Jewish Veg Statement in Support of Banning Fur Sales in NYC
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion

June 2019

Judaism mandates that we treat animals with exquisite and sensitive compassion, and the practices of the fur industry grotesquely violate this mandate.

mink fur farm

As a national nonprofit organization supported by leading rabbis from across the denominational spectrum, Jewish Veg supports legislation to ban the sale of fur for one simple reason: Judaism mandates that we treat animals with exquisite and sensitive compassion, and the practices of the fur industry grotesquely violate this mandate.

The Bible, or what we call the Torah, speaks emphatically and repeatedly about how we’re supposed to treat animals. In Judaism, these teachings are collectively known as tza’ar baalei chayim.

Actually, these are more than teachings. In the Jewish religion, tza’ar baalei chayim is a Torah mandate. We are forbidden from causing or abetting unnecessary animal suffering.

In the fur industry, the suffering is profound, even excruciating. Whether the animals are raised in captivity or caught in the wild, the practices are unfathomably cruel.

Minks and other animals raised in captivity for their fur are typically kept in small wire cages. In these cages, the animals are deprived of the ability to engage in their most basic natural behaviors, such as running and climbing.

About 40 percent of mink apparel comes China, where animal-welfare standards are non-existent.

In the wild, leghold traps are common in the U.S. fur industry, even though more than 85 countries have banned these cruel, inhumane devices.

coyote leg trap

Frightened animals pinned by a leghold trap are left for days without food, water, or protection from the weather until the hunter comes back to the trap, at which point they’re either shot at point blank range, clubbed to death, or choked.

All of these practices are not only abhorrent to any sensitive person, they specifically constitute egregious violations of Jewish ethics.

We acknowledge that Jewish law takes into account our need to earn a living. And we’re confident that implementation of this legislation will include some form of economic mitigation so that owners of fur stores and their employees can transition to other business ventures.

We also acknowledge that a small subset of Orthodox Jewish men wear fur hats, called shtreimels. It must be emphasized that this is a cultural custom, not a part of the Jewish religion. This is why the vast majority of Jews do not wear or own shtreimels. As a cultural custom, it is improper to buy or wear a fur shtreimel, as their production violates a Torah mandate, which takes precedence.

Faux-fur versions of these hats are available, especially in Israel. But even if that weren’t the case, the proposed legislation does not seek to ban the wearing of furs, only the sale of furs.

So this legislation leaves freedom of religious expression untouched and intact.

Actually, when it comes to Judaism, this legislation is itself an expression of our religious values, and thus we look forward to its passage. No civilized society, whether governed by religious or secular values, should blind itself to such suffering. Together, we will create a more compassionate world and a fur-free city.

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