Jewish law states that, if meat is to be eaten (Genesis IX: 3), Jews are required to dispatch an animal by shechita, a carefully prescribed humane method. It is the only method permitted by Jewish law and its practice causes no suffering to the animal.

Animal welfare in Jewish law

Jewish law requires that animals be treated with consideration, kindness and respect. The Bible (Torah) is the first systematic legislation prohibiting cruelty to animals and mandating their humane treatment. These laws are binding on Jews today.

For example:

• It is prohibited to cause pain to animals - Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim - (Talmud B.M. 32a)

• A person is required to feed his animals before himself (Deuteronomy XI:15)

• Animals are to rest on the Sabbath since work is forbidden (Ex. XX:10 and Deut V:14)

• It is prohibited to sever a limb from a live animal and eat it (Genesis IX:4)

• One is obligated to relieve an animal’s suffering (Deuteronomy XXII:4)

• It is forbidden to kill a cow and her calf on the same day (Leviticus XXII:28)

• An animal threshing corn must not be muzzled (Deuteronomy XXV:4)

• An ox and donkey must not be harnessed together (Deuteronomy XXII:10)

From these biblical injunctions flow numerous laws for animal care and relief of animal suffering. Blood sports have always been forbidden to Jews.

Jewish teaching permits the taking of an animal’s life in order to fulfill the human need for food. The method is through shechita and a shochet is always aware that it is his responsibility to perform shechita only as prescribed by the Torah (Jewish law), which is a most humane method. Any modification renders the meat unconditionally forbidden to Jews as food.

Judaism recognizes the link between the treatment of animals and the treatment of human beings. A person who is cruel to animals is likely to be cruel to people. Animal welfare is an important part of Jewish law and tradition. The personal conduct of a Jew in his religious observance and moral integrity is a fundamental part of the assessment of his suitability to practise as a licensed shochet.