Noncruelty to Animals and World Peace

The Teaching of Rabbi Dr. Gabriel Cousens

The following is adapted from Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Conscious Eating (2000), Chapter 17, Sub-Chapter: ‘Compassion and Noncruelty to Animals and World Peace.’

Compassion toward and noncruelty to animals are directly linked morally and spiritually to world peace. Killing an animal for food is still a violent act. There is no compassion in it for the animal. There is also a connection between justifying slaughtering animals for food or profit and taking the next step in the violent process, which is the killing of one’s fellow human beings for some sort of ‘good’ reason.

George Bernard Shaw once said in his poem, Song of Peace:

Like carrion crows, we live and feed on meat
Regardless of the suffering and pain
We cause by doing so. If thus we treat
defenseless animals for sport of gain,
How can we hope to attain the
Peace we say we are so anxious for?
We pray for it, o’er hecatombs of slain,
To God, while outraging the moral law,
Thus cruelty begets its offspring—War.

Today, the cruelty extends beyond the mass killing of animals to a systematic, antilife, antihumane treatment of animals from the time they are born until they are harvested as if they were a cash crop. They are systematically deprived of their natural habitat and life cycle for the expediency of the meat industry. Individual killing of animals for food is the first step of cruelty (hunting, fishing). The profit-motivated industrialization of nature’s living animals, as if they are inanimate and without any rights, feelings, or soul, is an example of the next step of the expansion of cruelty.

People in the US and Canada consume over 200 pounds of animals flesh per person a year. In one year, four billion cattle, calves, sheep, hogs, chicken, ducks, and turkeys are slaughtered. In a lifetime, a Canadian or US meat-eater eats: 11 cattle, one calf, three lambs and sheep, 23 hogs, 45 turkeys, 1,100 chickens, and 826 pounds of fish.

The famous Talmudic jurist and Rabbi, Moshe ben Nachman, who lived in the eleventh century, said about compassion for animals:

… for cruelty expands in a man’s soul, as is well-known with respect to cattle slaughters.

This is a prophetic comment in that a current struggle exists around the destruction of the tropical rain forests in which the cattle farmers and other forces who want to level the forests have been involved indirectly and directly in shooting people who oppose them.

Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician and philosopher, once said:

As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.

According to Jon Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America, livestock use approximately 50% of all the water in the US. Livestock produce twenty times the excrement as the human population of the US. This increases the nitrate/nitrite water pollution. Extensive water use for livestock is pushing us closer to a clean water shortage. It requires 60–100 times more water to produce a pound of beef than a pound of wheat. Robbins estimates that if everyone were vegetarian, there would be no need for irrigation systems in the US. Livestock require excessive water usage because the land needed to grow grain for livestock takes up about 80% of the grain produced, and because water is needed for the animals. When one considers the water needed for this extra grain and for the care of the livestock, a flesh-food diet creates a need for 4,500 gallons per day per meat-eater as compared to 300 gallons per day for a vegan. A vegan saves approximately 1,500,000 gallons per year as compared to a flesh- and dairy-eater.

The destruction of the rain forests for grazing land and the resultant greenhouse effect is another example of the delterious effects of a flesh-centered diet on our ecological system. In Deuteronomy 20:19 it says, ‘You must never destroy its trees … you may eat of them, but you shall not cut them down.’

This statement in Deuteronomy is one of the bases of the Talmudic laws which prohibit willful destruction of natural resources or any sort of vandalism to the natural resources, even if it is by those who have a deed to the land. An article in Vegetarian Times estimates that rain forest destruction causes the extinction of 1000 species per year. For each fast-food, quarter-pound hamburger, 55 squre feet of rain forest are destroyed. One hundred species become extinct for every two billion fast-food burgers sold. The effects on livestock land use in the US account for about 85% of the four million acres of topsoil lost every year. A pure vegetarian diet, on the other hand, makes less than five percent of the demand on the soil in this country.

The ratio of food productivity per acre of land from livestock versus vegetarian food reveals a tremendous disparity from the same amount of natural resources. For instance, one acre of land yields 20,000 pounds of potatoes verses 165 pounds of beef. An acre of grain gives five times more protein than beef. An acre of legumes gives ten times more and an acre of leafy greens produces twenty-five times more protein than one acre of beef. Grain for 100 cows will feed 2000 people. Neither land, water, atmosphere, nor animal populations are safe from the resource-intensive destruction that results from a meat-centered diet.