Ari Greenspan: It’s a very good question. The answer is shechita applies only by kosher animals, number one, and number two, what’s the definition of tzar baalei chayim?
So there’s a famous teshuva by the Noda b’Yehuda, one of the greatest decisors in the last 400 years where he’s asked whether a person is allowed to go hunting in the forest with a kaneh aish, a rifle, for fun let’s say. So he deals with the entire issue.
The details don’t matter. It’s not baal tashchis: you’ll sell it, there’s no issur in hunting per say. In the end he says it’s not tzaar baalei chayim because the definition of tzaar baalei chayim is doing it for no purpose. If you kill an animal, a treif animal, a kosher animal, because you need a new hat or a belt. That’s not tzaar baalei chayim. Tzaar baalei chayim is hurting an animal l’lo toelet.
V: Like the kid I went to school with who was lighting ants with his cigarette lighter.
Ari Greenspan: There you go. There you go.
V: I guess there’s no inyan of doing it in a merciful way?
Ari Greenspan: The truth is, if you look at the scale of development of creatures, snails are pretty much at the very bottom.
V: Primitive, yeah.
Ari Greenspan: I doubt that they feel pain. Nobody knows if they feel pain. They certainly have no awareness.
V: What made you start it?
Ari Greenspan: Joel [Guberman, founder of Ptil Tekhelet] wanted to wear tekhelet. Why? Because his brother was killed in a car accident and he took it upon himself to learn everything there was about tzistzis. That’s how he found Rav Tevger. Joel called me and said, “Rabbi Tevger wants to go to the ocean,” and he knew that I was scuba diving and Baruch [Sterman, founder of Ptil Tekhelet] was my partner. He said, “Why don’t you come to the ocean? And scuba for us.” That’s how it happened. 20 years. Rav Tevger decided he wanted to wear tekheles and it had nothing to do with any of us. And then he went ahead and did it.
V: What’s the main reason to continue to pursue this if you could pinpoint one reason?
Ari Greenspan: I think that there’s no doubt that Hashem put us in a particular place in a particular time. Like, there’s no doubt about it. What are the chances of four people, three of which knew each other in high school, never talked for 25 years and then Rav Eliyahu Tevger [founder of Ptil Tekhelet]—a Russian that speaks Hebrew and Russian—that we’d had no interaction—with whom we would have had no interaction. There’s no doubt Hashem put us here. And I think it’s sort of a passion.
We feel a mission.