Friday, November 26, 2010

A-Hunting We Won't Go

Ah, Fall. The crisp air, the beautiful foliage and, for those who live in rural areas, the hunting season! Yes, this is the time of year when, permit in hand, hunters take to the woods for sport.

The permissibility of hunting according to Jewish law is not as straight-forward as one might imagine. Actually, there are cogent arguments for and against hunting and trapping in Jewish tradition.

In Genesis (1:26), God explicitly gives human beings dominion over the entire planet - meaning all animals, vegetables and minerals. Dominion, however, does not mean tyranny or abuse, but rather responsibility. In fact, this verse is one that is at the heart of Judaism’s sensitive environmental philosophy.

While humans have dominion over animals, Judaism prohibits “tza’ar ba’alei chayim,” causing undue suffering to living creatures. For this reason, hunting for pleasure is strictly prohibited.

And while humankind has Divine permission to be omnivorous, Jewish law deems any animal not properly slaughtered to be "not kosher" (unfit) for Jewish consumption. Animals with life-threatening wounds, such as those resulting from guns, arrows or traps, are not kosher.

So if animals may not be hunted for either food and pleasure, when might hunting be permitted? One may hunt only for a legitimate need, such as collecting fur and leather for clothes or shoes or to obtain animal products that are used for medicine. Even then, the animal must be killed in a manner that ensures the least possible pain.

JewishTreats leaves you with this question: Would hunting to thin out a herd in danger of starvation be prohibited as tza’ar ba’alei chayim or would it be permitted in order to make certain that fewer animals starve to death? Let us know your opinion by either commenting on the Jewish Treats Blog or emailing us at

This Treat was originally published on November 24, 2008.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.


Israel G. Fuentes said...

I've always thought we have to do what is necessary in order to diminish suffering in animals, even if this means killing them without a real "need". It is not cruel, but, on the other hand, part of our responsibility. In order to avoid misuse or misunderstanding of this, it should be taken into consideration by a group on conscious people

Shoshana said...

Even if you personally do not have a need, the meat can be always be donated to a food pantry for someone who does, so the need argument against hunting is thin for me. Also, I don't think it is any more cruel to hunt organic game with guns or arrows, as opposed to the terror that domesticated animals feel as they go through the slaughterhouse. A final consideration is that domesticated meat is growth hormone and antibiotic laced, and much higher in fat and cholesterol, all of which contribute to disease and poor health. Organic, wild game has none of these additives or side effects, and is also higher in vitamins and minerals, making it a far healthier alternative. This article seems very one-sided to me, as I feel there are very Jewish, Torah-based arguments in FAVOR of hunting as being both less cruel and less harmful to one's own health.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that taketh in hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten, he shall pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. (Leviticus 17:13)
I don't see how killing an animal quickly and as painlessly as possible is more cruel than torturing an animal to death which is what so often goes on in slaughterhouses. I also don't understand the antipathy towards hunting for food among some. What if one was a hunter-gatherer and hunting was the only way to obtain meat? Would that mean that a person could only be a vegetarian? The above verse seems to imply that hunting for food is permissible.