Judaism teaches that we are forbidden to be cruel
to animals and that we must treat them with compassion.
Since animals are part of God's creation, people have
special responsibilities to them. These concepts are
summarized in the Hebrew phrase tsa'ar ba'alei
chayim, the biblical mandate not to cause "pain
to any living creature." While the Torah clearly indicates
that people are to have "dominion over the fish of
the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every
living thing that creeps upon the earth" (Gen. 1:28),
there was to be a basic relatedness, and people were
to consider the rights of animals. Animals are also
God's creatures, possessing sensitivity and the capacity
for feeling pain; hence they must be protected and
treated with compassion and justice. God made treaties
and covenants with animals, just as with humans:
"As for me," says the Lord, "behold I establish
My Covenant with you and with your seed after you,
and with every living creature that is with you,
the fowl, the cattle, and every beast of the earth
with you; all that go out of the ark, even every
beast of the earth." (Gen. 9:9-10)
And in that day will I make a covenant for them
with the beasts of the field and with the fowls
of heaven and with the creeping things of the ground.
And I will break the bow and the sword and the battle
out of the land and I will make them to lie down
safely. (Hos. 2:20)
The Psalms indicate God's concern for animals, for
"His tender mercies are over all His creatures" (Ps.
145:9). They pictured God as "satisfying the desire
of every living creature" (Ps. 145:16), "providing
food for the beasts and birds" (Ps. 147:9), and, in
general, "preserving both man and animal" (Ps. 36:7).
Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best
summarized by the statement in Proverbs 12:10, "The
righteous person regards the life of his animal."
This is the human counterpoint of "The Lord is good
to all, and His tender mercies are over all His creatures"
(Ps. 145:9). In Judaism, one who is cruel to animals
cannot be regarded as a righteous individual.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch eloquently summarizes
the Jewish view on treatment of animals:
Here you are faced with God's teaching, which obliges
you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary
pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can,
to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering,
even through no fault of yours. [Horeb, Chapter
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