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Comments by Ruth Eisenbud - 4 May 2010

In Reference to: Say No to Sanctified Animal Abuse

Professor Schwartz has asked us to suspend disbelief and accept his premise that compassion for animals can be derived from values which allow for their harm and slaughter because there is a nod to compassion. The following is a gesture of compassion suggested by the model endorsed by the Torah, with commentary of a sage who bases his compassion on allowable slaughter.

“It is prohibited to kill an animal with its young on
the same day, in order that people should be
restrained and prevented from killing the two together
in such a manner that the young is slain in the sight
of the mother; for the pain of animals under such
circumstances is very great… ” (Maimonides, Guide for
the Perplexed, 3:48)” Commentary, Old Testament compassion

Kind gestures followed by such cruelty merely trivialize compassion. Quibbling about the day of slaughter ignores the question of whether slaughter should ever be allowed.

In the model of compassion endorsed by Professor Schwartz, kosher slaughter is defended as somehow more compassionate. To claim that one form of slaughter is more compassionate than another, begs the issue of whether man has the right to take an animal’s life for human benefit. To state the life of a human has more worth than that of an animal undermines the value of any attempts at compassion because it denies the intrinsic worth of an animals life. It is clear from the following example, when slaughter is justified as compassionate, conditions often degenerate to extreme abuse:

Kosher Slaughter: The Shame and the Pity:

http://negotiationisover.com/2010/04/16/stringent-conditions-of-compassion-the-shame-of-the-jews/

Several issue must be confronted when one evaluates an approach to ending animal suffering. I challenge Professor Schwartz to respond to these issues and questions:

Is it possible to derive compassion from a model which does not acknowledge the intrinsic worth of an animal’s life?

The contradiction of compassion vs allowable harm/slaughter.

The premise that an animals life has less worth than a human life and its implications for allowable harm.

Can one in good conscience promote a ’sacred’ model of animal compassion based on allowable ab(use) and slaughter, especially when the facts indicate a model based on respect for ALL life has been effective through the millennia?

Please consider your own response to these question as well and also consider the facts.

When a model of unconditional compassion for animals is followed, the results for them are significantly improved and a foundation for increased benefits is set down for greater future improvements. (See attachment)

While it is apparent that Professor Schwartz loves his religion one has to wonder whether it is appropriate for him to promote a model of animal compassion, generated 5000 years ago which has had such devastating results for animals. Perhaps it is time for those who care deeply about the well being of animals to work from a model based on the assumption that an animals life has intrinsic worth and that the harming or slaughter of an animal for human benefit is always gratuitous violence.

What Professor Schwartz fails to recognize, is that despite some measures of comfort for animals, the basic premise of the values he espouses so undermines the value of their lives that compassion is reduced to cosmetic gestures which merely suggest the appearance of kindness. The system he endorses creates a hierarchy, with man at the helm and grants him the right to ab(use) harm and slaughter animals for human benefit. Claims that with this model, man should protect animals, underestimate the power of the contradiction it presents: have compassion for animals/allowable harm and abuse. Once you allow for harm and slaughter any measures of compassion are reduced to what Professor Gary Francione has termed ‘moral schizophrenia’.

So despite the many benefits claimed by the compassion of the judeo.christian tradition, the bottomline is that this tradition does in fact allow for the harm and slaughter of animals. Ask yourself if there is any other movement you know of that allows for the harm and slaughter of those it professes to defend.

The promotion of ones religion, with the offer of a free video, as having superior values of compassion given the track record of these values is chauvinism that is inappropriate considering the plight of animals. Especially so since a truly effective model of compassion has been quietly passed down for thousands of years. It is the value of ahimsa or unconditional compassion, as follwed by the Jains of India, with resulting major benefits for animals.

Chauvinism that violates the rights of one group either human or animal, as it extols the benefits to another is inappropriate and harmful:

"I would like to offer you a complimentary DVD with our recently released documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD." Professor Richard Schwartz

Values that honor violence and sanctify animal abuse have not resulted in a more peaceful world and benevolent conditions for animals. There is an excellent film, by Tribe of Heart : Peaceable Kingdom, that everyone who is concerned with compassion for animals should view. It speaks to the heart compassion: animals are living beings entitled to unconditional respect. It does not have a vested interest in preserving traditional, harmful religious beliefs to maintain religious cohesion.

For whatever reason animals may have been harmed in other cultures in the past, the fact that ahimsa is the only model of animal compassion that has resulted in significant benefits for animals. With this knowledge it would seem that those working to end animal suffering no matter what their culture or religion, it would seem that a model of unconditional compassion is an essential tool to accomplish the goal of ending animals suffering. To use any other model of compassion is inexcusable, especially one which has been ineffective in achieving this goal and has instead resulted in ever increasing harm and abuse.

It is the 21st century. It is inappropriate to use a model of animal compassion which has had such disastrous results for animals. The decision to promote a religious model NOW when it is clear that this model has not worked in 5000 years is indefensible. We have fresh vine ripened tomatoes in New England all year long, which are grown in Maine in greenhouses. There is no longer the need to transport food long distances to provide people with cruelty free nutrition. With a model of unconditional compassion and the advantages we have today of bringing vegetarian/vegan food to remote cultures, it no longer makes sense to promote a model that at its core allows for the harm and slaughter of animals.

To cling to harmful beliefs and try to justify them to preserve religious cohesion is to deny the animals the best possible chance for better lives. They have suffered long enough and deserve a whole-hearted model of compassion.

Respectfully,
Ruth Eisenbud

Attachment:

The next time a healthy young homeless dog is killed by a shelter in the west, which is against the law in India, the next time a high school student is forced to dissect an animal in the USA, which is banned in India for all high school students in all states, the next time you read a horror story of vivisectors using monkeys in the USA and Israel and breeding them….Remember that India banned the export of its monkeys abroad so the would not be harmed in laboratories abroad…The next time someone tells you that they eat meat because god created animals for human benefit, remember that there are 400 million vegetarians in India…The next time a carriage horse is killed in traffic in NYC remember that carriage horses are banned in Delhi, the next time a church sponsors a bear hunt in the USA for its youth, remember that India freed all its dancing bears and released them to sanctuaries, note that on Thanksgiving 45 million turkeys are killed just for this one day and remember that for the Jain holidays of atonement the slaughter houses of other groups such as Moslems, Jews, Seiks, Zorastrians etc are shut down, as killing is so intolerable.

Yes there are cruel people every where, but at least when the law is on the side of the animals and they are valued as living beings at least they have a chance. In the west animals are viewed as property by the law. Animal protection laws in the west will not improve until the mainstream religions accept the intrinsic worth of an animals life.