Is Temple Grandin a Belz Chasid?

Temple Grandin is famous for her work as a proponent for animal welfare during kosher slaughter.  She has helped create a safe, low-stress environment for cattle and has presented many conctructive criticisms of kosher slaughter, while stating that, when done properly, kosher slaughter is more humane than non-kosher slaughter.

You can read her opinions on her web site.

Apparently, the Belz Chasidim feel the same way as her.  They point out the same problems in kosher slaughter that she does; the incredible speed with which the shochtim are forced to work, the difficulty in maintaining sharp knives, traceability of parts in the slaughterhouse, etc.

You can read their opinions here:


It makes me very happy to see a convergence of opinion from two completely different types of people, and I hope that they can come together to help kosher slaughter perform at it’s maximum potential.


August 11, 2011 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

Congregation Machzikei Hadas D’Chasidei Belz Speaks out about Veal Calves

In this bulletin, the Belz community takes a strong stance against eating milk-fed veal, insomuch as to say it cannot be classified as kosher.  They provide statements of other rabbinic authorities regarding this matter.

August 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm Leave a comment

Hunting for Sport in the Modern State of Israel

Jewish Law in Our Times

by Simon M. Jackson, Adv., Legal Advisor to Torah MiTzion

5 – 

– Jewish Law in the Debates of the Knesset –

At the time the draft Wildlife Protection Bill was debated in the Knesset (1955), several MKs voiced their displeasure at the fact that the bill, although beneficial in what it did prohibit, did not go far enough – in that it failed to prohibit the hunting of animals for sport, entertainment and pleasure.

On the first reading of the bill, MKs Zerach Werhaftig and Eliyahu-Moshe Gonachovsky, both members of HaPoel HaMizrachi, cited sources to illustrate how the hunting of animals as a pastime is antithetical to the Torah’s outlook.


MK Werhaftig stated:

“I object to the permit that this law gives to the hunting of wild animals for entertainment or sport, and my objection stems from the traditional Jewish opposition to hunting…

To illustrate this, I will cite from one of the later responsa, the ruling given by the “Noda BiYehuda,” who, when questioned whether a Jew was permitted to engage in hunting or not, analyzes all the possibilities in his responsum, both in terms of the suffering caused to the animals (tza’ar ba’alei haim), as well as in terms of the law against wanton destruction (bal tashchit), and he arrives at the following conclusion:

It is true that in case of human need, no account need be taken of tza’ar ba’alei haim, because Judaism considers that man is the center of the creation, and he is given free reign over the animal kingdom for his needs, but only for his needs, where required. It is always necessary to measure the proportion between the human need factor and the suffering caused to the animal. In general, if it is necessary in order to preserve the human species, for food, the animal may be killed… But it is forbidden to exceed this permit, for the sake of pleasure… In our tradition we do not find any Jewish hunters, and if any huntsmen are found in the Torah – Nimrod and Eisav – they were not Jewish; for it is not a Jewish quality to be a hunter purely as a pastime or for sport…

And the “Noda BiYehuda” therefore writes that, even if, from the legal viewpoint, it can be argued whether to hunt is permissible or prohibited, this is not a trait of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov; ‘for how can a Jew put to death an animal, for no purpose other than to wile away his time in the pursuit of hunting… Anyone who listens to me will remain in the tranquility of his home, and will not waste his time in such pursuits.’”

This last point of the “Noda BiYehuda” was echoed by MK Ganochovsky as well:

“I think that the Minister of Agriculture needs to attend to the destruction of dangerous animals, but he also needs to fight against the sport, against the pastime of hunting animals. We need to provide the nation with different kinds of pastime…”

Afterwards, on the second and third reading, HaPoel HaMizrachi MK Michael Chazani, submitted a list of reservations to the wording of the law, with the aim of prohibiting the hunting of wild animals entirely, save where dangerous, or where hunting would further scientific goals, or where the animal is spreading contagious diseases. He, too, relied on Jewish tradition, and noted that Jews have never been engaged in hunting, and always regarded such pastimes as the characteristic of the wicked Esav:

“One of the distinguishing characteristics which has historically shaped the spiritual and ethical image of our people… as noted by the Education Minister, is the compassion and sensitivity towards causing suffering to animals. The people of Israel, or the Jews, are a merciful people, and Jews always educated themselves and their children to this ideal – eschewing cruelty to human beings and to animals, and despising hunting as an occupation, and certainly as a sport and a pastime.

It seems to me true to say that Jews have engaged in every profession to which they only had access… including the Army as a profession, as hired soldiers. But Jews have never engaged in hunting, neither when they lived in Israeland certainly not when in the exile. The Jew always regarded hunting as the work of Esav, of Edom, “for game (tzayid)was in his mouth.” If a Jewish child wished to imagine Esav, he would depict him as the epitome of the gentile huntsman, of ruddy complexion, with a feather in his cap and a gun on his shoulders, carrying a chain of rabbits and hares dripping with blood around his waist. The same was true for Esav’s descendants.”

The reservations of MK Chazani were not accepted (by a small majority), and the bill thus became law, without outlawing the pastime of hunting for hunting’s sake.

Some nine years later, in 1963, a private members bill was introduced by MK Shlomo Lorenz of the “Agudat Yisrael” party. This bill aimed to amend the Wildlife Protection Law and to outlaw hunting for the sake of entertainment and sport as being “against the law of the Jewish People, against tradition and the Jewish ethos, injurious to nature conservation, and (by virtue of the noise caused by the shots) a disturbance to rest.”

MK Lorenz pointed out to the Knesset that the Wildlife Protection Law was merely a Hebrew translation of the EnglishLaw, but was not “Jewish” or “Hebrew” in content. He focused on the unique traits of the Jewish People: “compassion, reserve and piety” (citing Yevamot 79), and noted that however far Jews strayed from the fold throughout the generations they never lost these three traits – and in particular the first.

Section 4(b) of the Law prohibited a person to hunt by shooting in a manner “likely to cause damage to electricity, telephone and telegraph wires.” All the more so, argued MK Lorenz, that we should prohibit “shots which are likely to injure those hidden wires which constitute the character traits of the Hebrew nation.”

“We must uproot the notion that murder, even the killing of an animal or bird, can be entertaining; that the affliction of others can generate happiness and pleasure… I urge the Knesset to approve the draft legislation, not only for the protection of wildlife, but also, and mainly, for the protection of man to ensure that he does not become wild himself.”

Sadly, MK Lorenz’s proposal to transfer the draft bill to committee for deliberation was not accepted.


Other articles in the series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

August 11, 2011 at 6:53 pm Leave a comment

‘Animal Welfare’ v. ‘Human Benefit’: Which Comes First?

Jewish Law in Our Times

by Simon M. Jackson, Adv., Legal Advisor to Torah MiTzion

3 – 

The Torah instructs Adam to “have dominion over… every living thing that creeps on the earth” (Bereshit1:28). After Noach and his sons left the Ark, Hashem gave them the blessing that “the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth… into your hand are they delivered” (Bereshit 9:1-2). Indeed, both Nimrod and Esav were hunters.

Does man have absolute mastery over the animal kingdom as the above verse and practices would seem to imply? Will ‘human benefit’ always override considerations of ‘animal welfare’?


In our last column, we saw how Israel’s highest court did not see fit to delve into the age-old provisions of the Halacha, when arriving at its decision to outlaw the force feeding of geese.

In Jewish Law, the prohibition of causing cruelty to animals (tza’ar ba’alei haim) is not an absolute prohibition, and it may be set aside when it conflicts with human needs. “Hashem’s mercies do not extend to the animal kingdom, in order to prevent us from using animals for our needs” (Ramban, Devarim 22:6). Nonetheless, we will soon see that the Halachic Poskim are divided over the question: what is the boundary line between a need which justifies causing suffering to animals and a need which does not justify such suffering? The permissibility or otherwise of force-feeding geese would appear to revolve around precisely this issue.

The Lenient Position

Rema, R. Moshe Isserles (16th century Poland), rules, in his gloss to the Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer 5:14): “Anything which is necessary in order to effect a cure or for other matters does not entail a violation of the prohibition againsttza’ar ba’alei haim… It is therefore permitted to pluck feathers from live geese [in order to obtain quills for writing] and there is no concern on account of tza’ar ba’alei haim.” Nevertheless, Rema concludes, “people refrain from doing so because it constitutes an act of cruelty.” This approach is accepted by the majority of Halachic codifiers, as we will now see.

R. Yaakov Reischer (18th century Prague) was asked whether or not a Jewish physician is permitted to test the effects of a new drug on an animal, such as a dog or cat, in order to discover whether it might prove injurious or even fatal before applying it to human beings. He rules as follows: “Provided there is some need involved – whether for medical uses or even for any financial gain – the act is excluded from the Biblical prohibitions of wanton destruction and cruelty to animals” (Shu”t Shvut Yaakov III:71).

In another responsum (ibid. II:110), R. Reischer addresses the practice of a number of Shochetim to make an incision in the animal’s neck before shechita, to enable them to more easily shecht the animal, by holding the trachea and the esophagus in one hand. He rules that this custom is prohibited, because the degree of benefit is only small… and, in particular, because it is against Minhag Yisrael (Jewish custom). This responsum is very significant for our question, because it implies that there is no blanket permission to cause suffering to animals, and there may be circumstances in which the slight benefit to man does not justify tza’ar ba’alei haim, especially where the act which causes the suffering is not usual amongst God-fearing Jews.

R. Moshe Sofer (19th century Hungary) writes that the prohibition against tza’ar ba’alei haim does not apply when the act is performed “for the benefit of human beings, their honor or financial benefit” (Shu”t Chatam Sofer, Y.D. 312). His inclusion of “human dignity” as a ground to permit tza’ar ba’alei haim refers to the permit given to an old man to refrain from assisting an animal stumbling under its heavy load, where such assistance would be “beneath his dignity.” Even the protection for human dignity can thus justify causing suffering to animals, and not only financial gain.

R. Yitzchak Ya’akov Weiss (20th century Poland-Israel) was asked whether it is permitted to deprive fifteen-month old hens of food for ten days in order to renew the hens’ ability to lay eggs by a further five months or longer. In his opinion (Shu”t Minchat Yitzchak VI:145), this need not be avoided, not even for reasons of piety (midat chasidut), for 3 reasons: (a) the act is one of omission only, not of commission; (b) the suffering caused is not that great, because the hens are allowed to drink; and (c) the hens themselves “benefit” as the time for their slaughter is thus prolonged.

Here it is appropriate to point out that R. Shmuel Wosner (Bnei Brak – one of the preeminent Poskim of our time in the Charedi world), disagrees regarding this issue. While he permits tza’ar ba’alei haim for financial gain, even if “a great degree of suffering” is caused to the animal, he argues that the starvation of hens causes them such an acute level of suffering that it constitutes “cruelty to the heart” (achzariut lev) and is therefore prohibited for financial gain (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi II:7).

The Stringent Position

The common denominator of the Poskim whose views we quoted above is that financial gain justifies tza’ar ba’alei haim, even if it causes a significant degree of suffering to the animal. However, some Poskim, especially those from the 19thcentury and onwards, have limited this permit, and others have rejected it totally.

R. Yitzchak Dov HaLevi Bamberger (19th century Germany) thus writes (Shu”t Yad HaLevi Y.D. 196): “The proof brought by the lenient Poskim, that all creatures were created only to serve man, is certainly true; however, this statement only proves that creatures must be used for the purpose for which they were created – an ox for yoking and a donkey for burdens – but to change their order of creation?!”

According to R. Bamberger, the prohibition of tza’ar ba’alei haim is only waived for medical purposes, but not for financial gain. Here, however, he expands the permit for other matters which, like medical needs, are “essential” (although the definition of this is not clear: would sustaining one’s family, as opposed to additional income, be essential?). On the other hand, he rules against medical trials whose benefit is not known in advance: for how can the prohibition against certain tza’ar ba’alei haim be overridden by a questionable benefit to man?

From the above, it can be concluded that the majority of Halachic codifiers permit tza’ar ba’alei haim for monetary gain, albeit that they express moral reservation against benefiting in this manner. In other words, it appears that, in their opinion, the question before us is one of conscience, in which the law will not intervene to enforce.

In our next column, we will discuss the scope of the permit of “financial gain.” At the end of the day, can the financial benefit obtained justify the suffering caused to animals in the course of bull or cock fights, or hunting as a sport? Can it justify the practice of force-feeding geese – all in the name of creating luxuries and gastronomic delicacies for human beings?

To be continued!


Other articles in the series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Part 5

August 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

‘Animal Welfare’ v. ‘Agricultural Needs’: Which Comes First?

Jewish Law in Our Times

by Simon M. Jackson, Adv., Legal Advisor to Torah MiTzion

2 – 

Last year, Israel’s High Court of Justice was petitioned by “Noah – The Israeli Federation of Animal Protection Organizations,” anumbrella organization for animal rights organizations in Israel, to declare illegal the force-feeding of geese for the production of foie gras (fatty liver, considered to be a gastronomic delicacy), in light of the “unnecessary suffering” caused to the geese during their feeding.

How did the Court rule on the issue of the delicate balance between ‘cruelty to animals’ and ‘agricultural needs’?


During the force-feeding period the goose is forcibly fed by the insertion of a tube into its esophagus. This process is repeated several times daily. The geese are fed high-caloric food in order to make their liver especially fatty. The amount of food they are forced to digest is much greater than the amount they require. The process lasts several weeks, until the liver reaches its optimal size. At optimal size the liver is several times the size of a normal liver. During the force-feeding period, the goose is fed exclusively by this method, though it continues to drink normally.

Section 2(a) of the Protection of Animals Law, 1994, prohibits torture, cruelty or abuse to animals. The Minister of Agriculture issued regulations in 2001 pursuant to this section, the purpose of which was “to prevent the suffering of geese caused by feeding with the aim of producing foie gras, and to freeze the foie grasindustry in Israel. This is in the spirit of the Recommendations of the Standing Committee working under the European Council’s Convention for Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes.”

The regulations regulated the force-feeding of geese, providing, for example, that force-feeding may only be carried out with a pneumatic machine. The regulations also set a maximum limit for the length and diameter of the feeding tube, and for the amount the geese are fed daily. In addition, in regulation 7, the Minister of Agriculture ordered thefoie gras industry to be frozen, i.e. no new farms for force-feeding geese would be established, and the existing ones would not be expanded.

“Noah” petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to declare the above regulations unlawful, mainly because the process of force-feeding, even within the limitations set out by the regulations, caused cruelty to animals under section 2(a) of the Protection of Animals Law, 1994.

The respondents to the petition included the Minister of Agriculture (which supported and encouraged the development of this industry), the Egg and Poultry Board and 32 farm owners involved in the industry. These countered that, were the petition to be accepted, it would bring an end to the entire industry since, without force-feeding, the liver is not a marketable product. Israelproduces over 500 tons of foie gras annually, half of which goes to the local market, while the rest is exported. The annual turnover of the industry reaches tens of millions of shekels. In addition to those who raise the geese, there are businesses that provide secondary services. Thus, the livelihood of several hundred families depends on this industry, which has been active in Israelfor about 40 years. Furthermore they argued that the method of force-feeding does not constitute cruel treatment of animals, and that the purpose of the regulations was to reduce their suffering during feeding. Respondents pointed out that the European Council and the European Union did not outlaw force-feeding, and that the Israeli regulations followed those created in Europe.

The Supreme Court Justices found that “the tendency is to balance the interest of protecting animals against man’s right to use animals for his sustenance” and the question was whether this delicate balance had been breached. It was agreed, however, that the interest of animal protection could be superseded by “agricultural needs.”

After the Court reviewed legal systems from many different countries – from the U.S.A. to India, and including Europe and New Zealand – the Court concluded that “overall the regulations do not stand up to the ‘prohibition of abuse’ test of the law.” It reached this conclusion based on the distinction it decided to make between those food items which are necessary for human existence, and those which are mere luxuries. To the extent that the food item is less essential and necessary to human existence, the less the weight that will be given to the consideration of “agricultural needs” where their production inflicts grave suffering on animals. And because the regulations did not meet the prevailing standards in Europe, the balance had been overstepped:

“We have carefully examined all the facts before us. The subject is complex, and we have considered the opinions of experts in several fields, the legal situation in various countries and in the international community, the domestic legal situation, and the extra-legal questions raised by this issue. We have reached the conclusion that the regulations deviate significantly from the purpose of the law, and thus they should be annulled.”

At the same time, the Court added, “The decision regarding the annulment of the regulations and the prohibition of the said practice will be suspended until March 31, 2005… During this suspension period those involved will contend with the problem and consider the appropriate policy regarding force-feeding geese. The developments in the field in Israeland abroad will be examined… If it is decided to allow the foie gras industry to continue, the legislature will have to issue regulations that will assure the use of means that will significantly reduce the suffering of the geese.”


Regrettably, the Supreme Court did not see fit to delve into the age-old provisions of the Halacha, when arriving at its decision to outlaw the force feeding of geese (even though it was presented with a detailed breakdown of these by the Department for Jewish Law (Mishpat Ivri) in the Ministry of Justice. The Court took into consideration the approaches developed by legal systems all over the world, and yet did not deem it appropriate to include even one Jewish source that related to the issue (save for a passing reference to the phrase tza’ar ba’alei haim as being the ancient equivalent to what is currently referred to as ‘animal welfare’). This contrasts with the Hamat Gader judgment, detailed in our last column, which was replete with references to Halachic and Talmudic principles.

In our next column, we shall examine the balance between ‘cruelty to animals’ and ‘human needs’ from the Halachic perspective, and assess whether the Halacha would have arrived at the same conclusion as the Supreme Court on the issue of force-feeding geese.


Other articles in the series:

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

August 11, 2011 at 6:46 pm Leave a comment

Animals in the Service of Mankind

Jewish Law in Our Times

by Simon M. Jackson, Adv., Legal Advisor to Torah MiTzion

1 – 

“Let Animals Live,” an organization for the protection of animal rights, petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court in 1997 to render unlawful the presentation of an alligator exhibit to visitors in Chamat Gader, which concluded with a battle between man and alligator lasting for 47 seconds.

The District Court had argued that there was no objective evidence that pain or suffering was inflicted upon the alligators during the show: “The petitioner failed to show that this trick causes the alligator actual pain or suffering, beyond some discomfort and stress.”

How did the Supreme Court rule, applying the principles of Halacha?


The Supreme Court overturned the District Court’s verdict. Particularly illuminating was the recourse by two out of the three Supreme Court Justices to the principles of Halacha in reaching its decision.

The Court made it clear that “the mere act of causing suffering to an animal – and doing so intentionally – does not yet constitute ‘abuse,’ ‘torture’ or ‘cruelty.’ An additional element must also be met, namely that the suffering and torment caused to an animal has no justification. Thus pain may clearly be inflicted when it is intended to save an animal’s life, or to cure it from sickness or injury… Experimentation on animals performed in order to promote health, advance medicine or prevent suffering, is therefore permitted and even encouraged, even if the animals do suffer as a result.”

However, the Court also noted that while Israeli law prohibited three types of behavior – the torture of animals, cruelty against animals, and the abuse of animals – it did not specify what types of behavior are prohibited in advance. “Instead, these provisions deal primarily with the moral imperative enshrined therein, the prohibition against cruelty to animals (tza’ar ba’alei chaim)… As such, the prohibition that concerns us does not set out precise boundaries of conduct. Nor does it list the prohibited deeds. Instead it plants the tree that bears the fruit.” The Court made it clear that the purpose of the law was to protect animals from harm and abuse in any way – unlike the District Court which ruled that only incidents of severe suffering were prohibited.

The Court asked itself: “Why do courts and legislatures see fit to set out rules for the protection of animals? The first and chief basis for these prohibitions is founded on our innermost feelings that abusing animals, treating them cruelly or torturing them is immoral and unfair. The empathy that we feel for abused animals derives from a place deep in our hearts, from our sense of morality, feelings imprinted in our hearts, elicited by the sight of the weak and helpless being harmed…”

Justice Michael Cheshin cited two laws in the Torah – the duty to assist the owner in unloading merchandise or materials carried by a beast of burden (Shemot 23:5), and the similar obligation to come to the assistance of a fallen animal, even that of one’s enemy (Devarim 22:4). He then posed the question: when faced with both commandments simultaneously (freeing the beast of its burden, or returning the burden to the beast’s back), which comes first? Justice Cheshin answered this question, by citing Maimonides’ Laws Regarding Murder and the Preservation of Life 13:13: “He who encounters both a man attempting to unburden his animal, and one placing his merchandise on his beast, is commanded to assist the former, and only then the latter, in order to spare the animal waiting to be unburdened further suffering.” From this he concluded that we are commanded not to cause animals pain for they are living beings.

Slaughtering a cow and sheep is both possible and permissible, and yet it is forbidden to slaughter such a beast and its offspring on the same day – “this being a precautionary measure in order to avoid the slaughtering of the young in front of its mother. For in these cases, animals feel very great pain, there being no difference regarding this pain between man and the other animals. For the love and the tenderness of a mother for her child are not consequent upon reason, but upon the activity of the imaginative faculty, which is found in animals just as it is found in man…” (Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed II:48).

A second perspective, cited by Justice Cheshin in his opinion, teaches that both the commandment to send the mother bird from her nest, as well as the prohibition against slaughtering an animal and its young on the same day, aim to prevent man from becoming cruel, and to protect his soul from being corrupted by cruel deeds. “For cruelty enters, infects and spreads through the soul… the commandments are intended to teach us the value of compassion” (Nachmanides, Devarim 22:6).

While identifying with Maimonides’ viewpoint, Justice Cheshin acknowledged the importance for us to learn kindness and compassion. “When an audience sits down to watch a bull-fight, screaming and cheering ‘Ole!’ with blushing faces, gawking at the sight of a bull with knives stuck in its back, its blood gushing in spurts, we can very well expect that, upon exiting the stadium, the members of the audience will be rude to their fellow man, in the spirit of the performance that they just witness. One whose heart is dull and unfeeling towards an animal may be equally insensitive towards his fellow man.

And Justice Cheshin cited with approval an earlier decision of the Supreme Court, in which the Court commented: “I am far from comfortable with this uncivilized behavior to which the respondents seek to privilege Israeli society, as if all the other uncivilized behaviors imported from abroad in abundance did not suffice. These performances [‘The War if the Bulls 1978’], even in the “delicate” form to which the current respondents aspire, risk inflaming the masses and increasing the threat of violence – risks and threats that our society has had enough of already.”

As to the case at hand, involving a fight between man and animal purely for the sake of amusement and entertainment, Justice Cheshin similarly concluded: “Not only does the performance not embrace any educational values, but the message sent is quite the opposite – ‘anti-educational’… One who treats helpless animals cruelly shall become hard of heart and is one step away from hurling the same treatment upon his fellow man; those who watch someone abuse animals will also stand idly by as humans are being abused.”

“The performance is essentially a violent one. Violence is supplied to us in abundance and no more of it is needed… In truth, certain recognized sports do involve much violence and cause suffering to the competitors. However, at least in those instances, the competitors take this risk upon themselves from the onset…”

Justice Turkel, after commending his colleague Justice Cheshin for having “sumptuously filled our places with choice teachings about his prohibition against cruelty to animals,” had the last word: “It is the petitioner’s privilege to have its petition enshrined as a rule of law. This rule is not only legal, but a moral and humane imperative as well. The time is ripe for such a rule and, indeed, our times require it.”

Next column: The force-feeding of geese for the production of foie gras (fatty liver delicacy) – Halacha and Israeli law compared.


Other articles in the series:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

August 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

‘Agricultural Need’ v. ‘Hunting for Sport’

Jewish Law in Our Times

by Simon M. Jackson, Adv., Legal Advisor to Torah MiTzion


We ended our last column by concluding that the majority of Halachic codifiers permit tza’ar ba’alei haim for monetary gain, albeit that they all recoil morally from benefiting in this manner.

What is the scope of the permit of “financial gain”? Can it justify the practice of force-feeding geese – all in the name of creating luxuries and gastronomic delicacies for human beings? Can the financial benefits obtained justify the suffering caused to animals in the course of bull or cock fights, or hunting as a sport?


 It is very clear that the Halacha’s concession of allowing suffering to animals for financial gain does not imply any permit to derive benefit from the suffering per se. Bull fights, cock fights and similar shows and tournaments are therefore clearly forbidden by Halacha. Moreover, all authorities agree that hunting as a sport is forbidden, even though the organizers of the fight undoubtedly profit from their enterprise.

From this perspective, the Supreme Court ruling in Let the Animals Live v. Chamat Gader Recreation Enterprises[1] , which outlawed battles between man and alligator at the northern town of Chamat Gader, accorded perfectly with the principles of Jewish Law, and these principles were indeed cited extensively in the judgment.

The permit applies only where the suffering caused is merely a means for obtaining a product or a benefit, and even then, only where there is no possibility of obtaining these without causing the suffering. In other words, in the same manner as one may not obtain sadistic benefitfrom causing suffering to animals, so too it is forbidden to market such benefit, and evenif hundreds of households rely on this benefit for their livelihood, such invalid means of earning a living should cease immediately.

However, in the case of force-feeding geese, the situation is different: those involved in the industry are not interested in causing suffering to the geese, merely in their livers, and were alternative means available to achieve this purpose they would certainly adopt it!

Especially instructive in this regard is a response by Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igrot Moshe, Even Haezer IV:92), one of the greatest Poskim of the last generation, which deals expressly with a similar situation – the raising of calves for veal. This practice is mentioned several times in the Noah[2] judgment. Calf meat (veal), like goose liver, is a culinary delicacy. In order to get high quality veal, calves are raised under special conditions. The calves are kept in narrow stalls, which do not allow them room to move. They are also fed special food that does not contain iron. This is intended to make the meat as light colored as possible. This is done despite the fact that the calves need iron and, as a result of the lack of this necessary dietary element, they become anemic.

Rav Feinstein does, indeed, prohibit the raising of calves for veal. He rules that one who engages in this practice transgresses the prohibition of tza’ar ba’alei haimHowever, from his reasoning, it is doubtful whether he would have reached the same conclusion with respect to the force-feeding of geese. On the contrary, it is logical to assume that Rav Feinstein would permit the practice, because his reasoning to forbid the raising of calves for veal is that the latter does not improve the meat, but merely changes its color to white, which thus appears more impressive than it actually is. In his opinion, the “gain” obtained by those who raise the calves from improving the appearance of the meat (and which in effect deceives purchasers of the meat) does not constitute a benefit which justifies the infliction of suffering on animals. The situation is very different in the case of force-feeding geese, which does in fact cause the liver to improve.

It should also be noted that Rav Feinstein emphasizes in his responsum that tza’ar ba’alei haim is permitted “in cases where people generally allow this,” i.e. specifically wherea commonly accepted benefit results. It would follow, therefore, that if it were not accepted practice to force-feed geese, the practice would be forbidden, but since the industry exists – darkan be’kach (“it is generally allowed”) – there is no Halachic basis to stop its practice, save where alternative means exist to obtain the same result without causing tza’ar ba’alei haim[3] or where such suffering can be minimized.

From the above it follows that, had the Supreme Court taken into consideration the principles of Jewish Law over the ages as to the appropriate balance between human needs and animal welfare, it may well have reached a different conclusion from one which outlawed the practice of force-feeding geese.

Hunting for Sport in the Modern State of Israel

In Israel, the issue of hunting for sport is regulated in the Wildlife Protection Law, 5715 (1955).

This law authorizes the Minister of the Environment to restrict the hunting of wild animals, to issue hunting permits and to appoint inspectors to enforce the law. It prohibits trading, possessing or transporting protected species without a permit. It requires a hunting license for game hunting (hare, wild boar, partridge and some duck species) or for the extermination of pests, and prohibits the hunting of protected species, except by special permit and for specific purposes listed in the law.

However, while the law does restrict the hunting season and hunting areas, and also prohibits certain methods of hunting (traps, explosives, poisoning), hunting of mammals per se is thus still permitted in Israel!

Final Column: Knesset attempts to change the law on hunting for sport! 

[1] Cited extensively in our first column on this subject – see Issue No. 58 of this publication. To read an English translation of this judgment, see – English Courtdecisions – LCA 1684/96.

[2] Noah – The Israeli Federation of Animal Protection Organizations;discussed at length in Issue No. 58 of this publication. To read an English translation of this judgment, see – English Courtdecisions – HCJ 9232/01.

[3] It follows that scientific experiments upon laboratory animals during the course of medical research designed to yield information that might lead to cure of disease will only be sanctioned by Jewish law provided alternative means of obtaining the same information are unavailable (e.g. tissue culture studies). Where alternative means do exist, animal experimentation might be considered to fall under the category of unnecessary cruelty to animals and be prohibited.


Other articles in the series:

Part 1 

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5







August 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment

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