What is the Torah perspective of vegetarianism?
Vegetarianism can be regarded like any other superfluous thing that a person adopts. The Torah doesn’t say anywhere that it’s forbidden to be a vegetarian. And the Torah doesn’t command you to be a vegetarian either. So, it’s like asking, “What is the Torah perspective of red-maple furniture?” Let’s say you’ll ask me, “What is the attitude of the Torah towards red-maple furniture?” So I’ll tell you to use your own judgement when you have to buy your furniture.
However, if someone believes that it’s wrong to eat meat, that it’s morally wrong, that’s something else altogether. It’s right to eat meat and there’s no question about that. If someone is a vegetarian because of health reasons or some ascetic reason, that’s OK. Nothing wrong with taking precautions with your health. But if he does it on principle – because it’s wrong to eat meat; he says it’s morally wrong – then he’s an apikoris; he’s not a Jew. He cannot be a Jew and have a principled stance against the Torah. The Torah teaches that the earth has been given by Hashem to human beings; to Mankind in general, and then to the Jewish people. And therefore, anyone who questions the right of Mankind to use the flesh of animals is questioning the authority of the Torah and the dignity and primacy of Mankind.
TAPE # R-43 (January 1975)