Should Jews Be Prohibited from Consuming Today’s Dairy Products?

Any vegan will tell you that dairy products are unfit for human consumption.

The anti-dairy position stands on at least three very sturdy legs: animal welfare, personal health, and logic.

In brief, dairy cows are continuously subjected to horrendous treatment in today’s factory farms, dairy products are inherently unhealthy, and it is logically insane for humans to be consuming something that is designed to turn a 50-pound calf into a 500-pound cow.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, much admired by The Beet-Eating Heeb

Now Shmuly Yanklowitz, a crusading Orthodox rabbi, has introduced another reason to eschew dairy products, causing The Beet-Eating Heeb to kick himself for not thinking of it first.

Simply but profoundly put, Rabbi Yanklowitz opined this week in the pages of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal that today’s dairy products are unkosher.

He rests his argument on Exodus 22:30, which states “you must not eat flesh torn by beasts in the field.” Over the millennia, rabbinic authorities have interpreted Exodus 22:30 as a prohibition against eating a diseased animal.

Now, consider modern dairy farming. Dairy cows are repeatedly raped to induce pregnancy, confined in small stalls, and hooked up daily to milking machines, which extract about 15 times the milk that a cow would naturally produce. Worse, those machines often cause mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. And that’s just to name a few of the horrors.

Suffice it to say, more than a few dairy cows are diseased.

Now take a look at the cheese on your cracker or the yogurt on your granola. The milk used to produce that is usually a mixture from several different cows.

So who can possibly say that no part of their dairy products came from diseased cows?

The Beet-Eating Heeb does not pretend to be a Talmudic scholar, but it seems to him that Rabbi Yanklowitz is exactly right. Modern dairy products should not be considered kosher.

Shmuly, whose many professional titles include Senior Jewish Educator at the UCLA Hillel, isn’t the only Orthodox rabbi making this case. But much to his credit, he may be the one making it most loudly, most assertively.

In The Jewish Journal, he stated, “It seems to me that, from a halakhic standpoint, it is no longer acceptable to support the dairy industry. We must communicate to the industry how we, as kosher consumers, feel about these abuses and support healthier, more ethical options. We must also consider moving toward soy, almond, rice and coconut milk alternatives until the dairy industry cleans up its act. Today, we have affordable, healthy, tasty alternatives so it is relatively easy for us to become more ethical consumers.”

The Beet-Eating Heeb would only quibble with Rabbi Yanklowitz on one small point. Realistically, the dairy industry is not going to “clean up its act,” not unless far more human beings come to their senses and wean themselves off of dairy products altogether. As long as demand for cow’s milk, ice cream, cheese and yogurt remains sky-high, the dairy industry literally cannot provide sufficient supply without industrializing the milking process. People need to be prepared to give up dairy products permanently.

That minor difference aside, The Beet-Eating Heeb applauds Rabbi Yanklowitz for challenging conventional thought and applying theology to reality. After all, that’s what Jewish theology is for.

Here’s hoping that the Orthodox rabbinate takes a close look at this dairy issue, for the sake of suffering cows.

About The Beet-Eating Heeb

I'm a meat-abstaining Jew who believes our religion commands us to treat our bodies with care, to treat animals with compassion, and to treat our planet like it's the only one we've got.

Posted on June 8, 2012, in Factory Farming / Animal Cruelty, Jewish Vegans and Vegetarians, Torah/Bible and Veganism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I enjoyed both your essay (as usual) and Rabbi Yanklowitz’s piece. Just to point out; his piece was based mostly on the opinion of Rav Hershel Schachter. It’s even the title of his piece. As you didn’t mention that, I felt credit should be given where due.

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