by Richard H. Schwartz
Judaism has one of the oldest and best developed legislative systems and tenets for protecting animals. The principle of tsa'ar ba'alei chayim is enshrined in Torah and Halacha. As the Encyclopedia Judaica states in its entry under, "Animals: Cruelty to:
Moral and legal rules concerning the treatment of animals are based on the principle that animals are part of God's creation toward which man bears responsibility. Laws and other indications in the Pentatuech and the rest of the bible make it clear not only that cruelty to animals is forbidden but also that compassion and mercy to them are demanded by God.
This sensibility, the normative compassion for animal life, found abundantly in our traditional Jewish texts, is in need of re-assertion, particularly in the face of the menace of species extinction and technological death. It is a Jewish responsibility to learn the Jewish principles of concern for animals and to judge modern behavior toward animals in the light of these principles. Ignorance of how food animals are raised on modern farms, needlessly exploited in laboratories, in the entertainment industries, and elsewhere must be addressed by rabbis and educators. This booklet is designed to facilitate awareness of the tradition of tsa'ar ba-alei chayim and to be used as an educational tool by Jewish students, rabbis, and educators.