Animal Cruelty (tzaar baalei chayim) and Compassion
Helping an Animal In Need

(ד) לֹא־תִרְאֶה֩ אֶת־חֲמ֨וֹר אָחִ֜יךָ א֤וֹ שׁוֹרוֹ֙ נֹפְלִ֣ים בַּדֶּ֔רֶךְ וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ֖ מֵהֶ֑ם הָקֵ֥ם תָּקִ֖ים עִמּֽוֹ׃ (ס)

(4) Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fallen down by the way, and hide thyself from them; thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.

(ה) כִּֽי־תִרְאֶ֞ה חֲמ֣וֹר שֹׂנַאֲךָ֗ רֹבֵץ֙ תַּ֣חַת מַשָּׂא֔וֹ וְחָדַלְתָּ֖ מֵעֲזֹ֣ב ל֑וֹ עָזֹ֥ב תַּעֲזֹ֖ב עִמּֽוֹ׃

(5) If you see your enemy's donkey lying under its burden, and you are inclined to refrain from helping him; you shalt surely help with him.

  • Do you think the first verse appears to suggest we are required to help when a non-Jews' donkey or ox falls down?
  • Does the second verse undermine the reasoning for the first הלכה?
How Far Do You Go When Helping Animals?

גמ׳ אמר רב יהודה אמר רב בהמה שנפלה לאמת המים מביא כרים וכסתות ומניח תחתיה ואם עלתה עלתה מיתיבי בהמה שנפלה לאמת המים עושה לה פרנסה במקומה בשביל שלא תמות פרנסה אין כרים וכסתות לא לא קשיא הא דאפשר בפרנסה הא דאי אפשר בפרנסה אפשר בפרנסה אין ואי לא מביא כרים וכסתות ומניח תחתיה והא קא מבטל כלי מהיכנו סבר מבטל כלי מהיכנו דרבנן צער בעלי חיים דאורייתא ואתי דאורייתא ודחי דרבנן:

GEMARA. Rab Judah said in Rab's name: If an animal falls into a dyke, one brings pillows and bedding and places [them] under it, and if it ascends it ascends. An objection is raised: If an animal falls into a dyke, provisions are made for it where it lies so that it should not perish. Thus, only provisions, but not pillows and bedding? — There is no difficulty: here it means where provisions are possible; there, where provisions are impossible. If provisions are possible, well and good; but if not, one brings pillows and bedding and places them under it. But he robs a utensil of its readiness [for use]?[The avoidance of] suffering of dumb animals is a Biblical [law], so the Biblical law comes and supersedes the [interdict] of the Rabbis.

  • What הלכות can preventing animal suffering be brought as the reason for their existence?
  • What do you think is the reason for having the avoidance of suffering of animals being more important than הלכות רבנן?

Going Beyond Simply Stopping Animal Cruelty

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ki Tetse (5768) – Animal Welfare, Blog;

Judaism regards animals as sentient beings. They may not think or speak, but they do feel. They are capable of distress. There is such a thing as cruelty to animals , and as far as possible it should be avoided.

Thus, for example, in Ki Tetse we read:

Do not muzzle an ox when it is treading grain.

What is striking about this law is that it parallels provisions for human beings as well:

When you come [to work] in your neighbour’s vineyard, you may eat as many grapes as you desire to satisfy your hunger. However, you may not put any into a receptacle that you may have. When you come [to work] in your neighbour’s standing grain, you may take the ears with your hand. However, you may not lift the sickle [for your own benefit] in your neighbour’s grain.

The principle is the same in both cases: it is cruel to prevent those working with food from eating some of it. To be sure, in the case of humans there is a delicate balance of reciprocal responsibility. The employer must allow his employee to eat, but the employee must not engage in petty theft. But the parallel is instructive. Animals, too, have feelings and they must be respected.

  • What is the Torah trying to teach us when it compares the laws for working an animal to the laws when hiring a Jewish worker?
  • How far is this passage suggesting we should go to avoid cruelty to animals?

Moral Imperative or Halachic Responsibilty?

Rabbi David Blech, Judaism and Animal Experimentation, Tradition 22(2)

(Torah) sources serve only to demonstrate that animal directed conduct which is compassionate in nature constitutes a "good deed" but do not serve to establish a system of responsibilities. Particularly in light of the strong (halachic) element present in Judaism, the absence of (every-day) regulations might well be regarded as indicative of the absence of serious ethical concern for the welfare of members of the animal kingdom.

But this is demonstrably not the case, for, in Jewish teaching, there is no lack of laws designed to protect and promote animal welfare. The most obvious example of a regulation having such an effect, and one which is clearly biblical in origin, is contained in the verse "If thou seest the ass of him that hateth thee lying under its burden, thou shalt forebear to pass by him; thou shalt surely release it with him" (Exodus 23:5). The selfsame concern is manifest in the prohibition against muzzling an ox while it threshes in order that the animal be free to eat of the produce while working (Deuteronomy 25:4). Similarly Scripture provides that both domestic animals and wild beasts must be permitted to share in produce of the land which grows without cultivation during the sabbatical year...

Sabbath laws contained in both formulations of the (ten commandments) reflect a concern which goes beyond the mere elimination of pain and discomfort and serve to promote the welfare of animals in a positive manner by providing for their rest on the Sabbath day: "But the seventh day is a sabbath unto the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work. . . nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle. . . "(Deuteronomy 5: 14). Even more explicit in expressing concern for the welfare of animals is the verse ". . . but on the seventh day thou shalt rest; that thine ox and thine ass may have rest" (Exodus 23:12).

  • What are the reasons given here as to why someone should show mercy/kindness to animals?
  • What do you think is the main reason for having unnecessary pain in animals?
Compassion When Killing Animals

(י) וכן אסר לשחוט 'אותו ואת בנו' 'ביום אחד' - להשמר ולהרחיק לשחוט משניהם הבן לעיני האם כי צער בעלי חיים בזה גדול מאד אין הפרש בין צער האדם עליו וצער שאר בעלי חיים כי אהבת האם ורחמיה על הולד אינו נמשך אחר השכל רק אחר פועל הכח המדמה הנמצא ברוב בעלי חיים כמו שנמצא באדם:

(10) It is also prohibited to kill an animal with its young on the same day (Lev. 22:28), in order that people should be restrained and prevented from killing the two together in such a manner that the young is slain in the sight of the mother; for the pain of the animals under such circumstances is very great. There is no difference in this case between the pain of man and the pain of other living beings, since the love and tenderness of the mother for her young ones is not produced by reasoning, but by imagination, and this faculty exists not only in man but in most living beings.

  • Why does the רמב"ם believe that we should treat animals this way when we slaughter them?
  • Does this reason contradict our other sources reasoning?