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Is it proper to eat the meat of animals that were not treated humanely?



At the outset it is important to note that the Torah (Parshas Noach, Bereishis 9:1-5) placed human dominion over the animal kingdom – whether mammal, fowl, fish, insect – and to eat them. The Torah (Parshas Shmini, Vayikra 11: 1-47, Parshas Re’eh, Devarim 14:3-21) later further limited the variety that we may consume to those that are clean (kosher animals) from among the above four categories. Not only did the Torah permit consumption of meat but in Parshas Beshalach (Shemos 16:11-14) in the wilderness Hashem delivers the slav, a small type of pheasant, for Bnei Yisrael to eat.

Insofar tza’ar ba’al chayim, the Torah in Parshas Mishpatim (Shemos 23:5) states, “If you see the donkey of someone you hate crouching under its burden, would you refrain from helping him? – You shall surely help with him.” Now even though this is the animal of an individual that you find contemptuous, nevertheless the Torah commands that you help lighten the burden upon his animal. But there is a caveat; the Gemara (Bava Metzia 32a) advises that if the owner of the animal is present and refuses to relieve his animal’s load than the person encountering this is free of any obligation to help. Thus we see that it is possible to witness a situation of clear tza’ar ba’al chayim and yet have no obligation to intervene.

We are all aware that there are those who wish to attack our method of rendering an animal fit for consumption – shechita. The Mechaber (Yoreh De’ah Siman 18:1-3) is clear that in the course of shechita the chalaf (the slaughter knife) must be repeatedly checked for pegimos – nicks; i.e., the knife must be smooth to produce a swift and instant death of the animal, precluding any prolonged pain. Those who object to our slaughter are often not really seeking to aid the animals, but rather they wish that we not have the ability to eat kosher meat. There are some who, true to their word, are fully vegetarian. Either way, the end result is that this leads to destroying our Jewish way of life.

The only other possible scenario of pain regarding an animal is the way they are treated as they await slaughter. Different animals are treated differently, but any meat or fowl we consume, if produced under the supervision of reputable rabbis, such as the OU, that follow the rulings of gedolei haposkim, such as Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, zt’l, and yibadel l’chayim, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, then proper protocols are unquestionably followed. Thus there would be no problem.

However, there is an instance of clear tza’ar ba’al chayim that I have encountered. It relates to kapparos – chickens that are used for the special atonement ceremony we perform prior to Yom Kippur. Everything will be fine when this is conducted at a kosher butcher under proper supervision. But for the past number of years, unscrupulous individuals have been engaging in providing this service, albeit as an enterprise, to make some quick money.

I have witnessed chickens left in crates in the rain for days, obviously to the point of distress. Usually one either consumes the meat of the chicken that served as his exchange or donates the chicken to feed the poor. In either of these scenarios, one should not participate with any of these fly-by-night individuals who have no regard for the poor animals, as well as not having a proper hashgacha.

While the Torah gave us dominion over the animal, we must show compassion. “Dracheha darchei noam v’chol nesivoseha shalom– all its ways are pleasing and its pathways are peace” (Mishlei 3:17).

— Rabbi Yaakov Klass is chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America; rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn; and Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at and


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Rabbi Goldin

The Talmud clearly states that unwarranted cruelty to animals is prohibited under Jewish Law (Bava Metzia 32b, Shabbat 128b). According to many opinions, the Talmud actually concludes, after debate, that this prohibition is biblical in origin (see Rosh, Bava Metzia 2:29; Rema, Choshen Mishpat 272:9 and others).

The question before us in this area, therefore is: what qualifies as “unwarranted” cruelty? We are, after all, allowed to slaughter animals for food, use animals as subjects in valid scientific experimentation, etc. At what point does our treatment of animals cross the line?

No less an authority than Rav Moshe Feinstein weighs in on this issue. In a 1982 teshuvah addressed to his renowned son-in-law, Rav Moshe Tendler, Rav Feinstein ruled against specific practices in the cultivation of veal. Based on the prevalence of those practices at the time, Rav Moshe prohibited the consumption of veal.

While numerous sources indicate that the treatment of animals in veal production has improved over the years (and, therefore, even Rav Moshe might now permit its consumption) – and while Rav Moshe’s p’sak in not universally accepted by all poskim – I would argue his position should set the bar for our behavior, in general. We should abstain from consuming any meat that we know is produced through unwarranted cruelty to the animals that serve as its source.

One word of caution. The rallying cry over animal treatment is, at times, used by those attempting to undermine halachic shechita. Even if a seemingly “kinder” method of slaughter becomes available, the requirement of shechita is inviolate in the production of kosher meat. “Ethical concerns” in this area cannot be used to undermine the clear halacha.

— Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, author of “Unlocking the Torah Text” series and past president of the RCA.


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Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

It is hard to imagine anyone feeling comfortable sitting down at a table, reciting a berachah and proceeding to eat the meat of an animal that was treated inhumanely. And to the extent that animals are mistreated – raised in cramped quarters, overfed and force-fed, with an existence that is nasty, brutish and short – elementary sensitivity and respect for G-d’s creatures should cause us to recoil from such consumption.

That being said, it is important to distinguish between maltreatment and other aspects of the processing of food that radical activists term “inhumane” but in fact is not. The classic example is shechita which is falsely termed “inhumane” by activists opposed to the use of animals for food. This banner has been waved all too frequently and hypocritically by Jew haters across the world for well over a century, embraced by the Nazis and other Jew-hating governments in Europe and now has been reborn in several European countries as well.

Their insistence that animals need to be anesthetized or electronically stunned before being slaughtered is an ill-disguised anti-Jewish measure, an attempt to compel Jews either to violate halacha or emigrate. In the not-too-distant past, many of the societies that were exquisitely sensitive to the treatment of animals were often quite callous and sadistic to their resident Jews.

We should be leery of the motives of the activists. By the same token, we should be assiduous in doing our part in eliminating genuine mistreatment of animals and think twice about eating meat of animals that we know are being treated inhumanely just for our pleasure.

— Rav Steven Pruzansky is Israel Region Vice-President for the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of “Repentance for Life” now available from Kodesh Press.


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