Dear Rabbi Fried,
You recently responded to Kyle that Judaism is opposed to hunting for sport. How do you reconcile that with kosher slaughter, which is also for the benefit of man? You mentioned you would speak about fishing for sport; is that any different?
— Marla T.
The Torah’s allowance of utilizing animals for consumption and other needs, such as the leather for shoes, etc., is not a contradiction to what we have explained about hunting for sport. By God allowing these uses, He is revealing how domesticated animals are part of the bigger scheme of creation. Part of their purpose is to serve the needs of man.
With regard to consumption, when an animal is prepared in a kosher way, properly slaughtered, salted and cooked, and is consumed with the proper blessing recited (and especially in honor of the Shabbos or holidays), that animal is elevated from the mundane to the sublime. If its leather is used to produce parchment for a mezuzah, tefillin or a Torah scroll, the animal becomes part of the eternal destiny of the Jewish people.
Man, endowed with a supernal soul which is a spark of the Al-mighty, is not merely a member of the animal kingdom. Part of our task and destiny as Jews is to utilize our soul to elevate the physical world and connect it to eternity. This applies to animals as well, which, although they are living and have a type of soul, do not possess an eternal soul and have no connection to eternity in their own right.
All of the above applies to utilizing animals for man’s needs; it is not an allowance to kill them out of play or sport. Besides being a misuse of the animal, which has a life of its own, it also can breed a level of callousness into the soul of the hunter, a trait which is antithetical to the Jewish trait of kindness. That trait was reinforced, as we mentioned, by our matriarchs and patriarchs all serving as shepherds, the ultimate classroom for compassion. Those great leaders injected that trait into our Jewish genes. Although the world of hunters may have an element of compassion in their killing by culling herds that, not kept in check, would self-destruct by the lack of habitat and the like, we can leave that task to the Gentile world, and a Jew concerned with the fate of the animals can help by creating awareness and raising funds for their benefit.
With regards to fishing, I recommend you look up an article titled Hooked on a Cruel Sport by Orthodox Jewish writer Jeff Jacoby (of the Boston Globe). Therein he cites research that fish experience pain on numerous levels, and there should be no difference between the pain of hooking a fish and inflicting pain upon other animals, despite their silence.
Imagine how we would react if we would find out that some people put a kennel of dogs in a room and, standing above on a balcony, cast a line with a bone hiding a hook, and they catch the dogs on the hook and reel them in to the balcony, only to throw them back down into the pit and to repeat the act for “sport.” We would cry bloody murder! Imagine someone hooking birds in a similar way, only to let them loose for enjoyment. Not a news outlet would omit the travesty, and the offenders would surely be put behind bars!
I, like Jeff Jacoby, see no difference with fish, although they slip silently and invisibly back into the water when cut loose, never uttering an audible protest. Catching them for food is another story, as we explained, but sport? I know this may not make me very popular with many, but what can I do … I have to speak my heart and speak the truth!
Dear Rabbi Fried,