Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Animals
Hebrew translation | French translation
JEWISH TEACHINGS ON ANIMALS
tender mercies are over all His creatures." (Psalms 145:9).
person regards the life of their animal." (Proverbs 12:10)
"It is prohibited
to kill an animal with its young on the same day, in order that people should
be restrained and prevented from killing the two together in such a manner that
the young is slain in the sight of the mother; for the pain of animals under such
circumstances is very great. There is no difference in this case between the pain
of people and the pain of other living beings, since the love and the tenderness
of the mother for her young ones is not produced by reasoning but by feeling,
and this faculty exists not only in people but in most living creatures." (Maimonides,
Guide for the Perplexed, 3:48)
"Here you are faced with G-d'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." (Rabbi Samson Raphael
Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, Section 416)
The Hebrew term nefesh
chaya ("living soul") was applied in Genesis (1:21, 1:24) to animals as well
as people. Moses and King David were deemed suitable for leadership because of
their compassionate treatment of sheep in their care. Rebecca was judged suitable
as Isaac's wife because of her kindness in watering the ten camels of Eliezer,
Abraham's servant Rabbi Judah, the Prince, redactor of the Mishna was stricken
with pain by the hand of Heaven for many years for his callous treatment of a
calf on the way to slaughter.
According to the Ten Commandments, animals
as well as people are to rest on the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-10, Deuteronomy
5:12-14). According to Rashi, this means that animals should be free to roam on
the Sabbath day and to graze freely.
The daily morning services contains
the following statement: "Blessed is the One (G-d) Who has compassion on all creatures".
There are many other statements in the Jewish tradition about G-d's compassion
and concern for all of His creatures. And Judaism teaches that people are to emulate
this divine compassion. REALITIES OF MODERN ANIMAL AGRICULTURE
While the Jewish tradition stresses compassion for animals and commands
that we strive to avoid causing them pain (tsa’ar ba’alei chayim), the
conditions under which animals are raised for food today are quite different from
any the Torah would endorse.
- Chickens are raised for slaughter entirely
indoors under intense crowding, genetically and hormonally manipulated, living
in their filth, breathing contaminated air, virtually all suffering respiratory
problems and leg deformities.
- Egg laying chickens are packed 4-7 to an
18 by 20 inch wire cage, unable to move about, stretch their wings, or perform
any of their natural instincts. They cannot stand comfortably on the wire floor,
and excrement falls on birds in cages below. Before slaughter, 88% suffer broken
bones. Their beaks are cut with a hot knife, causing such pain that many cannot
eat and starve.
- Daily, over a half million male chicks, useless to the
egg industry, are disposed of by stuffing them into plastic bags, where they are
crushed and suffocated to death.
- Cows are routinely castrated, branded,
and have their horns torn out or gouged out, all without anesthetics.
- To produce pate de fois gras, ducks and geese are
pounds of grain
with an air-driven feeder tube. The bird suffers unimaginable
pain. Finally, after 25 days of such agony, when the
bird is completely stupefied with pain and unable
to move, it is killed and the gigantic liver, considered
a delicacy at ten times its normal size, is removed.
Israel was one of the world's leading exporters of
fois gras until the country's Supreme Court banned
foie gras production for its cruelty, starting in
cows are typically tied in place, impregnated every year, and have their calves
removed immediately after birth, to be raised as veal.
- Veal calves are
locked in a small, dark, slotted stall without space to turn around, stretch,
or even lie down. To obtain the pale, tender flesh desired by consumers, veal
producers purposely keep the calf anemic with a special high-calorie, iron-free
diet. They tie the calf’s head to the stall to prevent him from licking the iron
fittings on the stall and his own urine to satisfy his intense craving for iron.
"It seems doubtful from all that has been said whether the Torah
would sanction 'factory farming,' which treats animals as machines, with apparent
insensitivity to their natural needs and instincts." (Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, Masterplan:
Its Programs, Meanings, Goals, Feldheim, 1991, p. 69).
". . . the
current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption
of meat as halachically unacceptable as the product of illegitimate means". (Rabbi
David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Rabbis and Vegetarianism,
Micah Pub., 1995, p.53.)
Back to Jewish