Judaisms View on Treatment of Animals

I have been thinking about Judaisms view on the treatment of animals. For over 20 years I have been taking care of up to 6 cats. Currently there are only 3 cats who live inside and the oldest is 12 years old.

Judaism holds the principle of preventing tza’ar ba’alei chayim, or the suffering of living creatures. It is also important to remember that the way a man relates to the animals around him reflects on the way he relates to fellow humans.

It is very interesting that even animals must be given Shabbos rest. According to Exodus 20:10 we must allow our animals to rest on the Sabbath. Torah has many mitzvahs regarding how a person treats his domestic animals, for instance the prohibition of muzzling the ox while it works in the field.

There are also the mitzvahs regarding unloading the burden of an animal, even if we don’t like its owner {Exodus 23:5 & Deut 22:4}. And everyone knows that one must send away a mother bird if we are going to take its eggs. This mitzvah has the same reward as honoring your mother and father.

Talmud and Feeding Animals

The Talmud says that before people eat a meal, they have to feed the animals in their care. (Gitten 64) The Talmud also says that before people decide to take a work or companion animal into their home, they must first make sure they can feed the animal properly.

We are permitted to violate Shabbat to a limited extent to rescue an animal in pain or at risk of death. For example, we can move them if they are in pain, move objects that we would not otherwise be permitted to touch to relieve their pain, we may give them medicine, and we may ask non-Jews to do things that would violate Shabbat to help a suffering animal.

The following links contain more information about Judaism and treating animals.


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