Sunday, April 7, 2024

Animal Rights, Jewish Rights and Kashrut


Animal Rights, Jewish Rights and Kashrut

For the video discussion:


This portion, Shmini ( Leviticus 11), includes in it some of the key principals of kashrut, so it gives us an opportunity to explore how and why it is such a controversial topic:


For centuries, kashrut was a way of distinguishing Jews from their neighbors, even from their Muslim neighbors who observed some variation on the method of Shechitah, or slaughtering of the animal.


Right now- it is a critical matter in Europe, where countries are pushing a ban on both Jewish and Muslim kosher & halal slaughter.

Thus, the European Union Court in effect allowed the banning of kosher meat by requiring stunning before Shechita, a method which has been proven by animal rights activists, such as Temple Grandin, to be ineffective and often itself, an act of painful cruelty.


Elliot Abrams, one of America’s most senior foreign policy experts, now on the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.


We saw another form on Feb. 13, 2024, when the so-called European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Belgium was entirely free to ban kosher slaughter.

In regards to freedom of religion, the court reduced it in the context of animal rights:

 “The Court considered that the protection of public morals, to which Article 9 of the Convention referred, could not be understood as being intended solely to protect human dignity in the sphere of inter-personal relations. The Convention was not indifferent to the living environment of individuals covered by its protection and in particular to animals, whose protection had already been considered by the Court. Accordingly, the Convention could not be interpreted as promoting the absolute upholding of the rights and freedoms it enshrined without regard to animal suffering.”


The writer comments:

Let’s be clear: The court found that the practice of Judaism endangered “public morals.” This, on the continent where the very existence of Jews was not so long ago considered a threat to public morals. Nor is Belgium alone; kosher slaughter is also banned in Sweden, Iceland, Norway, and Slovenia. So far. The president of the European Jewish Congress, Ariel Muzicant, said after the February ruling that “We are already seeing attempts across Europe to follow this Belgian ban, now sadly legitimised by the ECHR.”



Europe’s hypocrisy is visible to all:

Ira Rifkin


If easing animal cruelty is the motivation, why are factory farming, the isolation and confining of veal calves, the cutting of hens’ beaks, the production of foie gras and the endless pregnancies that dairy cows are forced to endure also not outlawed? Then there is the continued use of animals for human medical research and the legality of hunting strictly for sport.


But there is nothing new under the sun. It is not an attempt to put Muslims in  their place( politely pushing them back to North Africa and the Middle East) with Jews as an incidental target. .

Jews have been targeted all along.

Here is a document, from my father’s archives. Of the same law being pushed in post-Holocaust Germany:


To make it short and simple, the same law was being promulgated in July 6 1951 news article., Allgemeine:


New “Animal Protection” in Bavaria:

The limitation on the killing of animals:The demand for a ban on kosher slaughter


He calls this proposed law the height of hypocrisy, a shameless attempt to gain votes in an election.

. A few months ago, the new head of the Bavarian State Compensation Office described the reparations as a crime against the Bavarian people; Now people in the same city are declaring that slaughtering must be banned for reasons of humanity. In a country where the cry of pain of countless murdered Jews went almost unheard, it must be more than strange to display excessive love for animals by accusing Jews of crimes against humanity for slaughtering them.


Strutting around in the toga of animal friendliness has long been a well-known

anti-Semitic practice. It's always the same circles: they preach love for

animals and trample on charity. We remember the Nazis, who banned slaughter

and practiced the mass slaughter of entire groups of people


He then went on to list the many exceptionally cruel methods of slaughter that were standard:

Should we also point out the cruel method of killing crabs, eels or rabbits? Compare also the ritual killing of poultry and the tearing off of the heads of pigeons and chickens, which is common in non-Jewish households, as well as the slaughter of geese and ducks with blunt or jagged knives, which is carried out by unprofessional people. These domestic slaughters fly in the face of all humanity.


The great irony, he pointed out, that it was the German Military ,in 1894 ,that had determined that :


On the basis of this report, the army administration made killing by cutting the neck compulsory in the meat canning factories that worked for the army. The same thing had been ordered at that time by the Dutch War Ministry for similar considerations.


Going back to Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the foremost experts on animal care, she is working with Rabbinic authorities to introduce methods that are effective, work with rules of kashrut, to everyone’s benefit, and not grandstanding while there are greater cruelty issues abounding.


So, let’s take a quick glance at some principals of kashrut, based on the text of the Torah



The right to eat meat is given to the descendants of Noah after the flood, a concession to humanity, which has become violent, with the limitation that the blood must be poured out. The killing of animals is put on a lower level than that of the killing of man, yet there is a recognition of the concession to human appetite, not a whole sale blessing (This is different from the attitude to sex--in Christian scriptures, it is a concession to human passion- Paul -Better to marry than burn in hell, Identification of the fruit of the garden with sexuality. It is missing in main Jewish sources, though it may have been in the sects that left us the Dead Sea scroll, and are , since then, dead themselves.


In Rabbinic law, this concession is also basis for universal prohibition of " Ever Min HaChay"- the limb of a living being.


This is a minimum moral standard for all humanity. For example.a Bedouin custom( recorded in ancient documents also)- a pre-Moslem practice--cutting a live camel and eating it in pieces. Till today, in China- brain of live monkeys. Modern version--Oyster on the half-shell, the lobster boiled alive.


These two principles become one of the pillars of kashrut:

1)    Ever min ha hay-- The animal must be killed before eaten. This is expanded upon in Lev. 17:15 “That which dies by itself or torn of beasts-- the word: terefah.Torn by wild beasts; Man is distinguished from the wild animal. That is basis for act of killing which minimizes injury and torment to the animal.

2) Dam-Life blood= also backed explicitly in Lev 17; the blood must be spilled out.. . This is basis for shechitah, as the methiod of killing which combines least pain with the immediate loss of blood.( followed up by salting or broiling to remove most blood).


Very clear that one of the very central functions of kashrut is to recognize that the cruel and savage act of eating meat is a concession to our weaknesses, and perhaps our physical needs, with the attempt to  minimize pain & cruelty and to sensitize us to suffering, the very broad category of Tsaar Baalei Chayim.


By the way, many of the very great Rabbis were vegetarian. Rav kook., David Hakohen, Shaar Yashuv Kohen, Rabbi Sacks, Rabbi Wolpe.


          What other value goes into the component of kashrut?

          There is the aspect of health, which is incorporated into the rules of examination of the animal, which exclude diseased animals,”A danger is more forbidden than that which is forbidden. “ Sakana hamira me isura.

          There is the aspects of national distinction, which separates the Jew from gentile ( as it separates Egyptian from Hebrew). This is basis for exclusion of certain animals, such as pig, or horse, or camel.


     2) Other animal rights issues in kashrut:


          a) The limitation of permitted land animals : Lev 11,.

to those w/ split hoof-chew cud-, permitted birds limited to chicken, duck, pigeon, goose families. Elimination of beast of prey-- to prevent identification with violence ( common practice--eating tiger heart to gain courage of tiger).

          b )Restriction of the boiling of calf with mother's milk. Mentioned three times, in relation to festivals. Extended to not cooking together, separate dishes, waiting 24 hours after meat.

Implicit -Emotional sympathy with the cow as a mother with feelings.


Now, today, we have a new option, one which goes around any bans on kashrut by hypocrites:




There are great debates going on now in the kosher world:


With DNA replicated meats, grown from a lab sample of a strand of meat:

1)    Is it kosher if the donor animal was still alive?

2)    Must the donor animal be kosher slaughtered?

3)    What if the donor animal was itself not a kosher animal?

4)    Is that meat now fleishig? Or Parve?

Finally, once the whole world has gone over to veggie burgers, what happens to Jewish distinctiveness?

Also, for all who think vegetarianism is a solution for animal cruelty, what will happen to the billions of domestic chickens and turkeys and cows that will be unemployed and no longer edible. What happens as they are released to the wild to fend on their own? Will they be left to starve to death slowly on the farm as the farmer has no money to feed and care for them?

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.


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