"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 the threat....


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 appearance.

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 animals...

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 lewdness."

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' Issue90/F4/tabid/1061/Default.aspx

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 financial gain.

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 condition.

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.

Traditionally 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 their violence..

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 Andrew Linsey:

' 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...

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 pleasure,
shun destruction, like life, long to live. To all life
is dear.? 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
intrinsic values - and all that lives has an interest
in living.

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 with
the lamb. And in Christianity there is the idea that
love will 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 with Jainism,
and I commented that Jainism in its care and respect
for creation has more understood the Christian
doctrine of love than Christians have themselves.
This may sound a very odd comment coming from a
Christian theologian, and it certainly aroused a lot
of criticism. But I still believe that Jains have
grasped something that most religionists have missed:
to live a life without reverence for life is to lead a
spiritually impoverished 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 allowable slaughter.

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 aggrandizement..

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 states.

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.

Those 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....

'Rabbi clearly 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 attaining benefits.

"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 another;
Whoever I may have separated from life and made lifeless;" Jain sutra

"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

Ruth Eisenbud

appendix A
Animal rightists take issue with Rabbi Shafran

Written by --

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

How saddened 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. 19, 2012).

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.

These 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 animal creation.

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 human condition.

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.'

Suzana Megles
Lakewood, Ohio

In defence of animal rights

Appendix B
'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.

All sentient 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
Brooklyn, NY'

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