The recent US cattle recall, which was the largest in U.S. history, has clearly set my course for the next several months. I had already determined that Rosh Chodesh Elul would be the next seder that I would write, but I had been wavering. The first of Elul is considered to be one of the four Jewish new years, but it is the least recognized now. Many do use Elul to prepare for the High Holidays, but the connection to the tithing of cattle has been lost. When the news about the cattle recall and the fact that it was strictly due to the treatment of these animals, and not to reports of e.coli or other bacteria — my course was set.
It is more imperative now than ever before that we change our thinking about the animals we sacrifice for our own survival. This is a Jewish issue, if ever there was one. Even the kosher meat industry has been guilty of the same types of crimes. We should be able to trust that kosher meat is from animals that are treated humanely. Because we lose our humanity when we mistreat these animals and act as though they are not made of flesh and blood.
One of the struggles I’ve been having with crafting an Elul seder is do we eat meat or not? That was clarified on my walk to work this morning. The answer is it depends on the individual. I’ve decided that the hostess/host will be called to account by the guests for the meal. The hostess/host will be asked by the guests, “who keeps your cattle.” Depending on whether or not meat is served there will be different answers. If meat is served, the hostess/host will tell the story of the cattle that will be served that night by recounting:
- the name of the person who keeps the cattle;
- the name and location of the farm;
- how many head of cattle are on the farm; and
- what the cattle eat.
If the person does not serve meat there will be a different answer explaining why they chose not to serve meat. I also realized that if the person is vegetarian or vegan there should be a totally different response. In that case it will not be because they couldn’t trace the source of the meat, but because they always choose not to eat meat.
I hope that everyone will use Elul to think more about the choices they make about the food they consume. I really think that we are losing are basic humanity when we allow ourselves to turn animals into a complete commodity. Of course, considering how we seem to treat our fellow human beings these days I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise. There is an opportunity to act in the face of this recall. Each time one other person thinks twice about purchasing factory farmed meat — that’s a mitzvah.