Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
A new online course
Starting January 22nd
Register »
Contact Us

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.

© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
David MI 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? Reply

Tova Saul Jerusalem 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. Reply

Nadine Zimmer Portland March 26, 2015

Animals 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. Reply

David MI 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. . Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC via October 29, 2012

Re: 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 Reply

Jeff Jarrett Lancaster, PA via 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 Reply

Anonymous Montreal, QC via 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. Reply

Dr. Neil Ross Cleveland, OH 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. Reply

Chaya Brooklyn, New York 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. Reply

Anonymous Richardson, TX 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. Reply

Anonymous MC CLURE, PA October 18, 2012

Great Article Its really nice to see articles advocating for animals.

Animal cruelty is so horrible and it has to be one of the most widespread violations of the Torah.

Switching to a vegan diet is one of the best ways to reduce cruelty to innocent animals. Even going vegan one day per week helps. Reply

Dr. Neil Ross Cleveland, OH October 17, 2012

Kosher Slaughter Gene Wilder says to a chicken in his movie,
"...I don't want to kill you, I just want to make you Kosher!"
"Kosher slaughter."
How can these two words be in the same sentence? How can we justify the murder of G-d's creatures as 'Humane'? There is no difference between your pet dog/cat, and an innocent lamb. Keep a baby lamb in your house and let him bond with your children...after three months, hang him up by his rear legs and cut his throat...while your children watch. Take a trip out to a slaughterhouse...if you can find one...their location is usually disguised. Go inside if you dare.
Our Jewish ethic centers around kindness, does it not?
"All the great men ate meat...", the comment below said. Albert Einstein, the greatest man of the twentieth century, was a vegetarian. His faculties didn't suffer nor did they diminish.
How we forgive, is how G-d forgives us, how our society is judged.

Tova Saul Jerusalem, Israel October 16, 2012

Thank you This was a very nicely-worded article, and I am quite fussy about how people write about animals............ Reply

Abgr sofia October 16, 2012

a kind of logic Hey I was told that there are some african tribes who take animals only in order to drink its blood as the animal is still alive through a pipe in the leg of the animal. Also could be for the reason that there could be '' perverse' people who could decide to cut just one leg of an animal and let it alive in order to have afresh meat for longer period- for example they will cut the next leg few days afeter. Do not forget that in the past there were no frigos and the salt was not so easy to obtain. s just a logic of a consumer from the past. I have to be satisfied, no matter how.... :-) Reply

Caleb McPhillips-Bauer Meeteetse, WY October 14, 2012

Meat eating Yes, animals must be treated with respect. They too belong to G-d and Solomon tells us that the righteous regards his animals welfare. However, there is a time for force. King David says that a rod is for a donkeys back. As a cattleman I weigh these two principles often but always erring on the side of the animals comfort.

As for eating meat, why wouldn't one want to?! All the great men of the Tanach where meat eaters and beef is amazing. People have the right to be vegetarians I suppose but there is nothing immoral about eating flesh. G-d gave it to man as a gift to enjoy. Also, under temple worship it would be hard to avoid eating meat and slaughtering animals, ethically of course.

Eat more beef......grass finished preferable. Reply

Emily Brown Elko, SC August 27, 2012

Animals and Humans I am not comfortable with the fact that there are so many huge movements to help all things animal (which I am for) when we have not first moved to help incarcerated individuals. Inmates are malnourished (a cow should ruminate); a zoo must provide an adequate environment individualized to the needs of a species ( in prison, most of the time, only one of the two humans who share a cell can stand up at the same time). Now we have learned from The American Society of Addiction Medicine ( that addiction is a primary (not causal,( i.e., by drugs) chronic disease of the brain, yet we lock up human beings for manifesting non-violent symptoms of their disease. We do not lock up non-aggressive animals for manifesting the symptoms of their disease, we take them to the vets, we must take our children, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers to quality rehab. Check out the stats in your home state. How many non-violent incarcerations are drug related? Reply

Robin Oakland, CA September 6, 2011

Judaism and Vegan diet My wife is a vegan and I am vegetarian. One day soon I will be vegan.
"If Torah gives permission to eat flesh, it must be G-d's way of truly measuring how we act using the free will we are endowed with." - brilliantly said.
And hunting for sport is the epitome of evil. Reply

LBS Conway, NH June 4, 2011

Judaism And Vegan Diet It's as frustrating as it is fascinating that orthodox Jews justify eating animals using Torah.
If Torah gives permission to eat flesh, it must be Gds way of truly measuring how we act using the free will we are endowed with.
Since eating flesh and dairy are being scrutinized for causing most preventable diseases, inflicting heinous suffering upon sentient creatures, and devastating the ecological systems we need to survive, poisoning our air, water, deforesting massive swaths of rain forests for grazing, methane and Co2 emissions contributing to climate change....The sacred texts would guide Jews to destroy the miracles of Creation? How could that possibly be? Reply

Anonymous Potomac, MD May 29, 2011

Hypocrits and I suppose that confining cows inhumanely and making them eat corn (despite that their ruminative) is considered treating them decently. Please practice what you preach. The vast majority of Kosher meat is not humane. Only a select few brands are. Reply

Ariel Weber Jerusalem, Israel May 18, 2011

It is important to understand that we don't treat animals properly because they are 'humans;' we do it because we are humans! (Rav Natan Slifkin- the "Zoo Rabbi")

I think this article illustrated this point well. Reply

Related Topics
This page in other languages