Why did G‑d create so many useless animals?
With today's technological advances, tractors have replaced draft animals and cars have replaced horse-drawn cabs. I understand that in your days animals still played an important role in the economy, but what importance do they have in the 21st century? Even more perplexing to me is why G‑d created animals like elephants, monkeys, and mice which never benefited man in the first place? What is Judaism's view on this topic?


Although mechanized vehicles have replace animal power in industrial cities, animal power is still the primary source of mechanical energy for agriculture in Asia, as well as much of Africa and Latin America, according to a report issued by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. This means that billions of people are still dependant on draft animals for food or to make a living. Today, there are about 78 million Asian buffaloes in the workforce throughout the world.

But what about the other animals? The Torah teaches that everything in the world was created to benefit man, who himself was created to serve the Creator. So what is the purpose of animals that cannot be used for energy or for food?

This question was addressed by Maimonides some 800 years ago. Everything under the moon, he wrote, was created to serve man. Even animals with no apparent benefit, "from elephants to worms," are in fact beneficial to man; we just don't realize it yet. He pointed out that science in his day discovered previously unknown benefits in animals and plants, and with time they will undoubtedly make more such discoveries. The fact that some animals appear not to offer any benefit to humans, is only because we don't yet have enough knowledge about them.

Indeed, who could imagine back then that medical experiments on monkeys and mice especially would be crucial to developing new life-saving medicines?


In a recent article on Scientific American's website, someone asked a question similar to yours. "What is the point," he asked, "in preserving endangered species that have no practical use to humans, apart from their aesthetic appeal or their intellectual interest to biologists?" In response, Thomas E. Lovejoy of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., noted that the term "no practical use to humans" is inaccurate. It should be replaced by "no known practical use given our current state of knowledge."

"One example of how this opinion can change is the Pacific Yew, which was considered a trash tree until taxol, a compound found in its bark, was discovered to be a powerful drug against ovarian, lung and other cancers . . The point here is that like books in a library, species have value (some of it practical) that may become apparent only when they are studied closely."

Additionally, "as elements of ecosystems, species contribute to valued ecosystem services: they may help regulate the watershed, generate soil fertility, pollinate crops and contribute to the cycling of water, energy and nutrients. These are important contributors to human welfare, the value of which is becoming more recognized."

What animal is more terrifying than a crocodiles? Yet in 2000, scientists have isolated a powerful agent in crocodile blood which could help conquer human infections immune to standard antibiotics!

I'll close with one more quote from Scientific American: "Even animals that humans deem insignificant because they cannot provide us with medicine, food, etc., play a big role in the food chain. . . The less aesthetically pleasing invertebrates also play crucial roles in the base of the food chain, in nutrient recycling, energy flow, and so on. Without them, we would not be here!" (Marianne Robertson, an assistant professor of biology at Millikin University in Decatur, IL).

"Everything G‑d created has a purpose. Not one thing was created in vain" (Talmud).


Maimonides. "Introduction to Commentary on the Mishnah".

Talmud, Shabbat 77b.

Lovejoy, Thomas E., Marianne Robertson. "What is the point in preserving endangered species that have no practical use to humans, apart from their aesthetic appeal or their intellectual interest to biologists?" Scientific American, October 21, 1999.

Connor, Steve. "A mouse could save your life." The Independent, March 6 2006.

Makhijani, Arjun. "Draft Power in South Asian Foodgrain Production: Analysis of the Problem and Suggestions For Policy." Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, September 1990.