Jewish theologists and scientists have,
other than their Christian colleagues, intensively occupied
themselves with the animals. The oneness of Creation in
fact got lost within Christian theology by the absolute
separation between man and animal. In Jewish theology
more emphasis is put on the resemblance both have -in
spite of their decisive difference- as well as on the
responsibility of mankind (being stronger) for the animal
being weaker and entrusted to his care.
The general rule by which man's behavior towards animals
is compared, is "make no other living creature suffer
from pain", i.e. cruelty against animals is strongly
forbidden. He who behaves cruel towards animals, is not
considered to live justifiable. For that reason the Book
of Proverbs 12:10 says that "the just knows what
is due to this cattle". The instructions and prohibitions
based on this general rule, can be found in the Halacha.The Halacha is a collection of laws and
rules of conduct for all aspects of life, that include
the laws and instructions of the Torah. Orthodox Jews
are subjected to the Halacha as firmly as to the Torah.
Halachic directives, stemming directly from the Torah,
the first five books of the Bible, are: Exodus 20: 8-10
where it is also commanded not to put cattle to work on
the Shabbat. Exodus 23: 4, 5 that says an animal that
lost its way has to be brought back to its owner and one
is obliged to unload an over-loaded donkey (even if the
owner is your enemy). Deuteronomy 25: 4 it is forbidden
that the farmer would muzzle the ox threshing his corn:
the animal should be able to eat during work just al freely
as a man would do.
The feelings of animals are taken into account in Deuteronomy
22: 6, 7 where it says you are not allowed to empty a
nest in the presence of the mother bird.
Leviticus 22: 26, 27: a calf, lamb or young goat is not
to be taken away from it's mother before the eighth day
and also it is forbidden to slaughter it together with
the mother on the same day.
Other Halachic directives
Killing animals for fashion or out of vanity
In March 1992 on the basis of the general rule "not
to harm any living creature or make it suffer",
a ban was ordered on production as well as wearing fur,
based on extensive study of the Torah, Talmuth and other
Killing animals for "sports"
Hunting animals including hunting them for pleasure,
is considered to be in defiance of the general rule.
Even being in contact with hunters is forbidden on the
basis of Psalm 1: 1 "Blessed the man who does not
walk on the path of the sinners".
The outstanding 18th century rabbinical authority Ezekiel
Landau, gave the following answer to a man who asked
him if he was allowed to hunt on his own premisses:
"In the Torah the sport of hunting is only ascribed
to wild characters such as Nimrod and Esau, but never
to one of the patriarchs and their offspring.
I fail to understand how a Jew can even dream of killing
animals just for the pleasure of hunting. If a
sport leads to killing, it is sheer cruelty".
Killing animals for human consumption
As such this is not considered to be a violation of
the 'general rule', provided the killing takes place
painlessly. (The Jewish scientists are convinced, based
on scientific research, that ritual slaughter is as
good as painless. Many non-Jewish authorities however,
oppose this view).
The breeding and keeping of animals meant for human
consumption is unbreakably connected with slaughtering
them. Many Jews question themselves whether factory/industrial
farming is tolerable. Answering questions on this matter,
a Jewish scientist has put it this way: such farming
methods are totally in conflict with the demand "not
to make any living creature suffer from pain". Cutting beaks,
clipping wings, docking tails etcetera fully offend
the Halachic prohibition on the mutilation of animals.
The lack of being outside in the fresh air, the lack
of space to be free to move around and the impossibility
to behave in natural ways, cause immense suffering for
An official Halachic decision on the admissibility of
industrial/factory farming seems not to be available
(yet). It is also questionable whether such decision
will ever be made. Most probably orthodox theologists
do not dare to order such a prohibition, because a great
many Jewish people both in Israël and in the United
States of America own large poultry farms on industrial
scale. Liberal Halacha-experts by the way, are quite
capable of interpreting the laws in such manner that
much that cannot be permitted by Halachic laws nevertheless
is declared to be allowed, as becomes clear as follows.
Experiments on animals
A liberal American Halacha-expert says "that 'progressive'
Jewish Halachic scientists are of the opinion 'that
animals can be used in experiments that lead to the
discovery of new methods to treat diseases. Every provision
that prevents pain and unnecessary suffering has to
be made. Throughout the centuries there have been authorities
whose idea it was that animals can be used for the benefit
of man, even if that comes with some suffering, especially
when the result is regaining health (of people). This
standpoint is generally taken towards medical experiments,
especially when there is an immediate use for man, as
long as severe pain can be avoided and no other methods
Finally he says that making use of animals for experimental
purposes knows precise regulations and 'as long as such
regulations are strictly being followed, the Halacha
and our ways of using animals in experiments are in
It is of course easy and convenient not to worry about
the question if severe pain is indeed being avoided
(cán be avoided), how precise the rules and directions
are and whether or not protocols are strictly being
followed! After all it is only too well-known how the
animals in the laboratories suffer.
We are not familiar with Halachic verdicts about genetic
manipulation and xeno-transplantation.
Workshop 'Church and Animal' Foundation
Netherlands How Muslims treat animals to obtain 'hallal'
meat during the 'sacrificial
feast', is illustrated here.