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.
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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