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Resolution on Judaism and Fur


WHEREAS

1. Jewish worshipers chant every Sabbath and festival morning, "The soul of every living being shall praise God's name" (Nishmat kol chai tva'rech et shim'chah), but some come to synagogue during the winter months wearing coats that required the cruel treatment of some of those living beings whose souls praise God.

2. Judaism has beautiful and powerful teachings with regard to showing compassion to animals. The following are a few examples:

Moses and King David were considered worthy to be leaders of the Jewish people because of their compassionate treatment of animals, when they were shepherds. Rebecca was judged suitable to be a wife of the patriarch Isaac because of her kindness in watering the ten camels of Eliezer, Abraham's servant. Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, the redactor of the Mishna, was punished for many years at the hand of Heaven for speaking callously to a calf being led to slaughter who sought refuge beside him.

Many Torah laws mandate proper treatment of animals. One may not muzzle oxen while they are working in the field nor yoke a strong and a weak animal together. Animals, as well as their masters, are meant to rest on the Sabbath day. The importance of this concept is indicated by the fact that it is mentioned in the Ten Commandments and on every sabbath morning as part of the kiddush ceremony.

The psalmist indicates God's concern for animals, stating that "His compassion is over all of His creatures" (Psalm 145:9). And there is a mitzvah (precept) in the Torah to emulate the Divine compassion, as it is written: "And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best expressed by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal."

3. The Torah prohibits Jews from causing tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, any unnecessary pain, including psychological pain, to living creatures. The Talmud teaches that Jews are "rachmanim b'nei rachmanim," compassionate children of compassionate ancestors (Beitza 32b).

4. Based on the prohibition of tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, Rabbi Chaim Dovid
Halevy, late Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv issued a p'sak (rabbinic ruling) in March, 1992, indicating that Jews should not wear fur. Rabbi Halevy asked: "Why should people be allowed to kill animals if it is not necessary, simply because they desire the pleasure of having the beauty and warmth of fur coats? Is it not possible to achieve the same degree of warmth without fur?"

5. In his book, The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, Rabbi Nachum Amsel, a contemporary Israeli educator, states: "If the only reason a person wears the fur coat is to "show off" one's wealth or to be a mere fashion statement, that would be considered to be a frivolous and not a legitimate need. Rabbi Amsel also points out that hunting for sport is prohibited because it is not considered a legitimate need (Avodah Zarah 18b).

6. Fur is obtained from animals who are either trapped or raised on ranches, in ways that are far from the Jewish teachings that have been previously discussed:

Animals caught in steel-jaw leg hold traps suffer slow, agonizing deaths. Some are attacked by predators, freeze to death, or chew off their own legs to escape. One can get a "feel for fur" by slamming your fingers in a car door. A Canadian Wildlife service report gives an idea of the terror that trapped animals face and their desperate efforts to escape:

Treatment of animals raised on "fur ranches" is also extremely cruel. Confined to lifelong confinement, millions of foxes, beavers, minks, ocelots, rabbits, chinchillas, and other animals await extinction nothing to do, little room to move, and all their natural instincts thwarted. The animals are simply a means to the maximizing of production and profit, and there is no regard for their physical, mental, or emotional well being. Because of the enforced confinement and lack of privacy, naturally wild animals often exhibit neurotic behaviors such as compulsive movements and self mutilation. The animals finally suffer hideous deaths by electrocution by rods thrust up their anuses, by suffocation, by poisoning, which causes painful muscle cramping, or by having their necks broken.

7. For many species, the killing of animals for their furs have made them endangered or caused them to disappear completely from some localities.

8. Millions of animals not wanted by trappers, including dogs, cats, and birds, die in traps annually and are discarded as "trash animals." Many trapped animals leave behind dependent offspring who are doomed to starvation.

9. According to the International Society for Animal Rights, Inc., to make one fur garment requires 400 squirrels; 240 ermine; 200 chinchillas; 120 muskrats; 80 sables; 50 martens; 30 raccoons; 22 bobcats; 12 lynx; or 5 wolves.

10. People can stay warm during wintry weather without wearing fur. There are many non-fur coats and hats, available in a variety of styles, that provide much warmth. Imitation fur is produced at such a high level of quality that even among Chasidim there is a small but growing trend to wear synthetic "shtreimlach" (fur-trimmed hats). Synthetic garments are also moth proof, water repellant, and far less expensive to buy and to maintain. Synthetic furs also require less than one-third the energy for production than real furs do.

11. While Jews are to recite a special blessing when putting on a new garment, an exception is made for fur garments, since animals had to be killed in making them.

12. Young people are getting an incorrect lesson on Jewish values when they see worshippers coming to synagogue in fur coats on the Sabbath day?

13. Not only do animals benefit from our compassion and concern -- we, too, benefit by becoming more sensitive and more humane, as Jews and civilized human beings.

14. At a time when we have witnessed horrible acts of terror and violence, giving up purchasing and wearing fur garments can be a step away from our apparent culture of violence to a world with greater compassion to animals, which can lead to increased compassion to other people, and hence a more compassionate, stable, and harmonious world.

WE RESOLVE,

To help educate Jews (and others) about Jewish values and the realities of fur production, so that they will avoid purchasing and buying fur garments.

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