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What is the Jewish view of leghold traps?

Sport trapping
Jewish tradition forcefully condemns activities like sport hunting, because it involves wanton destruction, cruelty to animals, and the unnecessary spilling of blood. The Encyclopedia Judaica summarizes that the rabbis "strongly disapproved of it." The Talmud interprets the first verse of Psalms, "Happy is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked," as referring to those who kill animals for entertainment, or as Rashi states, "hunting with dogs for sport." Maimonides condemned the practice, Rabbi Isaac b. Moses of Vienna forbade it, the Shemesh Tzedakah denounced it as "cruelty" and "the occupation of Esau the wicked," and the Sefer Hahinnukh considers it the prohibited spilling of blood. Rabbi Yechezkel Landau vociferously stated, "In the Torah the sport of hunting is imputed only to fierce characters like Nimrod and Esau, never to any of the patriarchs and their descendants…. I cannot comprehend how a Jew could even dream of killing animals merely for the pleasure of hunting." Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg, the most influential German rabbi of the 13th century, claimed that "whoever hunts animals with dogs… will not [partake of the pleasures of the World to Come]." On the grounds of wanton destruction, Rabbi Isaac Lampronti declared that "a person who indulges in this sport is unworthy of the name of Jew." Judaism thus roundly denounces the recreational trapping that continues nationwide in this country.

Other reasons for trapping
Judaism is clear in permitting the killing of animals only for a legitimate human need, and then in such a way that does not cause needless suffering. Thus, recreation is not the only illegitimate reason for trapping animals. The Sefer Hahinnukh concludes that it is permissible to kill animals only for food, for reasons of health, or as part of the sacrificial rites. Rabbi Samson Morpurgo forbade hunting animals for profit, noting that since it is forbidden to eat animals so killed, selling them constitutes trade in forbidden things. The late Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Chaim David Halevy stated that killing animals for their fur cannot be justified as a legitimate human need, because other materials ready available provide the same warmth, and issued a psak against the wearing of furs. However, even when killing animals is considered a legitimate human need, Rabbi Nachum Amsel's Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues makes clear that "they may not be acquired from animals that were trapped and put through tortuous pain, when the same animals might have been bred on a farm and killed painlessly. Using trapped animals in this case would entail a violation of tzar baalei chaim, unnecessarily causing pain to animals." The use of egregiously cruel trapping methods like leghold traps cannot be justified from a Jewish perspective.

Leghold traps are cruel
The American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the Humane Society of the United States, and the World Veterinary Organization have all declared leghold traps "inhumane." Eighty-nine countries, including Israel, have banned them. Animals caught in these traps suffer excruciating pain on impact-the trap can tear flesh, cut tendons and ligaments, and break bones. When the animals struggle to free themselves they aggravate their injuries and can dislocate joints, break teeth and damage gums. A trapped animal, in a desperate attempt to escape, often chews or twists off the limb caught in the trap-29% of raccoons observed in one study did this. Other body-gripping traps can clamp down on the victim's chest or pelvis, producing a painful and prolonged death. With more humane alternatives available, there is no legitimate use for such traps.

Other dangers
Such traps are inherently indiscriminant. They catch millions of non-target wildlife including birds, deer, and endangered species, constituting wanton environmental destruction which, in addition to needless suffering, is prohibited under Jewish law. Moreover, these traps are often set along commonly used trails and roadways where they pose a danger to people and pets. Family dogs and cats routinely fall victim to these traps, often resulting in an amputated limb or death.

Jews and traps in the U.S.
The Jewish community has taken a stand against leghold traps in the United States. Most recently, a bill pending in Maryland to ban leghold traps was endorsed by a number of Jewish organizations, including the Baltimore and Washington Jewish Councils, the Baltimore and Washington Jewish Federations, and Women of Reformed Judaism.

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