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Book: Jews

Chapter: 4. Do Jews Not Care about Animal Welfare?

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.35985


A common criticism of Jews levelled by antisemites
is that Judaism fosters an unethical attitude
toward animals. During the Nazi period, such
criticism was a central theme. In Nazi propaganda,
kashrut (a set of Jewish laws regulating
slaughter) was deliberately misrepresented so as
to tie in with claims that Jews engaged in perverse
ritual killings of humans for their blood.
The truth, however, is that Judaism teaches
that animals are part of God’s creation and
should be treated with compassion. This principle
is referred to in rabbinic sources as ‘tzar baalei
chayim’ (the prohibition on causing pain to any
living creature). According to the Talmud, Jews
are not to cause suffering to any animals – such a
view is based on Bible stories which use kindness
to animals as a demonstration of the virtues of
various individuals.

Chapter Contributors

  • Peter Cave ( - pcave) 'The Open University and New York University (London)'
  • Dan Cohn-Sherbok ( - dcohn-sherbok) 'University of Wales (Emeritus Professor) and Rabbi'