Torah For Today: Rescuing animals

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Torah For Today: Rescuing animals

After Paul “Pen” Farthing rescued 150 animals from Afghanistan, Rabbi Zvi Solomons reflects on the Jewish view on animal rights

Paul “Pen” Farthing
Paul “Pen” Farthing

Former Royal Marine Paul “Pen” Farthing rescued 150 animals from Afghanistan and brought them to Britain. So, what does the Torah say about this?

We are in the run-up to the Day of Atonement, when we try to remember our duties to the Almighty, after having hopefully fixed our feelings in our duties to each other. The rabbis talk about different kinds of mitzvot.

There are mitzvot that are between man and man, and between man and God, but what about those concerning animal life?

There is no concept in Judaism of animal rights. We mortal human beings are nonetheless considered to be masters of the universe, and as such the animals of creation are supposed to serve us. This is the blessing that was given to Noah and his children, upon their being permitted to eat meat. However, we are supposed to treat all of creation with respect and we are expected to care for it and not to destroy it.

Indeed, all human beings are taught not to cause unnecessary distress to animals. The Torah is replete with commandments concerning having regard to the feelings of animals, including not to ignore animals that are wandering and not to pass by an animal that has collapsed under its load or in distress.

When we see the effort to save the lives of dogs and cats made by former Royal Marine Paul “Pen” Farthing to bring them over from Afghanistan we can feel some sympathy, particularly those of us who have pets, and feel they are very much part of our family.

It is, nonetheless, essential to remember that animals are not human and that human life takes precedence over all other forms of life. 

Our stewardship means we should consider all life sacred, and this includes the treatment of animals, while remembering that our prime responsibility is to human life. Saving one human is infinitely preferable to the loss of hundreds of our furry friends.

  •   Rabbi Zvi Solomons serves JCoB, the Jewish Community of Berkshire in Reading

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