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Negotiation Is Over
by Ruth Eisenbud | June 15, 2010 —  [print_link]
In a recent online discussion on how animal compassion is adversely affected by a religious view that allows man to ab(use) and slaughter animals for human benefit, Rabbi Gershom presented the Old Testament position. Though unable to sustain a coherent and civil discussion it became evident, he claimed animal compassion can be derived from a model which devalues the worth of animal lives and puts human benefit above an animals right to remain free from harm and ultimately even to exist. To view the discussion:
Several weeks later Rabbi Gershom submitted another statement in an attempt to justify the allowable harm and slaughter of animals of the Old Testament. His statement is followed by a response to clarify the meaning of compassion, the intended purpose of the discussion and the fallacy of compassion for animals based on human need:
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom States:
RUTH: Hmmm…. Why did you move the comments out of order? The one above was written on May 5, BEFORE the material I am now repsonding to… Makes for a rather confusing thread, to say the least.
To clarify a point in a comment you made above: I never said Gandhi got his idea of SATYAGRAHA from the Gita. I said he was able to read the Gita as a moral parable rather than a literal battle story. As I recall, he got the idea of satyagraha from reading Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” while in prison in South Africa. (It was apparently appended to an edition of Walden.) So please do not distort my words. Or maybe you were trying to deflect the discussion from my REAL point: That ancient texts can get redefined in new, more holistic ways without actually changing the words? That nonviolent people can still honor those texts and learn from them, even if the words and stories are not always full of warm fuzzies?
Also, Richard Schwartz did not say we are “faced with choosing from two paths which will both ultimately result in long due compassion for animals.” There are never just “TWO PATHS” in any of his books, he is not an either-or person like you. He says that there are MANY paths leading to vegetarianism, same as I said earlier. Some get there thru politics, some thru health reasons, some thru religion, some thru animal rights, or whatever. And they are ALL good paths to get there in his opinion (and mine).
YOU are the one who keeps insisting that there are only two paths: Your way or the wrong way. I think perhaps your inability to think outside the box of “either-or” is causing you to misunderstand our words???
By “seeking common ground,” Schwartz and I both mean that while we may not agree 100% on EVERYTHING, there are SOME areas where we can agree and we should work together on those areas for the common good, rather than fight over places where we disagree. As a Hasidic Jew, there are MANY areas where I do not agree with the “liberal” political camp, yet I am able to work on peace issues, etc. with people who are not Hasidic or not even Jewish. I am able to ignore the fact that secular Jews work on the Sabbath, for example — a VERY BIG offense in my world. But for the sake of peace, I will join with them on some issues.
You, however, appear incapable of working with anyone on anything unless they agree 100% with you. That is my definition of fanaticism – and yes, I do consider you a fanatic because of your level of intolerance. You are as rigid and one-minded as any fundamentalist.
Inside a kosher slaughterhouse.
FYI: Ironically, I did try ahimsa back in the 1960s during my hippie days. It worked fine as long as I lived in a city apartment with no real interaction with nature, and could idealize it into the Garden of Eden. Once I moved to the country and began growing my own food, my fantasy was shattered. I had to deal with wood ticks, deer ticks that carry Lyme disease, mosquitoes and fleas. Our house got overrun with mice and rats. My vegetables were eaten by caterpillars, slugs and other bugs. My free-run chickens were repeatedly attacked by predators, my cats killed birds and mice. Deer ate my fruit trees, moths ate my clothes. Bacteria made me sick. It was totally unworkable to say “never ever kill anything” when actually trying to live off the land. Nature is really quite violent. Death is part of the circle of life. Everything wantsw to live, but everything eventually dies. Even the sky and the mountains are not permanent; only God is unchangeable.
So now I try to live in harmony as much as I can, and not kill anything needlessly, but I am not going to ever become a Jain. And frankly, if Jainism leads to the kind of judgemental intolerance I see in you here, I shall NEVER EVER want to embrace it. You have suceeded in turning me off to it 100%.
Regarding “angry language” from a “religious leader,” you should read the biblical Prophets. They were not soft-spoken new age wimps. They told it like it was. If you actually knew anything about Judaism, you would know that. Our role model is confronting Pharoah, not “gentle Jesus meek and mild.” And frankly, your epistle to the religious world was not very gentle, either. It was, in fact, quite offensive in its ignorance, as I have already explained above. (True, you later explained to me that it was “generic” to all faiths, but that was a rather stupid approach. Because I read it as accusing Jews of things like hunting and blood sports that Judaism actually forbids and which most Jews, even secularized ones, don’t do. Next time, do your homework first and learn how to target specific audiences better.)
And really, you have no room to talk, because you are not the least bit respectful of either me or Dr. Schwartz, even if you do use the proper self-defined “politically-correct” language. You have not one iota of respect for Judaism either, or for anything Schwartz or I have accomplished in trying to promote vegetarianism in the Jewish community for the past 4 decades. Just because we do not believe in ahimsa like you do, you write off everything we say or do on behalf of animals as “lacking compassion.” That is pretty arrogant of you to make such a claim. Are you God, that you can judge my heart?
It is real easy for you to sit on the sidelines and pontificate by sending out generic caveats to religious leaders, which you don’t even bother to taylor to each religion. You just lump them all together in one pot. (Is that due to laziness or lack of theological knowledge? Or both?) I doubt this approach will have any real effect on Jews. We tend to dismiss theological attacks from apostates. (That is not name-calling; it is a fact. See
It is much, much harder to stay within the Jewish community as a vegetarian (of any sort), to deal with the daily skepticism, ridicule, questions, ostracism, etc., and learn to keep going in spite of discouragment. So when I said you took the easy way out, I meant exactly that. You did I CHALLENGE you to go to some of the Jewish vegetarian groups, and learn to LISTEN as well as preach. I CHALLENGE you to open your OWN heart to those Jews who ARE sincerrely giving up meat and caring about animals, but we are not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater like you did.
This does NOT negate the fact that you are attacking Jews and Judaism. Your logic there is flawed. Two wrongs do not negate each other, tAlso, in reponse to an earlier comment you made re: antisemitism: Pointing out that you also attack Christians hey amplify each other exponentially. It means you are BOTH anti-Jewish AND anti-Christian (and probably anti-Muslim as well.) In fact, it would appear you have no respect for any culture on Earth except Jainism, since it is apparently the only one that practices total ahimsa. You never really answered my question about Native Americans, but weaseled around it with:
“When a culture and religion acknowledges that the lives of ALL beings are equally sacred and entitled to undconditional compassion, it goes a long way towards protecting them. When a culture and religion allows for their slaughter, animals are viewed not as living beings whose lives are to be measured not by value to man, but by its intrinsic worth not the animals. In such a setting the law views animals as property and the legislation offers very little protection for animals…It is unlikely that such a model will ever result in true compassion.”
Well, since Native American both slaughter and hunt, then I guess the answer vto my quewston was yes, you do hate their culture as much as you hatec Judaism. So why can’t you just be honest and come out and SAY that? Afraid to sound politically incorrect?
The bottom line is: Judaism will probably never adopt ahimsa as a philosophy, because that would mean re-writng the Torah, and nobody is going to do that. So it is a given that we will still have stories about how our ancestors made animal sacrifices. And I do NOT agree that because thisw is so, then Jews can never have compassion. That is an utterly ridiculous assumption. There are many individual Jews, as well as synagogues and orgs, who have adopted vegetarianism as the diet for this day and age. But since you consider them of no value, we have nothing more to say to each other. Shalom.
A Jewish custom is to cut the animal’s throat wide open.
Sanctified Animal Abuse is Unjustifiable (response to a Rabbi):
Dear Rabbi Gershom,
Despite your numerous digressions, the topic, initiated with the posting of ‘Say No To Sanctified Abuse’ is how to effect a more compassionate world for animals and whether it is possible to do so with a religious model based on their allowable harm and slaughter. There are four questions which should be considered in determining which model of compassion works best for animals. You have refused to address all of the following:
Is it possible to derive compassion from a model which does not acknowledge the intrinsic worth of an animal’s life?
Is it possible to bridge the contradiction between compassion and allowable harm/slaughter.
What are the implications on allowable harm and slaughter of the premise that an animals life has less worth than a human life .
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 much more effective at extending compassion to animals?
Since there is no justifiable and rational way to maintain a position which claims compassion can be derived from a model based on sanctified violence to animals, you chose to ignore the issue and instead discuss a wide variety of unrelated topics, complete with untrue aspersions and crude language. More significantly, it appears that you are unable to grasp the need for compassion which respects the lives of ALL beings:
a recent result of biblical law:
In Israel a recent bill to ban the use of fur did not pass, as the religious establishment was unwilling to reliquish its ‘God given right’ to harm and slaughter animals for human benefit. “…the Project initiated by Israel with regards to banning genuine fur has been dropped due to Deputy Haim Amsalem, who explained that Jewish law allows harming animals in the strict situation where human necessity dictates it.” Claudia Bregner. The ’strict need’ in this case is the right of Orthodox Jews to wear fur hats in the hot dessert climate of Israel.
On Common Ground:
You and Professor Schwartz speak of common ground, which you interpret as preserving animal abuse by allowing for their harm and slaughter, as you speak of compassion. While this sounds enlightened it actually results in perpetuating the status quo which is abysmal. Once the use and slaughter of animals to benefit man is sanctified, compassion becomes a trivial after thought, an empty gesture…Isaac Bahsevis Singer, a compassionate Jew and a Nobel Laureate in Literature stated: “…for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka””As you do good, non-cooperation with evil is essential” GandhiNon-cooperation with sanctified animal abuse is essential. Do you think that small measures of compassion at Treblinka, would have resulted in compassion for the victims? I do not.
Your untenable position caused one reader to post the following to an animal advocacy message board:
‘this woman, Ruth Eisenbud, has written some powerful stuff. She’s so right. nothing can happen in the animal rights movement; no real transformation or change can happen until our religious leaders take a more open hearted/minded stance on the issue.’ Sharon Azar
Perhaps the author was referring to your defiant defense of animal slaughter:
“You will NEVER get me to re-write the Torah to suit your needs, nor will any other rabbi do that. The Torah permits slaughter, period.” Rabbi Gershom
Where is the common ground for animals bound for slaughter?
Extraneous Issues:
In an effort to clear up some confusion, I will attempt to address some of the extraneous issues you have raised, while keeping up the intended discussion on animal compassion.I am sorry that you are so troubled by my decision to leave Judaism, which did not satisfy my spiritual needs. As a religious leader, I would expect some goodwill from you with regard to my decision, not condemnation for a choice that has been beneficial to me and the animals whose plight is so desperate. It strengthens and inspires me as I learn how the Jains have had the courage and intelligence to sustain their non-violent lifestyle for thousands of years, despite the odds.Based on the recent online discussion, I was contacted by a number of individuals supportive of my position to leave Judaism. Here is one such example:
‘As a young person I gave up the jewish faith because of the same reason. too much violence not enough compassion. i, too, was drawn to Ahimsa. . . and I think all of us who are in the animal compassion movement feel the same way.  My circle of colleagues are the animal rescue community and I’d be glad to circulate your articles. thank you for your big heart and mind.’
In addition I received the following, which was sent to a number of religious leaders of the judeo.christian tradition:
“Is there any hope that our religious leaders will study this phenomena of why the Judaica-Christian model allows for the cruel use of animals for human purposes?
It’s difficult to believe such a thing would be sanctioned by the Bible. Perhaps something was lost in translation? after all the Bible was written in Aramaic/Hebrew. Maybe when the Bible speaks of ‘dominion’ it means that we must care with all our heart, soul and bodies for those who cannot care for themselves. And certainly the animals have no defense against us if we choose to hurt them. It seems to me we should do everything in our power to protect and love all of God’s creation.
I was born into a Jewish family (Sephardic) but at a very young age was shocked by the acceptance of animal suffering and couldn’t fathom why such a thing would be okay with people who were supposed to be spiritual.
I’ve been ‘rescuing’ dogs/cats for 30 years now and have met some pretty frightening people who feel that it’s okay to harm innocent animals. Many of these very people go to church and synagogue thinking what they have done is acceptable. And it is!!!
I have seen first hand how people commit torture on a daily basis in laboratories and think they’re doing good work.
It seems that most people are not going to change their beliefs unless their leaders direct them to.
How can we humans face ourselves or our God if we cause harm to any form of creation? Every thing that breathes is part of God.” Sharon Azar
As you can see, though you do not respect my decision to leave Judaism to pariticipate in a religion which nurtures my soul and deepens my understanding of ahimsa, others are appreciative of my reasoning. Therefore I hope you can lay the issue to rest and engage in a discussion about the issue of animal compassion and how it is effected by a position which allows for their abuse to benefit man.
Throughout the entire dialogue, you did not respond to the issue of whether a model of animal compassion based on their harm and slaughter will ever lead to genuine compassion. Furthermore, I was concerned by your choice of words as well as rude and hostile accusations such as the following:
YG: “…does NOT negate the fact that you are attacking Jews and Judaism. Your logic there is flawed. Two wrongs do not negate each other. Also, in reponse to an earlier comment you made re: antisemitism: Pointing out that you also attack Christians hey amplify each other exponentially. It means you are BOTH anti-Jewish AND anti-Christian (and probably anti-Muslim as well.) In fact, it would appear you have no respect for any culture on Earth except Jainism, since it is apparently the only one that practices total ahimsa. You never really answered my question about Native Americans, but weaseled around it with:”
To clarify my position: I do not ‘attack’ any religion. It would be more accurate to say that I question whether religious doctrine which has caused so much pain and suffering to non-human beings is an effective means of establishing meaningful compassion for them. It is well known that the judeo.christian tradition does sanctifiy the harm and slaughter of animals to benefit human need. Though there are many differences bewteen the various denominations in this tradition, the discussion at hand was initiated by me with regard to animal compassion. The following was sent to his holiness the Dalai Lama:
“Dear Tenzin Gyatso, your essay is so beautiful. . but in my eyes, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism IS better than any other religion because the core of these practices includes animals as sentient beings equal with humans.
in the other religions one can be compassionate towards animals but it’s also okay to murder them for human use. Sharon”
On Violent Language, Thoughts and Actions:
To address your inappropriate choice of words, I do not ‘weasle’ around issues, but question whether animal compassion can be derived from a position which dishonors animal lives, by allowing for their ab(use). The mainstream religious tradition in the USA is the Judeo.Christian tradition. As such it has had a profound and devastating effect on compassion for animals…so I address this tradition because it affects such a large majority. My position is consistent:  it is beneficial to animals when religions teach unconditional compassion for ALL beings. This position is based on evidence and logic.
Your angry and aggressive tone is not conducive to a civil discussion. Nor is it appropriate for someone entrusted with helping others reach a higher level of consciousness. I would add that your aggressive and accusatory tone does little to hold on to followers who are seeking a more enlightened world view.
Your justification of angry language based on the old testament prophets is indicative of a tendancy to justify violent behavior on biblical texts:
YG: ‘Regarding “angry language” from a “religious leader,” you should read the biblical Prophets. They were not soft-spoken new age wimps. They told it like it was. If you actually knew anything about Judaism, you would know that. Our role model is confronting Pharoah, not “gentle Jesus meek and mild.” And frankly, your epistle to the religious world was not very gentle, either.’
You do not understand non-violence. It requires great courage and spiritual discipline. Incidentally Gandhi admired Jesus for his non-violence, though he felt that the hindu-jain tradition best provided him with spiritual sustenance.
You will continue to fight ‘Pharoah’ in an endless cycle of violence. There will be more inquisitions, crusades, holocausts, entifadas and appartheid-like ghettos until someone has the courage to break the circle of violence. Concurrent with all the violence generated by the ‘non-wimpy’ position, the Jains have lived quietly and peacefully with their neighbors. There have been no Jain religious wars, forced conversions or internecene violence.
Justifying the violence of the old testabment as a reaction to the social climate at that time is not a suitable excuse. When the Jains embraced non-violence society was rife with violence, yet they persisted and found a way to live non-violently.
Wiser individuals than you or I have long understood the relation between animal abuse and human on human violence. We would do well to heed their words:
“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Pythagoras
With regard to the letter (Say No to Sanctified Animal Abuse) you so disparage, it presented facts. The evidence is presented without the use violent language and calls for non-violence for ALL beings. In fact it has gotten favorable comments from those who understand compassion and value the lives of ALL beings:
“I have been following with great interest your dialogue with Prof. Schwartz and I would like to congratulate you on the contents of the Letter you posted online. I was deeply moved to read it and I found the quotations you used very well chosen and powerful (the text on the site which is hosting the petition). May I have your permission to post your Letter, with my annotations in French, on a few French-speaking sites, so that more attention can be drawn to this highly sensitive and deeply moving religious issue?” Claudia Bregner
On Gandhi:
I would remind you of your words with regard to the Satyagraha campaign of Gandhi, which do in fact imply that he based the use of non-violence as the foundation for this campaign on the Bhagavad Gita:
YG: “I said earlier that you should learn from Gandhi. You know, he loved the Bhagavad Gita, but the Gita is not a pacifist text. In fact, Krishna tells Arjuna to go into battle and kill his relatives on the othercside of a civil war, because their karma has already determined who will die. Certainly not a Jainist book. And yet, Gandhi was able to read it as a moral parable and be inspired by it.”
As previously noted, Gandhi used the story of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita as a parable to fight for justice. His appreciation of non-violence was established early in his life.
Gandhi derived much of his philisophy of non-violence from Jain teachers who regualrly came to his home when he was a child. As an adult he studied with Srimad Ramchandra, a Jain Scholar, to reinforce his understanding of non-violence and how to apply it as a political strategy. To ignore the influence of ahimsa on Gandhi is a major oversight and is to underestimate a significant factor of his methodology and the stength of Jain teachings.
As you note Thoreau’s ‘On Civil Disobedience’ I would remind you that it is not an ancient text though it is based on the pagan idealogy of ancient greek philsophers such as Plato, Socrates and Pythogoras. Incidentally, there was much cross-polination of ideas between India and ancient Greece during the time of Buddha and Mahavir.
The fact remains that it is not possible to derive peace and compassion from violence laden parables.
On Animal Sacrifice:
Though you state that sacrifice is no longer practised, that is not entirely accurate. To celebrate the day of atonement, Orthodox Jews swing dead and half dead chickens over their heads to be rid of their sins.
You go on to state that reciting the text on animal sacrifice is now used as a mantra. I would urge you to consider that a mantra based on violence is likely to re-enforce violent and agreessive thoughts. Thoughts and words are as significant as actions. In a world rife with so much violence, repeating violent actions as a mantra does not contribute to a more peaceful state of mind.
On Respect:
YG: You have not one iota of respect for Judaism either, or for anything Schwartz or I have accomplished in trying to promote vegetarianism in the Jewish community for the past 4 decades. Just because we do not believe in ahimsa like you do, you write off everything we say or do on behalf of animals as “lacking compassion.” That is pretty arrogant of you to make such a claim. Are you God, that you can judge my heart?
RE: Yet you judge and condemn my heart which seeks compassion for ALL. Throughout this discussion you have attributed many unrelated and untrue vices to the campaign to improve animal lives. I have made every effort to be respectful and stick to the topic at hand: can a model of compassion which allows for the harm and slaughter of animals ever result in compassion for them. Vegetarianism is just one aspect of compassion for animals and emphasizing it alone will not alleviate their suffering. While it is true that people become vegetarian for a number of reasons, it is also true that a model of animal compassion based on ahimsa has led to increased compassion for animals. When one states as you do, even though you are a vegetarian:
“You will NEVER get me to re-write the Torah to suit your needs, nor will any other rabbi do that. The Torah permits slaughter, period.” Rabbi Gershom
Compassion becomes elusive and unattainable, when animal lives are viewed as disposable.   Such a statement is yet another instance that you are unwilling to relinquish the violence of Biblical teachings and indicates an inablility to comprehend compassion.
There are two basic models of animal compassion, hence two paths. One model allows for their harm and slaughter and considers animals as ‘less than’ man. The other model states unequivocally, that both animals and humans cherish their lives and therefore ALL lives must be respected. Only the second view, ahimsa, has resulted in genuine animal compassion.
As you mention Dr Schwartz, I distributed a recent exchange with him, as he too had a less than respectful tone. While calling for common ground he resorted the following irrelevant tactics: claimed that promoting a message of unconditional compassion is divisive, despite the facts, which indicate this model of animal compassion has greatly improved animal lives; claimed that I am anti-religion, which I am not as I have great faith in the teachings of the Jain religion because of the value of non-violence for all beings: ahimsa. At one point he stated he would not communicate with me until I recanted the promotion of unconditional compssion. He even threatened to sue me if I used a definition of dominion attributed to him. And finally he resorted to name calling by citing the words of someone who believes as you do, that religious teachings which harm animals must be preserved at all costs…These are not the actions of someone seeking common ground, but instead of someone who is willing to resort to aggressive behavior in the name of religious cohesion.
As you can see those who were privy to the discussion were not impressed by this approach:
‘Dear Ruth,
I and many others admire you for your strength of spirit, clear mind and kind heart. Professor Schwartz should honor you, instead he resorts to being a fool and worse, a weak fool. … God save us all from the diabolical arrogance of exclusivity. Sharon’
It is my hope that you will consider the effect of allowable violence to animals and adopt a more benign position. Not only does animal abuse destroy animal lives it also has a devastating effect on the human spirit.
Ruth Eisenbud
Ruth Eisenbud felt a kinship with animals since she was a young child. Through the years she has helped and comforted many animals in distress. She has recently begun to speak out about the semitic religious tradition as a facilitator of acceptable cruelty, promulgating the message that man is above the animals and that they may be harmed or even killed to meet a human need. Sensing that her views were not respected or understood by her birth religion, Judaism, she left.”
If the nonhumans could fight back, their tormentors would have expired long ago. We have an obligation to expose the abusers. It is the LEAST we can do! I welcome your emails & contributions.
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. Judith says:
June 15, 2010 at 5:22 am
Animal Holocaust, Human Holocaust, sounds to me like someone needs to spend a little time re-thinking what he’s doing and believing in it. Time for this Rabbi to spend a little time in a human factory farm, in a cage! And if anyone is offended by this, fuck off!
This disgusts me, Jews, of all people! Shame on you!!!!!
Ruth Eisenbud says:
June 18, 2010 at 8:25 am
All three religions of the semitic tradition: judaism, christianity and islam, allow for the slaughter of animals. All animal slaughter, whether it is Kosher, Halal or secular is cruel and needless. It indicates a profound lack of understanding of the sanctity of life: animal and human. The above posted item is not meant to single out the Jewish faith, as the track record of animal abuse is equivalent in Christianity and Islam. Rather it is meant to shed light on the impossibility that a religious model of compassion which endorses their ab(use) and slaughter will ever result in respect for animal lives.
Ruth Eisenbud says: June 18, 2010 at 8:27 am
The slaughter of animals increases markedly during the religious holidays of the judeo.christian.islamic tradition. Churches regularly hold fund raising barbecues. Some sponsor hunting trips for their youth. Religious fiestas in Roman Catholic countries such as Spain and Mexico are among the bloodiest exercises of cruelty imaginable. The ‘firebull’ sets fire to terrified bull as the crowds cheer as he rampages through the town in terror. Every manner of animal is sacrificed during slamic holidays.
Until the semitic religions embrace a more compassionate position on animal compassion, one which does not grant man the devine right to harm and slaughter animals, the animal rights movement in the west will be extremely limited in any attempts to bring compassion to animals.
. M. Varn Chandola says:
September 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm
For those who may be interested in understanding the general Eastern and Western views on animal welfare, please read my article, “Dissecting American Animal Protection Law: Hearing the Wounds with Animal Rights and Eastern Enlightenment” which was published by the Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal back in 2002.
M. Varn Chandola
3 comments on “SANCTIFIED ANIMAL ABUSE IS UNJUSTIFIABLE (Response to a Rabbi)
  1. This is the 21st century, not the Dark Ages, please try and have a little empathy for the animals, your religeon is supposed to show care and love, this is NOT care or love of gods reatures, STOP this method of slaughter NOW please.

    Not the nicest of ways top slaughter any animal is it? have some empathy for Gods creation:-( Stop this method of killing now, we are not living in the Misddle Ages now:-( VERY CRUEL.

  2. All three of the semitic religions endorse slaughter. All three are founded on dominion: man’s right to exploit and kill animals for human benefit.

    Christian, Kosher and Halal slaughter are all equally cruel.

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