The Bible contains no comprehensive principle regarding the rightsof animals. In the Biblical account of creation man is made sole ruler over the lower creatures, with the right to use them for whatever purpose he desires (Gen. i. 28; Ps. viii. 6-8). Still, in the legislative portions of the Bible there are many laws concerning the rights of dumb creatures; so many, in fact, as to justify the assumption of the Rabbis that kindness to animals is a Biblical injunction ( ; B. M. 32b). The prohibition against eating a limb or flesh cut from a living animal was included by the Rabbis in the seven Noachian Laws, and the act was thus forbidden not only to Israelites, but also to other nations.

Precepts of Consideration.

Animals must not be tortured unnecessarily. The ox must not be muzzled while threshing (Deut. xxv. 4), but must be free to eat of the corn while working, as the human laborer is permitted to do (Deut. xxiii. 25, 26; B. M. 87b). The Rabbis considered the term "ox" to be a generic term including all animals. Nor does it matter whether the animal belongs to a Jew or not; the Jew who employs it in threshing must not muzzle it (B. M. 90a; Maimonides, "Yad," Sekirut, xiii. 3; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 338; compare I Cor. ix. 9).

It is forbidden to emasculate an animal, whether clean or unclean, although when emasculated it may, if clean, be used for food (Lev. xxii. 24; Shab. 111a; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 5, 11). It is forbidden to pair, or couple in doing any kind of work, animals of different species, especially to pair a wild with a tame animal (Lev. xix. 19; Deut. xxii. 10, and Sifre ad loc.; B. Ḳ. 54b; Kil. viii. 1, 2).

Mother and young must not be slaughtered on the same day (Lev. xxii. 28). When the paternity of an animal is known, or can be ascertained, it is also forbidden to kill father and young on the same day. Although the transgressor of this commandment is liable to the punishment of flagellation, the animals may be used for food. The seller, if he knows that they are bought to be slaughtered on the same day, must notify the buyer of the relationship of the animals when he sells a mother with its young—for instance, if sold directly before the holidays, when any one buying cattle is presumed to intend to slaughter them immediately (Ḥul. 83a; "Yad," Sheḥiṭah, xiii.; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 16).

It is forbidden to take both mother and young from a nest. When the mother is liberated the young may be appropriated (Deut. xxii. 6). This law applies only to clean, undomesticated birds, but if one has domesticated geese, pigeons, etc., he need not drive off the mother when he takes the young (Ḥul. 138b et seq.; Yoreh De'ah, 292).


Hunting was discouraged by the Rabbis (see Ḥul. 60b), and the later authorities forbid its pursuit entirely if merely for sport (Ezekiel Landau, "Noda' bi-Yehudah," series ii.; Yoreh De'ah, 10).

The various regulations for the lawful killing of animals ("sheḥiṭah") are not only in harmony with the principle of the prevention of cruelty, but seem to have been dictated by it. These laws have no definite Scriptural origin, although the Rabbis take as a basis for them a Biblical expression (Deut. xii. 21). While the Rabbis themselves do not assign the prevention of cruelty to animals as the reason for the regulations (see Maimonides, "Moreh Nebukim," iii. 26, 48), many of their provisions—for instance, that the knife must be sharp, smooth, without any perceptible notch, and must be drawn, not pressed, against the throat of the animal (see Sheḥiṭah)—were obviously instituted for the purpose of lessening pain. In spite of the attempts made in various European states in the last fifty years to forbid the Jewish mode of sheḥiṭah on the ground of cruelty, this institution of Judaism still stands vindicated as far more humane than any of the modes employed by non-Jews (see Dembo, "Slaughtering of Animals").

The Jewish law not only forbids cruelty, but also enjoins kindness, to animals. "If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and thou wouldst forbear to unload him, thou shalt surely help with him" (Ex. xxiii. 5). The expression "of him that hateth thee" is explained by the Rabbis to refer to an irreligious Jew or to a non-Jew (B. M. 32b; "Yad," Roẓeaḥ, xiii.; Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 272).

If an animal falls into a pit on the Sabbath, food must be provided for it there for the day, and it must be removed in the evening. Should the animal be in danger of not being able to live through the day, the removal of vessels and tools from one place to another in order to save it is permitted (Shab. 128a; "Yad," Shabbat, xxv. 26; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 305, 19). It is also permitted to ask a non-Jew to milk one's cow on the Sabbath when she is suffering from an oversupply of milk (Asheri to B. M. ii. 29). It is, moreover, lawful to cut the nails of an animal, or to comb it, or to heal it, on the weekdays of the holidays (M. Ḳ. 10a; Rashi ad loc.; "Yad," Shebitot Yom-Ṭob, viii. 15; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 536, 1-3).

Rest on Sabbath for Animals.

Beasts of burden and all domestic animals must rest on the Sabbath day (Ex. xx. 10, xxiii. 12; Deut. v. 14). It is not permitted to ride an animal on the Sabbath day, or to ride in a wagon drawn by animals, even when the driver is a non-Jew (Yer. Beẓah v. 2; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, l.c. 18, Isserles' gloss).

The Rabbis enlarged upon the principle of kindness to animals found in these Mosaic injunctions, by instituting laws to regulate man's dealings with the lower creatures. They teach that before an Israelite sits down to his meal his animals must first be provided with food (Ber. 40a; "Yad," 'Abadim, ix. 8). Some of the Rabbis are of the opinion that no one is permitted to buy animals unless he is able to support them (Yer. Ket. iv. 8). The ethical value of this precept is brought out with great emphasis in the haggadic portions of the Talmud. Moses and David were chosen leaders of Israel because as shepherds they had shown themselves kind and sympathetic to the lower animals (Midrash Rabbah Ex. ii. 3). The angel of God took the part of the dumb creature, demanding of Balaam why he smote his ass (Tan. and Yalk. to Num. xxii. 32). "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast,but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Prov. xii. 10). God, the Righteous, has pity on animals as well as on man, inasmuch as He saved the animals together with Noah from the Flood (Yalḳ. ad loc., and to Noaḥ, 56). Rabbi Judah I was punished with bodily suffering during many years because, when a young calf that was being led to slaughter hid its face in his skirts, he said, "Go! for this purpose wast thou created!" When, after many years of suffering, he showed mercy to a nest of mice which his maid wished to destroy, he was again restored to health (B. M. 85a). Standing not "in the way of sinners" (Ps. i. 1) is explained as a prohibition against associating with hunters who plague animals by urging dogs against them ('Ab. Zarah 18b; see Rashi). Compare Circus; Sheḥiṭah.

  • Hamburger, R. B. T. s.v. Thierquillerei;
  • Saalschütz, Das Mosaische Recht, xvii.;
  • Löw, Thierschutz im Judenthume, Budapest, 1890;
  • Suwalsky, Ḥayye ha-Yehudi, ch. 49.
L. G. J. H. G.
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