"Then there's what calls itself the 'Animal Rights'
movement, whose true danger isn't limited to the threat it poses to legal
shechita, but lies in its very credo, the idea that animals have rights. We have
obligations towards animals, to be sure. But assigning them 'rights' leads to
obscenities like a book, Eternal Treblinka, that compares factory farming to
Nazi concentration camps. The perverse overvaluing of animal lives swings in
tandem with the devaluing of human life, both at its beginning and at its end.
Standing firm on the issue of the value of every moment of human life is
imperative." Rabbi Ari Shafran
Rabbi Shafran's statement is meant to address: 'spiritual threats to our
people' Ironically it is his spiritually impoverished view of animals that is
WHAT IS OBSCENE....
Based on the statement by Rabbi
Shafran: "Standing firm on the issue of the value of every moment of human life
is imperative", it is possible to conclude that the life of a human serial
killer has more value, then that of a rescue dog who saves many lives. Rabbi
Shafran ignores the irrational and unjust nature of a hierarchy which exalts
human lives above all others. Furthermore there appears to be confusion about
the nature of obscenity, as he qualifies assigning rights to animals as obscene.
This distortion defies the very definition of the word, which is:
obscene: Indecency, lewdness, or offensiveness in behavior, expression, or
Something, such as a word, act, or expression, that is
indecent or lewd.
Something that is offensive or repulsive to the senses.
Those of us in the animal rights community are often assaulted by images of
violence to animals, ranging from forced servitude to the extremes of sadism on
the slaughterhouse floor or as subjects in gruesome vivisection experiments.
Rabbi Shafran would have us believe such images are not obscene:
man above the
When these images are presented to non-activists, they
often refuse to look To those whose compassion has not been desensitized by the
sanctity of human domination over animals, these images are indecent, offensive
and repulsive, the precise definition of obscene.. Rabbi Avi Shafran would have
us believe it is kindness and generosity of spirit that are obscene. To him,
based on the paradigm of human supremacy, the image of a man in India befriended
by a monkey would be degrading. He would reserve such affection only to a human
child, thereby creating a less friendly world for all: humans and animals alike.
peaceful co-existence with animals...
Though not as 'exalted' as Avi
Shafran, who by his own words is above such friendship, the man who has earned
the trust of a monkey, understands that it is peaceful co-existence, not
dominion over animal-kind that is decent and life affirming.
In a recent
case before the US Supreme Court there was an effort to ban the viewing of
extreme animal abuse, such as crush videos, where an animal is sadistically
killed for human gratification. Though the ban was not passed due to freedom of
speech issues, there was a recognition, based on the legal definition of
obscenity, that violence to animals is as obscene as pornography.
Obscenity - legal definition: "The character or quality of being obscene; an
act, utterance, or item tending to corrupt the public morals by its indecency or
According to the legal definition, obscenity is that which
corrupts the public morals. It is extreme acts of animal abuse that are viewed
as obscene, not as Rabbi Avi Shafran suggests granting them full rights. It is
acts of lewdness and indecency either to humans or animals that are viewed with
the potential to undermine pubic morals. For this reason the extreme violence on
slaughter house floors is hidden from view. It is preferable to hide such
cruelty with the veneer of righteousness.
Proverbs 12:10 states, "The
righteous person regards the life of his or her animal."In Judaism, one who is
unnecessarily cruel to animals cannot be regarded as a righteous individual."
Prof Richard Schwartz
The implication being that cruelty can be made
righteous contingent on interest.
Sir Bertrand Russell astutely noted the
intention of the concept of 'righteous' wrong doing, when he stated: "The
essence of the conception of righteousness, therefore, is to afford an outlet
for sadism by cloaking cruelty as justice"
By holding only human life as
worthy of rights and compassion, along with the concept of righteous cruelty
Rabbi Shafran has set into motion cruel and unjust actions against animals. That
he fails to understand the nature of his pronouncement is tragic for animals and
humanity. His beliefs are firmly rooted in genesis:
"Genesis 9:1-3 "'The
fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird
of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish in the
sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be
food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.'"
The cruelty and violence to animals considered a sacred right by the
judeo.christian tradition is unjust, indecent, repulsive to the senses and
destructive of public morals; This is the definition of obscenity.
corruption of public morals...
Indian law also considers animal abuse as
detrimental to public morality. It is this premise along with a clause in the
Indian constitution that mandates compassion to animals, that has resulted in a
a supreme court decision to ban the use of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, and
lions as performing animals.
"The court ruled that exhibiting endangered
animals for entertainment was such an obnoxious and pernicious activity which
could not fall within the meaning of the word 'trade'; that the government ban
on the use of the animals in question under the PCA (Notification dt.
14.10.1998) was to enforce the fundamental duty to have compassion, and its
impact on the right to trade was merely incidental; and that the right to life
includes livelihood, but could not extend to a trade which is injurious to
public interest or has an insidious effect on public morals'
While the US Supreme Court failed to ban the distribution of the extreme
sadism of crush videos as injurious to public morals, the Indian Supreme Court,
rooted in the more compassionate religious view of ahimsa, put the needs of
wilderness animals above the rights of a human to exploit and use them for
The idea that animals have the right to their own lives,
to exist, to not be treated violently, to not be slaughtered or exploited is
life affirming and decent:
"As each birth of each creature seen is as a
first - a genesis... It is felt as if it were the very first time - it has to it
a "newness" as if it had never been seen or felt before. Such is a heart who
feels, who has not been calloused, nor desensitized and whose eyes remain open.
Each life is precious. Each life is unique. For who does not marvel and the
heart skip a beat to see a live birth ?"Charlett Hobart
The miracle of
life is wasted on Rabbi Shafran.
By putting man above the animals the
seeds of human destruction are sown... Those incapable of understanding or
acting on the belief that all life is sacred have destroyed not only an animal,
but their own inner peace, sense of justice and generosity of spirit..The man
befriended by the monkey has sown the seeds of joy and compassion in his soul.
The vivisector has sown the seeds of violence and cruelty. When the human spirit
is depleted by acts of violence, it unleashes an affinity towards greater
violence. It is irresponsible to promote a view that leads to the corruption of
public morals by implying that granting rights to animals degrades the human
An additional fallacy to denying rights to animals, is the
assumption that compassion for their suffering somehow undermines humanity.
History has shown that it is actually the other way around.
Violence to animals no matter how righteously it is
justified, leads to greater violence towards humans.
societies that indulge in violence to animals, with the excuse that it their
divine right, have a history of greater violence to their fellow humans. The
reverse is also true. Societies , such as the Jains of India, who have practiced
non-violence to animals for thousands of years. tend to have a much better
record of cooperation with human neighbors. They do not tear down their homes,
grab their land or kill their children. They understand that all humans are
entitle to live in peace, feel safe in their homes and value their children.
Violence to one's neighbors is an obscenity directly derived from the view which
grants man the right to slaughter and exploit the weak and defenseless.
A tradition which allows for the condemnation of basic
compassion as it is reverent to the enforcer, is similar to any organization
that uses thugs, respected for their ability to intimidate and exploit the weak
and defenseless. When a pillar of the community fails to understand that any
treblinka, anywhere, no matter who the victim, is obscene, it implies a morally
bereft sense of compassion. Religious values that legitimize and grant
consideration to the view that compassion for animals is an obscenity do not
have the potential to deliver compassion.
Though there are
many kind individuals in the judeo.christian tradition, their compassion is not
encouraged, often mocked, and they are even accused of destroying humanity
simply for understanding an irrational hierarchy that legitimizes animal abuse
is cruel and unusual punishment to harmless animals. When the core of a religion
allows for the destruction, when necessary, of defenseless creatures it is
indeed obscene. All holocausts are obscene.
challenges to Rabbi Shafran...
In responses from animal activists
questioning his stern view of compassion, Shafran was accorded respect he does
not grant to the victims of his ethnocentric view. In reality Shafran is no
different than the one doing the killing on the slaughter house floor, or the
one who consumes the cruelly derived product, as he grants respectability to
While the respondents are compassionate and
decent individuals, their questioning fell short of challenging the view the man
has the right to harm and slaughter animals. They addressed the issue of extreme
abuses, but did not question the concept of dominion, which is responsible for
Shafrans spiritual poverty..
Suzana Megles suggests to the
Rabbi that he consider a re-interpretation of dominion as stated by Reverend
'...to the oft-cited 'Dominion' argument,
Linzey notes: 'Dominion does not mean despotism For centuries, Christians have
interpreted Genesis I as meaning little more than 'might is right'.... In
Genesis i:26-9 humans are made in G-d's image, given dominion and in the
subsequent verse given a vegetarian diet Herb-eating dominion is hardly a
license for tyranny Our power over animals is a power to care, not to exploit.'
(see appendix A)
Andrew Linsey has praised ahimsa,
unconditional compassion, of the Jain religion as the most effective means of
establishing compassion for animals.
The tragedy for Andrew Linsey is that he is a good man, who as a representative
of a christian denomination, must work with the premise that slaughter is
allowed. Though this undoubtedly denies his deepest beliefs of compassion, he
has been ordained to preserve religious doctrine. When he went so far as to say
that only the jain concept of ahimsa has led the best possible outcome for
animals, he was criticzed by his co-religionists:
"For there is
nothing inaccessible for death.
All beings are fond of life, hate pain, like
shun destruction, like life, long to live. To all life
Jain Acharanga Sutra.
"These words of the venerable Mahavir found in the
Acharanga Sutra are some of the profoundest ever found
in a religious
scripture. They are a result of a
tremendous but simple spiritual discovery:
all life is
holy, sacred or God-given. Life, therefore, has
values - and all that lives has an interest
To almost all
Jains this will sound obvious. But to
many in the West, this spiritual
realisation has been
a long time coming. It is true that many religious
traditions contain notions of non-violence. The first
Buddhist precept is not
to kill. The Hebrew Bible
speaks eloquently of how the lion will lie down
the lamb. And in Christianity there is the idea that
finally triumph over violence. But only
Jainism has made ahimsa its central
doctrine. It alone
has consistently held the vision of a peaceable world,
realisable by moral effort and spiritual discipline.
A while ago, I was
interviewed about the awful record
of Christianity on animals in comparison
and I commented that Jainism in its care and respect
creation has more understood the Christian
doctrine of love than Christians
This may sound a very odd comment coming from a
theologian, and it certainly aroused a lot
of criticism. But I still believe
that Jains have
grasped something that most religionists have missed:
live a life without reverence for life is to lead a
life." Andrew Linsey
Apparently the criticism by the christian establishment
influenced his decision to retain allowable slaughter, an non-negotiable aspect
of dominion.. Though Linsey understands that ahimsa, which prohibits all
slaughter of animals is the most effective road to compassion, he must instead
struggle to define dominion, which despite his eloquent words, does allow for
exploitation and slaughter of animals. Once the right to slaughter an animal is
granted it is indeed a license for tyranny, no matter what follows the initial
mandate. Slaughter is not an act of love. Reverence for life is undermined by
The violence of dominion may be made to
appear benevolent, but the bottom line leads easily to the distortion that
animals have no rights. Andrew Linsey, despite compassion for the misery
inflicted on animals by dominion, has chosen to put preservation of religious
doctrine over compassion...As a Christian he must include allowable slaughter..
Though Linsey claims he does not consider dominion to be despotism, there are
few actions more despotic than the slaughter of an defenseless animals for human
When animal slaughter is prohibited, rather
than endorsed with the right to intimidate and murder animals, a basis for
compassion is set in motion, Compassion is more likely to flourish. The Jains of
India have lived non-violently in India for thousands of years. There is
evidence that this religion, based on non-violence to all, existed 8,000 years
ago in southern India, thereby predating the judeo.christian tradition. When a
compassionate message for animals is as old as the hills it is easily extended
to humans. There have been no Jain religious wars, ever: no: holocausts,
crusades, inquisitions, jihads, intifadas, forced conversions or apartheid
All evidence flies in the face of the distorttions
of Avi Shafran, yet he insists on perpetuating the great lie, that human benefit
is contingent on animal exploitation and slaughter.
attempting to reason with a cruel, angry man, who must harm animals to feel
important, would do well to leave this tradition, rather than grant legitimacy
to such an arrogant abuser...His survival as a religious leader is contingent on
donations. Depriving him of funding, would reduce his ability to promote his
sadistic policy towards animals.
Another respondent states
that Rabbi Shafran does not understand....
doesn't understand' (see appendix B)
He does not understand
because he has internalized the sacred hierarchy of dominion. With its
parameters, he is justified in stating that animal rights belittle
humanity...What must be changed is the sanctity of dominion. It must be replaced
by a more equitable view that elevates both humanity and animal-kind. Rabbi
Shafran would do well to contemplate the wisdom of violence as a means of
"It is the essential characteristic of a
wise person that he/she does not kill any living being. One should know that
non-killing and equality of all living beings are the main principles of
religion" Jain sutra
One hopes he would come to understand
the harm invoked when he denies animals their right, even to exist.
"Whoever may have been beaten or struck by me while traveling;
Whoever I may have covered by dust;
Whoever I may have rubbed up against;
Whoever may have been forced to collide with one another;
Whoever may have
pain caused by my touching or tilting them;
Whoever may have been tormented
by being turned entirely upside down;
To whomever I may have inflicted pain;
Whoever I may have frightened;
Whoever I may have shifted from one place to
Whoever I may have separated from life and made lifeless;" Jain
"May all that be forgiven and may all the suffering I caused,
knowingly or unknowingly, cease." Jain sutra
"May the ignorance
in me that caused pain in other living beings come to an end, and may they all
forgive me" Jain sutra
Animal rightists take issue with Rabbi Shafran
Written by --
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
I am that Rabbi Avi Shafran thinks that comparing factory farming to a Nazi
concentration camp is unworthy or perhaps even 'foolish' (Jewish Tribune, Jan.
When I hear people talk like this, I secretly wish that there was
such a thing as transmigration where the soul comes back in a different state '
perhaps even as an animal.
I'm sure none of us would like to come back as a
factory farm animal. How terrible it is for them to be incarcerated in dark,
airless places ' packed together with other unfortunate animals. No one would
want to smell the pollutted air, which is filled with the smell of fecal
droppings and urine. The labourers are spared because they wear masks.
poor animals will never again see G-d's beautiful sunlight or enjoy Hisfresh
air. Did G-d intend these wonderful gifts for humans only? I think not. My G-d
is a G-d of compassion, and I'm sure He does not approve of cruelty to His
I suggest Rabbi Shafran bone up on some of the wonderful
writings of the Rev. Andrew Linzey. He is an Anglican priest, theologian, author
and prominent figure in the Christian vegetarian movement. One of the things he
notes is that there have been some positive philosophical outcomes re the moral
status of animals. New scientific data reveals that all mammals experience not
just physical pain, but also mental suffering such as fear, foreboding, shock
trauma, etc. Previously, these feelings were considered belonging only to the
And to the oft-cited 'Dominion' argument, Linzey notes:
'Dominion does not mean despotism. For centuries, Christians have interpreted
Genesis I as meaning little more than 'might is right'.... In Genesis i:26-9
humans are made in G-d's image, given dominion and in the subsequent verse given
a vegetarian diet. Herb-eating dominion is hardly a license for tyranny. Our
power over animals is a power to care, not to exploit.'
In defence of animal rights
'Rabbi clearly doesn't understand
I read with interest Rabbi Avi
Shafran's piece until I came to his commentary on animal rights. He clearly does
not understand the concept. What is meant by 'animal rights' is simply the right
not to be tortured and exploited at man's anthropocentric whim. We, as a species
do horrific things to animals for food, clothing, and so-called science. My
grandfather, one of the first kosher butchers in Boro Park, Brooklyn, in the
1920s, loved animals and rescued many cats, dogs, and even birds who fell out of
their nests. In the 1970s when he had to visit a slaughterhouse, he was so
horrified by what he'd seen, he immediately became a vegetarian and gave up his
business. It is perfectly legitimate to compare the suffering of animals on
factory farms to the suffering of humans during the holocaust.
creatures suffer pain, fear, sadness, etc., and as Isaac Bashevis Singer put it
'to animals all men are Nazis.'
The Rabbi's paranoid, myopic attitude
towards animals is chillingly similar to the Nazis attitude towards us. It's not
the book Eternal Treblinka that is obscene. It's his lack of compassion.
Rina Deych, RN