Jewish Quotations About Animals and How Animals Are Treated Today
A. Attitude Toward Animals
1. “A righteous person regards the life of his or her animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” ~Proverbs 12:10
2. The Lord is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His creatures.” ~Psalms 145:9
3. The tzaddik (righteous person) acts according to the laws of justice; not only does he act according to these laws with human beings, but also with animals.
4. “Living creatures possess a soul and a certain spiritual superiority which in this respect make them similar to those who possess intellect (people) and they have the power of affecting their welfare and their food and they flee from pain and death.” ~Nachmanides, commentary on Genesis 1:29
5. “There is no difference between the pain of humans and the pain of other living beings, since the love and tenderness of the mother for the young are not produced by reasoning, but by feeling, and this faculty exists not only in humans but in most living beings.” ~ Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed
6. “For that which befalls the sons of men befalls animals; even one thing befalls them; as the one dies, so dies the other; yes, they all have one breath; so that man has no preeminence above an animal; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are of the dust. Who knows the spirit of men whether it goes upward; and the spirit of the animal whether it goes downward to the earth?” ~Ecclesiastes 3:19-21
7. “It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature, even if it is ownerless or belongs to a non Jew.” ~Code of Jewish Law
8. “When horses, drawing a cart, come to a rough road or a steep hill, and it is hard for them to draw the cart without help, it is our duty to help them, even when they belong to a non-Jew, because of the precept not to be cruel to animals, lest the owner smite them to force them to draw more than their strength permits.”
~Code of Jewish Law
9.It is forbidden to tie the legs of a beast or of a bird in a manner as to cause them pain.” ~Code of Jewish Law
10. “While our teacher Moses was tending the flock of Jethro in the wilderness a kid ran away from him. He ran after the kid until it reached Hasuah. Upon reaching Hasuah, the kid came upon a body of water and began to drink. When Moses reached him he said, ‘I did not know that you were running because [you were] thirsty. You must be tired.’ He placed the kid on his shoulder and began to walk. The Holy One, blessed be He, said, ‘You are compassionate in leading flocks belonging to mortals; I swear you will similarly shepherd my flock, Israel.’”
~Midrash Exodus Rabbah 2:2
11 “As God is merciful, so you also be merciful. As he loves and cares for all His creatures and His children and are related to Him, because He is their Father, so you also love all His creatures as your brethren. Let their joys be your joys, and their sorrows yours. Love them and with every power which God gives you, work for their welfare and benefit, because they are the children of your God, because they are your brothers and sisters.”
~Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 72, Section 482.
12. Here you are faced with God’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 Rafael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, Section 416.
13. “There are probably no creatures that require more the protective Divine word against the presumption of man than the animals, which like man have sensations and instincts, but whose body and powers are nevertheless subservient to man. In relation to them man so easily forgets that injured animal muscle twitches just like human muscle, that the maltreated nerves of an animal sicken like human nerves, that the animal being is just as sensitive to cuts, blows, and beating as man. Thus man becomes the torturer of the animal soul.”
~Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, Section 415
B. Biblical teachings
1. “You shall not muzzle the ox when he threshes out the corn.”
2. “You shall not plow with an ox and an ass together.” (Deuteronomy 22:10)
3. Animals, as well as people, must be allowed to rest on the Sabbath day. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord, your God; in it you shall not do any manner of work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates.” (Exodus 20:8–10)
4. Based on the question of the angel of God to Bilaam, “Why have you hit your donkey these three times?” (Numbers 22:32), the Talmud states that animals are to be treated humanely. [tsa’ar ba’alei chaim]
5. Based on Deuteronomy 11:15, “And I will give grass in the fields for your cattle and you shall eat and be satisfied,” the Talmud teaches that a Jew should not eat before first feeding his or her animals.
6. “It is forbidden to sacrifice a newborn ox, sheep, or goat until it has had at least seven days of warmth and nourishment from its mother.” (Leviticus 22:27)
7. “And whether it be ox or ewe, you shall not kill the animal and her young both in one day.” (Leviticus 22:28)
8. We are forbidden to take the mother bird and her young together. “The mother bird must be sent away before her young are taken.” (Deuteronomy 22:6–7).
9. Animals should not be allowed to suffer discomfort from a heavy burden.
“If you see the ass of him who hates you fallen due to its burden, you shall surely not pass him by; you shall surely unload it with him.” (Exodus 23:5)
10. We must be vigilant concerning the well-being of a lost animal. “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep driven away and hide yourself from them; you shall surely bring them back unto your brother.” (Deuteronomy 22:1)
C Messianic Times
1. “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
And the calf and the young lion and the falling together;
And a little child shall lead them
And the cow and the bear shall feed;
Their young ones shall lie down together,
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox . . . .
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain…”
2. The progress of dynamic ideals will not be eternally blocked. Through general, moral and intellectual advancement… shall the latent aspiration of justice for the animal kingdom come out into the open, when the time is ripe.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace
D. Covenants with animals
1. ”As for me,” says the Lord, “behold I establish My Covenant with you and with your seed after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the fowl, the cattle, and every animal of the earth with you; of all that go out of the ark, even every animal of the earth.” (Genesis 9:9-10)
2. “And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the animals of the field and with the fowls of heaven and with the creeping things of the ground. And I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the land and I will make them to lie down safely.” (Hosea 2:20)
E. Prophets’ views on sacrifices
1. “For I spoke not unto your fathers, nor commanded them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt- offerings or sacrifices; but this thing I commanded them, saying, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.” Jeremiah 7:22 -23
2. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Hosea 6:6)
3. ”To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?” says the Lord. “I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs or of he-goats. . . bring no more vain oblations… Your new moon and your appointed feasts my soul hates; … and when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.” (Isaiah 1:11-16)
4. “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings and your meal offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Take away from me the noise of your song; and let Me not hear the melody of your psalteries. But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:21- 4)
5. “He that kills an ox is as if he slew a person” (Isaiah 66:3)
6. Reinforcing the above material are the words of Jerusalem-based Orthodox rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo:
“Does Judaism really need animal sacrifices? Would it not be better off without them? After all, the sacrificial cult compromises Judaism. What does a highly ethical religion have to do with the collection of blood in vessels and the burning of animal limbs on an altar?
No doubt Judaism should be sacrifice-free. Yet it is not. . . . How much more beautiful the Torah would be without sacrifices.
If Judaism had the chance, it would have dropped the entire institution of sacrifices in a second. Better yet, it would have had no part in it to begin with. How much more beautiful the Torah would be without sacrifices! How wonderful it would be if a good part of Sefer Vayikra [the portion of the Torah that refers initially to sacrifices] were removed from the biblical text, or had never been there in the first place.”
F.. God’s original dietary law
1. And God said: “Behold, I have given you every herb-yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit – to you it shall be for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
2. God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature to eat its flesh. “Only every green herb shall they all eat together.” ~Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 1:29
3. “You are permitted to use the animals and employ them for work, have dominion over them in order to utilize their services for your subsistence, but must not hold their life cheap nor slaughter them for food. Your natural diet is vegetarian.”
~Moses Cassuto (1883 -1951) in his commentary From Adam to Noah
Adam was not permitted meat for purposes of eating.
~Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 59b)
G. Attitudes Toward Vegetarianism and Veganism
1. “The removal of blood which kashrut teaches is one of the most powerful means of making us constantly aware of the concession and compromise which the whole act of eating meat, in reality, is. Again it teaches us reverence for life.”
~Samuel Dresner, The Jewish Dietary Laws, 29
2. “Apparently the Torah was in principle opposed to the eating of meat. When Noah and his descendants were permitted to eat meat this was a concession conditional on the prohibition of the blood. This prohibition implied respect for the principle of life (“for the blood is the life”) and an allusion to the fact that in reality all meat should have been prohibited. This partial prohibition was designed to call to mind the previously total one.”
~Rabbi Moses Cassutto, quoted by Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Genesis, 77.
3. “The Torah teaches a lesson in moral conduct, that man shall not eat meat unless he has a special craving for it… and shall eat it only occasionally and sparingly.”
~ B.T. Chulin 84a
4. “Only a scholar of Torah may eat meat, but one who is ignorant of Torah is forbidden to eat meat.” B.T. ~Sanhedrin 49b
5. “What was the necessity for the entire procedure of ritual slaughter? For the sake of self discipline. It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it, and even this only after the trouble and inconvenience necessary to satisfy his desire. Perhaps because of the bother and annoyance of the whole procedure, he will be restrained from such a strong and uncontrollable desire for meat.”
~Rabbi Solomon Efraim Lunchitz, Kli Yakar
6. “Accordingly, the laws of kashrut come to teach us that a Jew’s first preference should be a vegetarian meal. If, however, one cannot control a craving for meat, it should be kosher meat, which would serve as a reminder that the animal being eaten is a creature of God, that the death of such a creature cannot be taken lightly, that hunting for sport is forbidden, that we cannot treat any living thing callously, and that we are responsible for what happens to other beings (human or animal) even if we did not personally come into contact with them”.
~Rabbi Pinchas Peli, Torah Today, Washington, D.C.: B’Nai B’rith Books, 1987, 118.
H. The Current Treatment of Animals
1. “The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf. The mother was allowed to nurse her calf but for a single night. On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn—only ten yards away, in plain view of the mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth—minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days—were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain. Since that age, whenever I hear anyone postulate that animals cannot feel emotions, I need only to replay that torturous sound in my memory of that mother cow crying her bovine heart out to her infant. Mother’s love knows no species barriers, and I believe that all people who are vegans in their hearts and souls know that to be true.”
2. “How far have we the right to take our domination of the animal
world? Have we the right to rob them of all pleasure in life simply
to make more money more quickly out of their carcasses? Have
we the right to treat living creatures solely as food converting
machines? At what point do we acknowledge cruelty?10 . . .
Farm animals have always been exploited by man in that
he rears them specifically for food. But until recently they were
individuals, allowed their birthright of green fields, sunlight, and
fresh air; they were allowed to forage, to exercise, to watch the
world go by, in fact to live. Even at its worst . . . the animal had
some enjoyment in life before it died. Today the exploitation has
been taken to a degree that involves not only the elimination
of all enjoyment, the frustration of all natural instincts, but its
replacement with acute discomfort, boredom, and the actual
denial of health. It has been taken to a degree where the animal
is not allowed to live before it dies.”
Ruth Harrison in her book “Animal Machines”
3. “Every year millions of animals are born and bred for the sole
purpose of satisfying those who like the taste of meat. Their
lives vary in length from a few weeks to a few years; most live
a fraction of the time they would in more natural conditions.
They die in slaughterhouses where, if the tranquilizers have
their effect, they know only a few moments of the awful fear of
death before they are stunned and their throats cut. This is what
all meat-eaters actively support, for there would be no batteries,
no sweatboxes, no need to castrate male animals or artificially
inseminate females, no cattle markets and no slaughterhouses if
there was no one insensitive enough to buy their products.”
4. By the late 1980s, author C. David Coats described the cycle of misery
that results from our addiction to meat, laying bare the pretense of “old
McDonald’s factory farm”:
“Aren’t humans amazing? They kill wildlife—birds, deer, all
kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the
million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.
Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them.
This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those
animals leads to degenerative—and fatal—health conditions
like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer. So then
humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions
more animals to look for cures for these diseases.
Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed
by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being
used to fatten domestic animals.
Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans,
who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards
praying for’Peace on Earth.’”
5. “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. This is a matter for decision by
halachic authorities.” Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, a twentieth-century Torah
scholar who lived in Jerusalem
6. “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
I. Stories from the Jewish Tradition Related to Compassion for Animals
Rabbi Judah the Prince was sitting and studying the Torah in front of the Babylonian Synagogue in Sepphoris. A calf being taken to the slaughterhouse came to him as if pleading, “Save me!” Rabbi Judah said to it, “What can I do for you? For this you were created.” As a punishment for his insensitivity, he suffered from a toothache for thirteen years.
One day, a creeping thing [a weasel] ran past Rabbi Judah’s daughter who was about to kill him. He said to her, “My daughter, let it be, for it is written, ‘and God’s tender mercies are over all his works’ (Psalms 145:9).”
Rabbi Israel Salanter, one of the most distinguished Orthodox rabbis of the nineteenth century, failed to appear one Yom Kippur eve to chant the sacred Kol Nidre prayer. His congregation became concerned, for it was inconceivable that their saintly rabbi would be late or absent on this very holy day. They sent out a search party to look for him. After much time, their rabbi was found in the barn of a Christian neighbor. On his way to the synagogue, Rabbi Salanter had come upon one of his neighbor’s calves, lost and tangled in the brush. Seeing that the animal was in distress, he freed him and led him home through many fields and over many hills. His act of mercy represented the rabbi’s prayers on that Yom Kippur evening.
Rabbi Zusya of Hanipol, a Chassidic master, once was on a journey to collect money to ransom prisoners. He came to an inn and in one room found a large cage with many types of birds. He saw that the birds wanted to fly out of the cage and be free again. He burned with pity for them and said to himself, “Here you are, Zusya, walking your feet off to ransom prisoners. But what greater ransoming of prisoners can there be than to free these birds from
their prison?” He then opened the cage, and the birds flew out into freedom.
When the innkeeper saw the empty cage, he was very angry and asked the people in the house who had released the birds. They answered that there was a man loitering around who appeared to be a fool and that he must have done it. The innkeeper shouted at Zusya: “You fool! How could you rob me of my birds and make worthless the good money I paid for them?” Zusya replied: “Have you read these words in the Psalms: ‘His tender mercies are over all His work’?” Then the innkeeper beat Zusya and then threw him out of the house. And Zusya went his way serenely.