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How Do You Treat Animals?

How Do You Treat Animals?



I have been researching the Seven Noahide Laws. I understand these are the biblical commands to all humanity—the children of Noah—and they provide the basis for ethical living. But looking at the list, there seems to be one that does not fit with the others:

  1. Do not worship idols—agreed, we have to believe in G‑d.
  2. Do not curse G‑d—have respect for Him. I can dig that.
  3. Do not murder—obvious.
  4. Do not steal—okay.
  5. Do not commit adultery—fine.
  6. Set up courts of justice—needed to ensure the other laws are kept.
  7. Do not eat the limb of a living animal.

I am bewildered as to why you would include the seventh law, “Do not eat the limb of a living animal.” While I have no intention of tearing off any animal limbs, I can’t see how that would be in the top seven most important things for all of humanity to observe.

Thank you for any help in enlightening this Noahide!


What is the true test of a moral person? How do you know that someone is truly a good person, and not just preaching?

One test is to observe the way they treat subordinates. Someone who can show concern for those who are lower and more helpless than themselves is a person who is truly good.

And so, in formulating laws for all mankind, the Torah gives seven commandments that are considered seven categories of ethical behavior. The prohibition to steal includes all dishonest and unethical business practices. The outlawing of adultery encompasses all inappropriate relationships. And the ban on eating the limb of a live animal is a general law which commands us to be kind to animals. In fact, Jewish law prohibits inflicting unnecessary pain on animals.

These are not arbitrary categories of law. They cover the full gamut of moral obligation toward our fellow beings: respect for G‑d who is above us, respect for human beings who are equal to us, and respect for the animal kingdom beneath us.

There is a clear hierarchy here. We are not equal with G‑d, and animals are not equal to humans. The myth of equality is necessary only to protect the weak in a world devoid of morality. But moral beings with a clear code of ethics can recognize the innate inequality of nature without exploiting it. Being higher means being more responsible. Nature is here to serve us, but we are here to serve G‑d, and that means treating all His creatures, equal or not, with respect.

Please see more on the Seven Noahide Laws on The Judaism Website.

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Discussion (20)
April 21, 2015
Is it ethical to eat meat?
Nadine, you stated that "if you are an ethical person, you should be vegan." I assume you mean that to eat meat therefore makes one unethical person.

From the Torah point of view I have to disagree.

What makes one ethical is to keep the commandments of Hashem. and it is permitted to eat meat. However, it is against Hashem's laws to cause needless suffering to animals, wantonly kill animals or to be cruel to animals. The basis of these commandments is to help us be better human beings, and certainly this includes having empathy for the feelings/quality of life of animals. But it is not to protect the "rights" of animals themselves.

I'm afraid that in essence, you may be equating human beings with animals, something that is quite unethical to do. This does not elevate animals, but rather denigrates human beings.

A certain animal rights group once actually equated the slaughter of chickens with that of the lives lost in the holocaust. Is that ethical?
April 21, 2015
Good thought you wrote---- the idea of compassionate responsibility towards subordinates, or, perhaps better stated------those who are weaker and more defenseless. As a life-long dedicated street animal-rescuer, I often see other rescuers and regular animal-lovers make the mistake of preaching that animals and people are equal beings, calling any other view "spec-ism". One can treat animals as they deserve without putting them on an equal par with people.
Tova Saul
March 26, 2015
If you are an ethical person, you should be vegan. Animals are sentient beings who deserve compassion, respect, protection, and love. I have been vegan for 27 years and feel better from an ethical standpoint, as well as physically. Veganism is better for your health, the environment, and the animals. Animals are not inanimate-non-feeling objecss; they are intelligent, sensitive, loving, and emotional creatures.
They are not on this planet to be used and disposed of. by humans.
Nadine Zimmer
November 8, 2013
meat eating
I think it should be noted that factory farming of animals is a modern reality so we should be sure to differentiate between how the animals are treated during their lifetime and the shechita itself.
We must also remember that the life of the animal raised for eventual slaughter was only made possible because its ultimate purpose was to be eaten. Therefore what should concern us is the quality of life of the animal and not its right to life so to speak.
Finally, from the Torah's point of view, animals do not intrinsically have rights at all. Rather ethical treatment of animals is a command given to human beings and is meant to elevate us, refine us, and engender compassion in us. .
October 29, 2012
I appreciate your concern. As you read in the article, Humane treatment of animals is certainly a Jewish value.

If the shechita is done correctly, the animal should lose consciousness almost immediately. There may be failures, especially with less experienced slaughterers, but these are rare. There are far more failures with electric stunning--which has proven itself a very unreliable method.

Shechita is amongst the most painless ways to kill an animal. Visit to see some scientific opinion that back this up
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
October 20, 2012
Animal Cruelty
It's interesting that regardless of our logic, as G-d-created sentient beings...made in His image, our spirits simply tell us that it's wrong. That prohibition needs no justification. It is "written" on our hearts. And because it is of G-d, only the Enemy would use our minds to question, doubt or attempt to justify a commandment from the Rightouess One that is already concurred within us
Jeff Jarrett
Lancaster, PA
October 19, 2012
Judaism and kosher meat
Jewish religious law states that an animal must be aware that it will be killed, therefore conscious, before it's killed. If Jewish law commands us to be kind to animals, this, certainly, is unkind and cruel.

Because of the way animals are killed, I will never eat kosher meats. This should be banned. It is inhumane.
Montreal, QC
October 19, 2012
Animal Cruelty & The Sociopath
The Torah isn't hinting.
It says, "Thou Shalt Not Kill!"
Speaking of sociopaths:
Didn't the Nazis use
'Speciesism' as justification for the Holocaust?
The ability to feel is the common denominator of ALL life.
Dr. Neil Ross
Cleveland, OH
October 18, 2012
Animal Cruelty and the Sociopath
It is well-known among people who study psychology that animal cruelty is closely linked to the sociopath's behavior. Some of the characteristics of a sociopath are lacking empathy, coldheartedness, lacking guilt and egocentricity. Many sociopaths become serial killers. Perhaps the Torah is hinting at the larger issue.
Brooklyn, New York
October 18, 2012
treating animals
perhaps it was a lesson for Man to stop being savage and barbaric. if you can tear the limb from a living creature, how diqusting is that? I don't understand how you could not understand. The very thought of it makes me cring. But of course the newly populated earth could not even abide by these 7 commandments.
Richardson, TX