Dovid tried to get an Israeli to put on tefillin yesterday, but he refused. He motioned for me to try. He was nice, soft-spoken, but he refused me, too. I tried again. He refused again. Then he asked me a question that explained why he did not want to put on tefillin. "Why do you have to make them out of the skin from an animal?"
Whenever someone asks that question you can bet that he is an animal rights type person who considers using leather cruel. Rarely, if ever, will you get them to put on tefillin. It is an extremely sensitive issue for them. But I have a small advantage when I try.
"Do you eat meat?" I asked.
He shook his head, "No."
"For how long haven't you eaten meat?"
"A couple of years."
"I haven't eaten meat since 1967," I told him. He was impressed. "Do you use leather?" I saw that his shoes were made of cloth.
He nodded, "No"
I explained, "No one kills an animal for its skin. The hide is worth only a few dollars. They kill them for the meat. The meat is worth hundreds of dollars. So by not putting on tefillin or not putting up a mezuzah you are not preventing animal cruelty. No matter what happens to the hides, they are still going to kill the animals as long as people want to eat the meat.
He asked why I stopped eating meat. I told him primarily for health reasons. "The doctors say that I have the blood count of an 18 year-old!" He liked that very much, and he let me help him with tefillin. He knew the blessings by heart.
I told him that there is a scribe in Tzfat (northern Israel) who is trying to make tefillin from animal skins taken from animals that were not slaughtered … that died naturally. He was interested in buying a pair.
It is easy to understand the repulsion to the animal cruelty in the meat industry, it is rampant, but this should not prevent a Jew from putting on tefillin, especially since not putting them on does not help the animals at all.