holocausts. It may combine the legend of Plato’s flood of water, which was some kind of indiscriminate killer of much of humanity around 9600 B.C.E. with a second holocaust, which was not accomplished by water but by patriarchal invaders on horseback, and which wiped out most of the pre-Hebrew matristic tribes. The story of the Nephilim in Genesis 6 could also refer to the patriarchal invasions. Note that if this is the case, the stories are out of order: The Noah story should have come first, as a legend which dates from the end of the last Ice Age, followed by the Nephilim story, which is a legend about the invasions of the patriarchal Aryan and Semitic tribes, which came in several waves starting around 5500 B.C.E. The Genesis legends are not necessarily set forth in correct order because redactors did not necessarily understand what the legends symbolized.
The Genesis flood story says that the population of the world was destroyed almost completely. (Genesis 7:23.) According to Plato’s story of Deucalion, only a few shepherds in the hills survived. Like the historical holocaust carried out by the patriarchal invaders, the Genesis legend tells how the patriarchal sons of God and the Nephilim took the daughters of men. (Genesis 6:2-4.) It was immediately after the coming of the Nephilim that “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth….” (Genesis 6:5.; Compare Numbers 31:7-9, 13-18, 32-35.) Because of the mention of the wickedness of man, I would presume that the taking of the daughters of men was part of a forcible conquest. Consider also the possibility that the flood is a recollection of the annihilation of almost all humans by the ash of the Toba eruption some 74,000 years ago. Toba set off large tsunamis, which swallowed up coastal cities. Most humans lived close to the oceans, and so almost everyone was killed by water. The few survivors were killed by the ash and then by the following decades of cold weather.
MEAT EATING ALLOWED AFTER THE DELUGE
After the legendary Deluge, the eating of meat was allowed to Noah and his descendants:
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:1.)
Perhaps this change took place in the context of a world that had become less civilized or perhaps colder because the pre-Hebrew tribe was living further north or at higher altitudes. Or perhaps it occurred in the context of a partnership religious tradition that was primarily or relatively vegetarian that had been conquered by patriarchal herdsmen and then blended into a new Hebrew religion that allowed meat eating.
I hypothesize that before the patriarchal invasions, the pre-Hebrew tribe followed a lacto-vegetarian or lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, in either case, one that excluded sacrificing animals and eating meat. After the conquest by the patriarchs, this rule was revised to include meat eating. Certain quick and relatively painless methods of slaughter were required as a part of a compromise with the vegetarians. Perhaps the early vegetarian kosher had always included rules for how to kill animals and eat meat when that was the only thing to eat, or for those who insisted on eating meat. It is easy to imagine the occasional application of the rule evolving into the regular bad habit. This hypothesis would explain better than any other why in orthodox Jewish homes, there are separate pots, pans, plates, utensils, sinks, and even separate ovens for products containing meat versus products containing no animal products except for milk and/or eggs. The only problem with this theory is that fish is considered “pareve” or neutral, and may be eaten either with milk or meat dishes, although some Jews will not eat fish with other kinds of meat. Maybe the pre-Hebrew vegetarians were fish-vegetarians.
According to Jewish scholar Joseph Albo (died 1444), the reason for the vegetarianism of humanity from Adam to Noah was this:
In the killing of animals there is cruelty, rage, and the accustoming of oneself to the bad habit of shedding innocent blood…. (Joseph Albo, tr. Isaac Husik, Sefer ha-Ikkarim, Volume III, Chapter 15; quoted by Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 2.)
Killing animals on a regular basis was bad for the innocent animals, but it was also bad for the moral structure of the killer.
But what about Deuteronomy 12:20? It says: “When the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat flesh,’ because you crave flesh, you may eat as much flesh as you desire?” This appears to be a carte blanche advocacy of meat eating, however, the Talmudic commentators say otherwise. They put this Biblical passage into the context of the times and explain it as follows in Hullin 84a:
Our Rabbis taught: [It is written,] when the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy borders, as He hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, “I will eat flesh.” The Torah here teaches a rule of conduct, that a person shall not eat meat unless he has a special appetite for it… and shall eat it only occasionally and sparingly.
Maybe the rabbis took this position because they recalled that meat eating in ancient times had not been allowed at all. The granting of the right to eat meat was a limited right. According to the Talmud, meat is not considered a necessity for life. The meat that Israelites were permitted to eat is called “meat of lust.” (Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume II, p. 1152, cited in Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 8; Numbers 11:18-34.)
According to Schwartz,
… Rabbi Elijah Judah, author of Animal Life in Jewish Tradition, (1984), concedes that “[s]cripture does not command the Israelite to eat meat, but rather permits this diet as a concession to lust.” (Schochet, Animal Life in Jewish Tradition, 1984, p. 300, quoted in Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 8.)
Dr. William Harris says we are a genetically fat-addicted species. Eating fat in lean times was such a lifesaver that the early humans who had a strong taste for it were most likely to survive to become our ancestors. They passed along their genes and their addiction to us. (William Harris, M.D., The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism, p. 24.) “Lust,” also translated “craving,” is the term frequently used in the Bible and Talmud for the desire for meat. (Numbers 11:4,21; 33:16; Deuteronomy 12:15,20,21; Psalms 78:18, 30; 81:12, 106:14.) “Lust” might be a synonym for addiction or for a craving for the essential fatty acids.
Although the Israelite cult developed a strong tradition of sacrificing animals, Rabbi David Kimchi (1160-1235) suggested that the sacrifices were never mandatory, only voluntary. He ascertained this from the words of Jeremiah:
[I]n the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.” But they did not obey… From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me…. (Jeremiah 7:21-26.)
Jeremiah implies that one of the major messages of the prophets was that animal sacrifice should cease. The emphasis should be on ethical living. He says that the Hebrew people got off the track in their emphasis on a meat-sacrificing cult and their de-emphasis of ethical living. I suggest this happened when the animal herding, pastoral patriarchs conquered the pre-Hebrew people of the south. They rewrote early versions of pre-Biblical literature to require animal sacrifice. (See The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1905, p. 628, cited by Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 88.)
Judaism’s greatest scholar, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204 C.E.) wrote:
“…[T]he prophets thus distinctly declared that the object of the sacrifices is not very essential, and that God does not require them. For it is distinctly stated in Scripture, and handed down by tradition, that the first commandments communicated to us did not include any law at all about burnt-offering and sacrifice.”
Of Maimonides it was said, “From Moses to Moses, there was none like Moses.” (Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, p. xxv, 325, 326.)
The Temple sacrifices, the slaughter and eating of the Passover lamb, and the smearing of the lamb’s blood on the door post all ended in 70 C.E. with the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans. Along with the Judeo-Christians, many Pharisees fled Jerusalem before its destruction. Johanan ben Zacchai petitioned the Roman authorities to be allowed to set up an academy at Jamnia in Palestine. He and his fellow rabbis established the Rabbinic Judaism we known today. They chose not to reinstitute animal sacrifices, however, they did not put an end to the slaughtering of animals for food. Why should they? They believed only the messiah would do that, and for them the messiah had not yet come. Prayer and repentance were substituted for animal sacrifice as the way of obtaining forgiveness of sin or atonement. Similarly, John the Baptist and Jesus offered prayer, and a “baptism of repentance” for forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4; Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:2; Didache 9:5.)
RECOVERY OF THE PARTNERSHIP PARADIGM
My theory is that within the bosom of the Hebrew tradition there continued to survive a glimmer of the ancient consciousness that dated back to the partnership paradigm. Although the Hebrew tradition had come to be led by men, it has always been more liberal towards women than most other traditions. Its consciousness of ethics as the second law after monotheism gradually overcame the dominator paradigm. (Deuteronomy 6:4 ff., 11:13 ff.; Numbers 15:37 ff.; Leviticus 19:14-18, Mark 12:31.) Along with the growing emphasis on ethics, opposition to cruelty survived and grew ever stronger in Jewish tradition.
The first chief rabbi of pre-state Israel, Abraham Isaac Kook, who died in 1935, was a vegetarian for religious reason. He believed that the option to kill and eat animals was temporary and
… that the permission to eat meat “after all the desire of your soul” was a concealed reproach and a qualified command. He states that a day will come when people will detest the eating of the flesh of animals because of a moral loathing, and then it shall be said that “because your soul does not long to eat meat, you will not eat meat.” (Joe Green, Chalutzim of the Messiah—The Religious Vegetarian Concept as Expounded by Rabbi Kook, p. 2, and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace, and “Fragments of Light: A View as to the Reasons for the Commandments,” in Abraham Isaac Kook, both cited in Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, pp. 3, 9; “Abraham Isaac Kook,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 edition, Micropaedia, Volume 5, p. 887.)
According to Kook, as explained by Schwartz,
People are not always ready to live up to God’s highest ideals. By the time of Noah, humanity had degenerated greatly…. [B]ecause people had sunk to an extremely low level of spirituality, it was necessary that they be given an elevated image of themselves as compared to animals, and that they concentrate their efforts into first improving relationships between people. [God] feels that were people denied the right to eat meat, they might eat the flesh of human beings due to their inability to control their lust for flesh. He regards the permission to slaughter animals for food as a “transitional tax” or temporary dispensation until a “brighter era” is reached when people would return to vegetarian diets. (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 3-4.)
The same logic appears in the Clementina. It was probably Judeo-Christians who wrote the original versions of the Clementina, of which we have modified versions in the form of the Recognitions of Clement and the Clementine Homilies. (Recognitions of Clement, 1:35 ff, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 87-88.)
As a relevant aside and in all fairness, I should point out that one author says that the son of Rabbi Kook told him that his father was not a vegetarian. (Alfred S. Cohen, “Vegetarianism from a Jewish Perspective,” Judaism & Animal Rights, ed. Roberta Kalechofsky, p. 193, n. 11.)
Human sacrifice—particularly child sacrifice—was a serious problem in some ancient societies. Some of the ancient worshipers of both male and female gods did practice human and child sacrifice. (Deuteronomy 12:31; Ezekiel 16:20, 20:26, 23:30; Isaiah 57:5; Leviticus 18:21; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 16:3, 21:6, 23:10; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5; Ezekiel 16:20; 20:26.) While Hannibal menaced northern Italy, terror-stricken Romans reverted to the human sacrifice they had long before replaced with animal sacrifice. (Donald Keegan, On the Origins of War, p. 232.)
Hebrews struggled with the problem of child sacrifice, as can be seen in the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac and his sacrificing of a ram in his place. (Genesis 22:13.) I theorize that the pre-Hebrew patriarchs practiced human sacrifice and that Genesis 22 represents the point when it stopped.
The fact that there were goddess-worshiping religions in Old Testament times that sacrificed children, however, is no proof that goddess-worshiping religions as they existed before the patriarchs invaded had sacrificed children. It is my theory that these sinful practices were introduced by the patriarchal invaders, and that the patriarchs gradually learned from the women they had conquered to renounce them.
When we get to early historical times, we find that surviving, subordinated matristic religions coexisted with patriarchal religions. There were temples dedicated to the various goddesses. By classical Greek times, pagan religions showed a high degree of tolerance for each other. However, the matristic religions had probably been modified by the patriarchal religions. For example, the Pythic-Delphic Oracle before around 1400 B.C.E. was a small cult of only a few priestesses atop a hill, which was considered the navel of the world. By the time of the Doric invasions of around 1050 B.C.E., the priestesses had been reduced to captive status. Those who came to consult had to speak to male priests of the cult of Apollo, who in turn communicated with the oracular priestesses. (See the section of this book entitled Delphic Oracle, page 67.)
Early Christian preachers vilified the pagan religions; pagan spokesmen such as Porphyry countered the attack. Christians refused to declare allegiance to the state and its representative pantheon—which was done by making a token sacrifice of incense to the gods and obtaining a certificate. Suspecting the Christians of disloyalty, the Roman state persecuted Christians, although only on rare occasions. Religious pagans, for the most part, tried to tolerate the Christians. Christians, on the other hand considered theirs the only valid religion and all others as perverse. Christianity became first a tolerated religion and then the official state religion. Then all other religions except Judaism were banned, and Theodosius and other emperors confiscated pagan temples, lands, and other property and gave them to the orthodox church. By the 500s the last of the Greek temples and academies were shut down.
David Bakan, scholar of psychiatry and Judaica, suggests that the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17 ff.) is a reference to child sacrifice and child cannibalism as the original sin. Knowledge is a euphemism in the Bible for sexual intercourse (Genesis 3:7, 4:1, 4:17, 4:25, 19:8, 24:16), and the fruit or outcome of sex is the child. There were many ancient societies in which people sacrificed and ate their children. (David Bakan, And They Took Themselves Wives: The Emergence of Patriarchy in Western Civilization, p. 16.)
In response to Mr. Bakan, I would suggest that the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge could just as well be a symbol for the killing and eating of animals. The casting of Adam and Eve out of Eden into a life of toil in the fields might be a symbol for the transition from life as gatherer-hunter to settled agricultural life.
THE RULE OF NOAH
Although humans were allowed to eat meat under Noah’s new ethical guidelines, they were prohibited in Genesis 9:4 from eating blood: “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (See also Leviticus 17:10, 12, 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16-25, 15:23.) The blood symbolizes life. Thus, the rule not to eat blood is a reminder not to eat animals at all. According to Moses Cassuto:
Apparently the Torah was in principle opposed to the eating of meat. When Noah and his descendants were permitted to eat meat this was a concession conditional on the prohibition of the blood. This prohibition implied respect for the principle of life (“for the blood is the life”) and an allusion to the fact that in reality all meat should have been prohibited. This partial prohibition was designed to call to mind the previously total one. (Leibowitz, Studies in Bereshit, p. 77, cited by Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 5.)
I hypothesize that Noah’s new Kosher rule was this: God does not want humans to kill and eat animals, but if humans insist on doing so, they must treat animals well while they live and must kill animals in a relatively painless way. And they must adhere to rules regarding meat eating that will act as a memory device that will help humans remember that there was a time when they did not eat meat at all and that someday they will renounce it. The memory device is the prohibition against consuming the blood of animals and the many other rules of kosher slaughter. As one slaughters a cow and drains out the blood, he or she will always ask why there is such a restriction. Judaism is replete with such memory devices. Judaism at its core is memory and consciousness, including a consciousness of ethics. Bear in mind that in Judaism the concept of god is inseparable from ethics.
Immediately after god granted Noah and his descendants the right to eat meat (Genesis 9:3) there came a warning (Genesis 9:5) of the consequences: “For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning…?.” Noah was the last of the especially long-lived patriarchs. The shortening of the life span of humans was part of this legend (Genesis 6:3-5), and the connection between wickedness, eating meat, and dying younger is obvious.
In the section of this book entitled Paul, James, and the Jerusalem Council, p. 123, I go into greater detail about the Rule of Noah.
Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. They wandered in the wilderness of Sinai and ate manna, a plant-based food. (Exodus 16:15, Numbers 11:7.) Rabbinic scholar Isaac Arama (1420-1494) regarded this as an attempt to reinstitute a plant-based diet. (Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 6; See Recognitions of Clement, 1:35 ff, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 87-88.) The attempt failed. The Israelites may have been vegetarians before they moved to Egypt, but in Egypt they had grown accustomed to meat. They clamored for it in the desert. Perhaps there were non-Israelites who had joined in the Exodus, and meat eating was their custom. God sent quail, and
[w]hile the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.
The place where this happened was called “The Graves of Lust.” (Numbers 11:18-34.) The moral of the story is clear: Eating meat is not a good thing.
The five books of Moses, the Pentateuch, contain detailed instructions on how the Hebrews were to conduct their animal sacrifices. A vegetarian interpretation of these is that they were not part of the original tradition about Moses but were added at a later date, after the First Temple had been built in Jerusalem by Solomon and animal sacrifices had been instituted. The Judeo-Christians regarded these passages as not having been authentic. Jesus suggested there were parts of the Hebrew Bible which were falsified. (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., 18, Book I, pp. 44 ff.; Matthew 22:29; see the section of this book entitled Simon Peter, the Clementina, p. 102; compare Deuteronomy 12:15-28; Psalms 78:17-31.)
SAGA OF THE VEGETARIAN DANIEL
The book of Daniel (1:8-17), written in the Second Century B.C.E. about events that occurred around 600 B.C.E., when the Hebrews were being held in captivity, tells how a Babylonian king brought Israelite youth into the royal court for education. The story is worth retelling here:
… Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s rich food [meat], or with the wine which he drank; therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs; and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear lest my lord the king, who appointed your food and your drink, should see that you were in poorer condition than the youths who are of you own age. So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had appointed over Daniel…; “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s rich food be observed by you, and according to what you see deal with your servants.” So he hearkened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s rich food. So the steward took away their rich food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four youths God gave them learning and skill in all letters and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. (My comments are in square brackets.)
King Nebuchadnezzar fell into mental illness for a period of seven “times,” during which he “ate grass like an ox,” after which his reason returned. (Daniel 3:28 ff.) The Lives of the Prophets adds more detail. The period of mental illness lasted for seven months, during which Nebuchadnezzar “neither ate bread nor meat nor drank wine, since Daniel had enjoined him to appease the Lord with soaked pulse and herbs.” So Nebuchadnezzar recovered his mental health by eating sprouted lentils and greens. (David Satran, “Biblical Prophets and Christian Legend: The Lives of the Prophets Reconsidered,” Messiah and Christos: Studies in the Jewish Origins of Christianity, p. 199 ff.; C.C. Torrey, The Lives of the Prophets.)
The book of Daniel was very popular among the Jewish Essenes and was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls; it may have been written or edited by the Qumran Essenes, who were vegetarian. As discussed below, vegetarians such as John the Baptist and Jesus, and the vegetarian Judeo-Christians probably came out of the Essene tradition or were influenced by it.
JUDAISM AND THE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM
The Talmud forbids hunting except when necessary and stipulates that animals be fed and treated well. It establishes a cult of the ritual slaughterer—the shochet—whose role is to sacrifice animals as painlessly as possible. The proper method is so complex that according to the Talmud:
Only a scholar of Torah may eat meat, but one who is ignorant of Torah is forbidden to eat meat. (Pesachim 49b, quoted by Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 9.)
Nevertheless, there developed in Judaism an enormous system of animal sacrifice, accompanied by the mass marketing of the resulting meat. Josephus reports that a minimum of ten and up to twenty people would share each sacrificed lamb. He estimated that 256,000 animals would have been slaughtered during Passover week.
Josephus estimated that when the armies of Vespasian and Titus surrounded Jerusalem in 68 C.E. and sealed it off, there were 2,700,200 people trapped inside—of which approximately 1,100,000 died during the next two years as a result of starvation and war. Some were regular residents, but probably most were there to visit the Temple as part of yearly religious observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover. All of these would have been observant Jews who would have felt obligated to participate in the sacrificial system, and hence the estimate of 256,000 animals slaughtered in a few days makes mathematical sense, although the number of those trapped in Jerusalem seems incredibly high. Nevertheless, there would have been rivers of blood and intestinal contents flowing down from the Jerusalem Temple. (Whiston, The Complete Works of Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3, p. 587 f.)
Robert Eisenman, in his monumental James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, suggests, without citing authorities, that the Essenes and John the Baptist adopted vegetarianism only in reaction to the fact that the sacrificial system in Jerusalem had been compromised, that is, that priests not descended from the family of Aaron were presiding over the sacrifices, and that gentiles were being allowed to offer sacrifices. (He could have added that many believed the calendar?being used was incorrect so that sacrifices were being offered on the wrong days.) Eisenman suggests that their reason for not eating meat was a technical problem with cult procedures and not some fundamental moral objection to the practice.
Eisenman points out that the eating of meat had been permitted to Noah only after an approved sacrificial system had been established. (Genesis 8:20; 9:3.) Before Noah emerged from the ark, there had been no approved sacrificial system, and it was for this reason, says Eisenman, that god’s people had originally been vegetarians. Eisenman derives some support for this theory from the story of Judas Maccabee. When the Seleucid Greeks appointed a high priest not of the proper line,
Judas, called Maccabaeus… with about nine others, withdrew into the wilderness and lived like wild animals in the hills with his companions, eating nothing but wild plants to avoid contracting defilement. (2 Maccabees 5:27.)
The reason why Daniel and the young scholars in the king’s school in Babylon ate no meat and only vegetables is not entirely clear. Daniel believed that eating meat would defile him. (Daniel 1:8,16.) He might have objected to meat of any kind or just to the fact that there was no Hebrew temple or kosher slaughterhouse in Babylon where kosher meat could be obtained.
Eisenman suggests that it was only because there was no authorized sacrificial system during the wandering of the Israelites in Sinai that the Israelites during this period had been vegetarians. (Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 265 ff., 275 ff., 293.)
Eisenman’s thoughtful, speculative, 1,100-page tome is a must-read book for anyone interested in the origins of Judeo-Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, but I do not agree with him on this point. Why at various times and particularly in legendary times was sacrifice not authorized? Was there no eating of meat before Noah and in Sinai simply because there was no proper sacrificial cult? Or was there no sacrificial cult because there was no meat eating? He would prefer the first alterative; I would prefer the second. Eisenman never explores the possibility that there might be something unethical about the way food animals are treated, despite that fact that the Bible shows sensitivity to the rights of animals. (See Deuteronomy 25:4.) For example, in the messianic time all sacrifices except the thank-offering will cease. (Pesachim 79a; Lev. R. ix., xxvii.) See the sections of this book entitled Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian, Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 178, and Jesus and the Right Treatment of Animals, p. 188, where I respond to Eisenman’s theory in greater detail.)
ANCIENT JUDAISM CHALLENGES MODERN JUDAISM
Why did animal sacrifice and eating flesh have its opponents in Judaism? Was the objection grounded in some technical objection such as the wrong priestly family conducting the sacrifices or the wrong calendar being followed and thus the sacrifices being made on the wrong day? Or was there an ethical objection to sacrificing and meat eating in general?
Judaism has never been a completely unified tradition, and a counter-strain continued to survive within it which rejected animal sacrifice. The prophet Isaiah (7:11, 65:25) foresaw an ideal time when the sacrifices would end, when even carnivorous animals would become herbivorous (as they had been in Genesis 1:29): “The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” It is also possible that the bear and lion are allegorical references to certain nations or sects which were in conflict with each other.
The prophet Hosea said: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6.)
Jesus the Jew refers to this theme (Matthew 9:13) when he says: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” He refers to it again (Matthew 12:1-8) when he says, “I tell you, something greater than the temple [sacrifices?] is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” I posit that the guiltless are the animals who were sacrificed on the Temple mountain by the tens of thousands. It is clear here that Jesus opposed the use of animals for religious sacrificial purposes. (See also Amos 5:21 ff., Proverbs 21:3, and the sections of this book entitled Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 179, and Jesus Stopped the Sacrifices in the Temple, p. 180.)
The vegetarian theme is part of the ethics and justice theme that runs through Jewish messianic literature. One refrains from savagery towards animals as part of refraining from savagery in general. There is a connection between the way we treat animals and the way we treat fellow humans.
Jewish theory about the messianic era is well developed. It is to be a time of peace, justice, and the observance of high ethical standards. “Behold my servant, whom I uphold,… he will bring forth justice to the nations…?. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” (Isaiah 42: 1-4; see Isaiah 7:11, 65.25.) The messiah was to be a leader who would introduce justice and ethics, including right treatment of the animals. There was no suggestion the messiah would be a deity.
In Judaism there are two acceptable theories as to how the messiah will come: According to the first, an individual messiah will come—at a time when all appears hopeless and the moral level of society is at its lowest—and will initiate the messianic era. According to the second theory, the messianic era will come gradually through the efforts of people of messianic purpose, and the messiah will appear at the end and fulfill the ceremonial role of announcing that the work has been accomplished. Therefore,
… modern Jewish religious ethical vegetarians are pioneers of the messianic era; they are leading lives that make the coming of the messiah or the coming of the messianic era more likely. (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 12, referring to Joe Green, Chalutzim of the Messiah, p. 1.)
This second theory of how the messianic era will come is a powerful stimulus for people of good will to work to improve the moral level of society. It states that there is something people can do to help realize the better era.
In Judaism, the messianic era will be Edenic: There will be a return to the plant-based diet of the garden. The anti-animal diet and anti-sacrifice references in Genesis, Numbers, Isaiah, Hosea, Proverbs, and Amos quoted above all look back to an ideal time in the past or look forward to an ideal messianic era in the future.
Many Jewish scholars believe that animal sacrifices will not be reinstated in messianic times, even with the reestablishment of the Temple. [Animal sacrifices ceased in Judaism with the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E.] They believe that at that time human conduct will have advanced to such high standards that there will no longer be a need for animal sacrifices to atone for sins. Only non-animal sacrifices (grains, for example) to express gratitude to God would remain. (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 89. My comments are in square brackets.)
It is time for Jews who want to follow the oldest Jewish traditions and heed the call of the Jewish prophets to return to a plant-based diet. In ancient Hebrew tradition, eating meat was allowed when it was absolutely necessary. It is no longer necessary. It is not consistent with the Jewish project to bring the better era. Furthermore, conditions have changed: Animals are raised in conditions of filth, cruelty, and terror unlike those of ancient times. Additionally, we have learned in recent decades that eating animal-based foods is not conducive to good health or to a sound environment.
PROFESSOR SCHWARTZ LEADS THE CHALLENGE
Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island. He is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and Mathematics and Global Survival. He has posted scores of articles on the Worldwide Web, which deal with Judaism and vegetarianism. It is called The Schwartz Collection on Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights. (www.jewishveg.com/schwartz.) In July, 2000, he and other rabbis issued an extensive proposed Resolution on Judaism, the Environment, and Dietary Health to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which asked that the Rabbis affirm the importance of vegetarian and health conscious diets as a Jewish value.