Just when I had some faith in the system.
Disagreeing with a High Court ruling and the adopted practice of a growing number of European countries, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv [apparently one of the most preeminent halachic authorities living] ruled there is no halachic restriction against force-feeding geese for foie gras.
This is after MK Moshe Gafni (Degel Hatorah) voted against Israeli foie gras production in the Knesset Education Committee, arguing that it contradicted the Jewish law prohibiting cruelty to animals.
For those who may not know “foie gras producers force-feed newborn geese with high-caloric food by inserting a tube into the esophagus, resulting in the swelling of the liver. The process lasts about three months, after which the geese, who have a life expectancy of about 60 years in their natural habitat, are slaughtered.”
I’m no PETA lover, but I am a Jew who takes the prohibition of tsaar baalei chaim (cruelty to animals) seriously. However, I understand that few laws in Judasim are ever black and white.
The article explains
Halacha permits causing animals to suffer if, as a result, there is some tangible benefit to man. That is why animals may be slaughtered, used for plowing or for carrying heavy loads.
However, writes Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Even Haâ€™ezer IV 92), not all benefits enjoyed by man justify causing suffering to animals. Based on this distinction, Feinstein prohibits raising calves for veal.
However, Rabbi Elyashiv rules that â€œthe enlarged liver resulting from forced-feeding practices is a tangible benefit to man and justifies animal suffering.â€
Tangible benefit to man and justifies animal suffering? Who is he kidding? Listen, if foie gras was to be fed to starving children, maybe, if it was going to be bartered for peace in the Middle East, sure, but as it stands, the â€œtangible benefitâ€ is for the rich man with
a sadistic an expensive appetite, and one that we, as Jews, can clearly do with out.
The law prohibiting unnecessary cruelty to animals is no less divine than the law prohibiting idolatry.
Religion, according to Heschel, is designed to make man more sensitive; to other beings, to the world around him, to a sense of time, to awe and wonder. Thatâ€™s when it is being done right. If this Rabbi and leader can say with a clear conscience that unnecessary pain to animals is fine because he likes foie gras on his Shabbat table, then something has clearly gone wrong.
When will we get it together to realize that those laws between people and people and those between us and the world around us are to be taken just as seriously than those laws between us and God?
Another thing Heschel wrote that has stayed with me is “in the bible, callousness is the root of all sin”. Here’s to a more sensitized Jewish nation.