Living Naturally (President's Message)
People are vegetarian for many reasons. Whether your
primary reason is protecting your health, or it is reducing damage to the
environment, reducing cruelty to animals or a combination of any of these,
most likely you feel that you live "more naturally" than many others on
Can we define what this means for us, in the USA today?
The first humans were scavengers, finding what they
could that was edible and served other needs. Some who were perceptive
discovered the relationship between flowers and fruits and would return to
harvest the fruit when it ripened. Others discovered the relationship
between seeds and plants. "If I put these in the ground near the river, I
will have my own plants and won't have to keep going back to find them."
And so agriculture was born. Even though as Milton Mills shows us in his
article on page 1, we are not physiologically designed to eat meat, humans
did eat meat. We are scavengers (a more correct term than omnivores) and
therefore we are capable of eating meat.
There was a news item in December about an archeological
find in England. A burial chariot was discovered that contained the
skeleton of a human along with the remains of about 250 head of cattle
thought to be slaughtered for a funeral feast. This is estimated to have
taken place 2,500 years ago, showing perhaps that we have been eating meat
for a long time. But just as might does not always mean right, centuries
do not always denote certainly. We can eat animals, indeed most people
with access to meat, and who can afford to eat it, will eat meat.
Nonetheless, that does not mean that it is a natural
thing to do, especially considering the cruelty of today's factory farming
methods and the resources wasted to transfer grain into meat. Morever,
considering the further depletion of resources involved in transporting
and killing the animals and then transporting, packaging and refrigerating
the remains until they are sold in supermarkets or restaurants.
Up until the mid 20th century, people worried about
their children dying of infectious diseases, Adults also succumbed to
infections that are easily treated today. Instead we have an epidemic of
cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and gastrointestinal conditions.
Physicians who themselves consume copious quantities of animal flesh and
fluids know that animal foods contribute to these diseases; therefore
although they may advise patients to eat less, take the skin off the
chicken, switch to skim milk, eat more fiber, they often do it without the
wholehearted enthusiasm of those who have discovered that eating
vegetarian (and vegan) is truly a delicious and satisfying way of life.
Today infectious meat-borne diseases are a special
concern, considering occasional outbreaks of "mad cow disease" and its
human variation Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
How can we live more naturally in the Hudson Valley, New
York City, or other urban areas? Many of us who live "in the country" do
not grow our own food. We can't get around without a car (except in New
York City), and most of us would not know how to produce fibers to spin
So what can we do? As written in the Jewish teachings,
the Ethics of the Sages, "It is not incumbent of you to complete the task,
but neither are you free to desist from it altogether."
Here are ten suggested New Year's Resolutions. Consider
picking one or two to claim for 2004.
1) For meat eaters - reduce
your intake of animals by 30% or more.
2) For vegetarians - try three
dairy-free weeks, you will probably feel much better and want to continue.
3) For those who eat vegan but use animal products
- phase out leather.
4) For those who have some land or even a terrace
- grow something. A pot of cherry tomatoes, some
lettuce, carrots radishes and some flowers. Don't use pesticides.
5) Think before you drive (walk, bike, use public
transportation, combine trips, go with someone, carpool).
6) Support local merchants -
Wal-Mart is on the way to being the world's largest retailer. They already
sell the most cigarettes in the world and 20% of all toothpaste. Yes the
prices are low, but at what price in lost jobs?
7) Buy organic produce, (yes it cost more, but it
supports your health and the small growers.) If you select carefully and
use all that you purchase you reduce the cost.
8) Buy fewer processed, foods, especially frozen foods.
Commercial refrigeration is a huge consumer of electricity, and the
working conditions in frozen food plants are difficult and unsafe.
9) Get on one animal rights e-mail list and send out
some letters and e-mails. I suggest
10) Your own resolution goes here. Why not share it with