But now, at long last, I have some language to put into my rationale. According to Rabbi Marc Gellman, the "God Squad" guy, and a “guilt-ridden carnivore”:
The problem is that animals, though obviously not people, are also obviously not things. Animals are sentient beings and their deaths, particularly in the grotesquery of what is euphemistically called food processing causes them great pain and suffering. That is the nub of the spiritual problem. Animals are God's creations that, unlike plants, suffer when they die just to become food for us.
A friend at church sent me the link to his article, which you can read by clicking here. (It’s pretty short.) In it, Gellman writes that there is a “high Torah” and a “low Torah” in the Bible. The “high Torah” articulates how things are to be in God’s realm. Failing to attain that, we ought to at the very least follow the “low Torah.” It is kind of like having a minimum speed limit on the interstate, “Well if you are not going to drive 65, at least keep it above 45.”
His idea is that the highest law of God gives human beings all kinds of plants to eat, but no animals. But since people desire meat, God gave some other rules to follow in the meantime. Like, don’t eat the meat with the blood still in it, for example.
Rabbi Gellman tells gives this midrash to make his point:
The First Hamburger
Once animals talked just like people. Once every living creature ate only grass and nuts and a few berries when they could find them. No living thing ever thought about killing another living thing to eat it, until the day Noah wanted a hamburger.
One night Noah dreamed of a hamburger, and when he woke up, he wanted one really badly. But Noah wasn't exactly sure how to get a hamburger, so he asked his friend the cow, “I dreamed about a hamburger last night. Do you know where I can get one?”
The cow gave Noah a puzzled look and asked, “What's a hamburger?”
“I don't know exactly,” Noah replied. “All I know is that in my dream the hamburger was something delicious between two buns with lettuce, onions, pickles and some special sauce.”
“Have some more grass and forget about it,” said the cow.
Noah asked the snake, who was the smartest of all the animals, “What's a hamburger and how can I get one?”
The snake whispered in Noah's ear, “To get one you have to make one.”
“I don't know how to make one.” Noah sputtered.
The snake laughed, pointed at the cow who was peacefully munching some grass, and said to Noah, “To make a hamburger, you have to kill that cow, chop up her meat, and fry it in a pan--or flame broil it!”
Noah's mouth opened wide, “But...but...the cow is my friend! She is a living thing just like me! I can't kill her, chop up her meat and fry it in a pan! And what is flame broiling anyway?”
By now the snake was rolling around on the ground laughing, “Kid, if you want a hamburger, that's what you gotta do.”
Well...Noah really wanted a hamburger and so that's what he really did! The first hamburger tasted delicious. But when Noah came again to the fields everything was different. When he walked towards the birds, they flew away. When Noah went over to say hello to the cows and the sheep and the buffalo, they ran away from him. Even the fish swam away when they heard Noah coming.
Noah could not understand what had happened to his friends the animals, and he could not find one single animal that would explain it to him. In fact, since the day Noah ate the first hamburger, no animal has ever talked to a person. They are still too angry.
Eat your veggies, everyone!