You wrote, “The children of Israel ate quail while wondering through the Sinai wilderness.” The Torah did give permission for Jews to eat meat, but it was a reluctant permission according to Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook and others, and limited by many restrictions, which were an “implied reprimand,” according to Rav Kook, designed to keep alive Jewish teachings on reverence for life. According to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, “The dietary laws were designed to teach us compassion and lead us gently back to vegetarianism.”
You argue, “You [animal rights activists] would rather that millions of humans die of cancer than subject lab hamsters and monkeys to experimentation for the advance of science.” Actually, the best way to reduce cancer deaths is through shifts to plant-based diets. This was found by many studies, including the China/Cornell/Oxford study (called the “grande prix of epidemiology” by The New York Times), which showed cancer and other disease rates correlated to the amount of animal protein in the diet. Animal experiments have often led to misleading results since animals are so different from humans and because artificially induced diseases often are poor models for human diseases.
In conclusion, Prof. Plaut, I hope you will use your scholarly background to look further into the issues. If you do, I think you will find that plant-based diets are most consistent with Jewish values and have the potential to lead to a healthier, more compassionate, just, and environmentally sustainable world.
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.