[Jerusalem Post - opinion]
Q What is the kashrut status of meat from animals that are treated harshly, like foie gras?
- Ben K, Dallas, Texas
A The controversial balance of benefiting from animals while treating them humanely arises in many areas of life. After returning recently from an enjoyable trip with my family to the zoo, which advocates animal preservation and protection, I found on the animal rights group PETA Web site, "Never patronize zoos," since these creatures belong in the wild, not "locked up in captivity."
Through many different mitzvot, Jewish law clearly condemns cruelty to animals. The Torah, for example, forbids muzzling an ox while it works so that it can eat freely (Deuteronomy 25:4), while the Seven Noahide Laws prohibit eating a limb severed from a living animal. The rabbis further decreed that a person must provide food to his animal before he partakes in his own meal (Brachot 41a).
Today, foie gras is industrially produced by restraining birds while food is poured down their throats held open by a metal pipe, a process repeated over a period of several days or weeks. Some decisors, such as Rabbi Yosef Elyashiv, allow producing foie gras, contending that the force-feeding ultimately provides sustenance to humans, as it did in previous generations. A number of leading rabbis, including Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer YD 9:3), banned the practice because the process of production causes unacceptable pain, especially in an age when meat is readily available through more delicate means. They further contended that gavage might fatally wound the esophagus, raising questions about the kashrut of the animal.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein separately prohibited producing veal, since the animals are fattened up through severe limitations on their movements (Igrot Moshe EH 4:92). This ruling has received less attention, although it was endorsed by the Masorti movement's Rabbi David Golinkin. In contrast, the prohibition of foie gras has gained much support from both Orthodox and non-Orthodox followers, including the Israeli High Court of Justice, which cited tza'ar ba'alei haim in its 2003 ban of foie gras production, a position I personally support.
The writer, editor of TraditionOnline.org, teaches in Yeshivat Hakotel and is pursuing a doctorate in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University.