Tza'ar ba'alei chayim

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Tza'ar ba'alei chayim (literally means: "the suffering of living creatures"[1]) is the Jewish principle which bans inflicting unnecessary pain on animals. This concept is not clearly enunciated in the written Torah, but was accepted by the Talmud (Bava Metzia 32b) as being a Biblical mandate. It is linked in the Talmud from the Biblical law requiring people to assist in unloading burdens from animals (Exodus 23:5).

Treatment of animals killed for food[edit]

Humane Slaughter of Animals[edit]

In traditional Jewish law, animals may be eaten as long as they are killed as painlessly and humanely as possible using the method known as shechitah, where the animal is killed by having its throat cut swiftly using a specially sharpened knife. Jewish authorities have asserted that shechitah is the least painful method of slaughter possible.[2]

In 2000, the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards banned the common slaughter method of "shackling and hoisting" (pulling a conscious animal into the air with a chain before slaughter). Rabbis Joel Roth and Elliot Dorff wrote a responsum on this topic which concluded that shackling and hoisting "unquestionably constitutes a violation of Jewish laws that forbid us to cause undue pain to animals."[3]

Hekhsher Tzedek[edit]

Enforcing a commitment to tza'ar ba'alei chayim in food production has been part of the effort of Conservative Judaism's Hekhsher Tzedek commission. The Hekhsher Tzedek commission sees compliance with the Humane Farm Animal Care Standards (HFAC) as sufficiently preventing unnecessary suffering to animals.[4]

Animal Research[edit]

According to the Shulkhan Aruch,"anything that is necessary for medical purposes, or for anything else, is exempt from the prohibition of causing suffering to animals" (Even ha-Ezer 5:14).

Most Jewish authorities allow medical research if it will help people in need, and if the animals do not undergo any unnecessary suffering. Reform Judaism's Central Conference of American Rabbis, for example, affirms that animal research is permissible if it will save human lives, so long as animals are subjected to little pain and not used in “frivolous” experiments such as cosmetic testing.[5]

Other areas of concern for animals in Jewish law[edit]

Resting on the Sabbath also meant providing rest for the working animals, and people are instructed to feed their animals before they sit down to eat.

At harvest time, the working animals must not be muzzled, so that they can eat of the harvest as they work.[6]

Sports like bullfighting are forbidden by most authorities. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has characterized bullfighting as “a culture of sinful and cruel people” which is opposed by Torah values.[7] Most authorities oppose recreational hunting on similar grounds.[8]

Some oppose kapparot, a ritual of swinging live chickens over people's heads, on the grounds of Tza'ar ba'alei chayim.[9]

All animals must be kept in adequate conditions.

Concern for Animal Suffering in the Noachide Code[edit]

A concern for suffering caused to animals is found in Judaism's Seven Laws of Noah, which apply to all mankind. One of the seven laws prohibits eating a limb from a living animal. This law is derived from Genesis 9:4, as interpreted in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59a).

Tza'ar ba'alei chayim in Jewish Lore[edit]

Compassion for animals is declared to have been the merit of Moses which made him the shepherd of his people (Exodus Rabbah 2), while Judah ha-Nasi saw in his own ailment the punishment for having once failed to show compassion for a frightened calf.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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