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Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion

Animals, Religion and the Environment
The Bible’s Teachings on Protecting Animals and Nature
by Lewis Regenstein

Part 3: The Ten Commandments: Do Not Overwork Your Animals

The Bible is emphatic in stressing the concept of kindness to animals. The Mosaic Law laid down in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy clearly teach compassion and kindness towards other creatures, especially farm animals. Numerous passages forbid the overworking of animals and require that stray and lost creatures be helped.

The laws delineated in the Bible make it clear that these injunctions to help animals are intended for the sake of these creatures and not that of the owner. One is required to help animals that belong to enemies to whom no obligation is owed, as well as those of friends; one is forbidden to "pass by" an animal in distress: “If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden ... thou shalt surely help with him.” (Exodus 23)

Even the most holy of the laws-the Ten Commandments-specifically mentions that cattle and donkeys must not be worked on the Sabbath. In the twenty-third chapter of Exodus, several animal-protection statutes are given by the Lord to Moses: “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it, thou shalt not do any work, nor thy ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle…Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest” (Exodus 20;10, 23:12; Deuteronomy 5:13).

At the same time, the Lord also commands that every seventh year the land, the vineyards, and the olive groves not be sown or harvested but be allowed to "rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat."

Similarly, in Leviticus (25:4-7) and Exodus (23) the Lord commands that what grows naturally in the fields left fallow in the seventh year shall be for one's servants "and for thy cattle, and for the beasts that are in thy land."

Go on to Part 4: Forbidding Cruelty to Animals
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