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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Judaism and Fur

In a shocking development, an article actually caught my attention in this week's edition of the local Jewish paper, the Five Towns Jewish Times. It's on a topic that I have always felt strongly about, the wearing of fur. The piece addresses a question that I have always wondered about. Do we, as Jews, have a responsibility to show compassion to the animals that are, by all accounts, cruelly trapped and killed before being skinned to create coats, hats and other fashionable garments for humans? I always thought that that answer was an unequivocal "yes", and have never really felt comfortable in fur. OrthoDad feels even more strongly than I do about the subject, preferring I not wear fur at all - even a inherited coat from a relative, for which animals gave their lives many decades ago.

So it was interesting to see that the article expresses that same view. The article is not online, so I will summarize and quote enough of it to hopefully get the points across. The article was written by Richard H. Schwartz, PH.D.

His first point is that Judaism has many Torah commandments that govern the kind treatment of animals. Examples include:
One may not muzzle an ox while it is working in the field nor yoke a strong and weak animal together. Animals, as well as their owners, are meant to rest on Sabbath day.
...Perhaps the best Jewish attitude toward animals is expressed by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal." The Torah prohibits Jews from causing tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, any unnecessary pain, including psychological pain, to living creatures.
He then goes on to prove that fur-bearing animals are trapped and killed in a way that causes them much pain:
Animals caught in steel-jaw leg hold traps suffer slow, agonizing deaths. Some are attacked by predators, freeze to death, or chew off their own legs to escape. It has been said that one can get a "feel for fur" by slamming your fingers in a car door.

Judaism puts humans on a higher level than animals, and indicates that animals can be harmed and even killed if an essential human need is met. However, is the wearing of fur truly necessary for people to stay warm during winter weather?
I would have to agree with Dr. Schwartz. In this age of high-tech fabrics like Polarfleece and Thinsulate, is there really an essential need for fur? Sure, a fabulous fur coat looks better than a ski jacket - but is that really a good enough excuse for causing such suffering to all the little minks, ocelots and foxes that are trapped and killed in its creation?

PETA even has made the case that Judaism prohibits the wearing of fur in their ad campaign titled "It's a shanda to wear fur ", going so far as to quote Orthodox rabbis in the ad.

But I do have to say, with the amount of fur that I see paraded through shuls in Five Towns on an average winter Shabbos, if a local Rav would come out against the wearing of fur, the fur would really fly.

Update: Lest anyone misunderstand, I view PETA's tactics to be way beyond the pale. However, I thought that an ad that they put out targeting Jews would be an interesting addition to this post. And there's nothing in this particular ad that I disagree with.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I agree, but am def. a minority in my community. Everyone seems to have fur.

11:00 PM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

We're talking about the same religion throws goats off mountains to get atonement, right?

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ya, but respondingtoj blogs, no one is commanding you to wear fur. It isnt a mitzvah.

11:35 PM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

Neither is wearing flannel. Look, I am all for the ethical treatment of animals, but I seriously doubt that halkaha has any problem with killing animal for food, clothing, or shelter.

And I NEVER wear fur.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"paraded through shuls in Five Towns on an average winter Shabbos, if a local Rav would come out against the wearing of fur, the fur would really fly."

When was the last time you heard a local Rav come out against any conspicuous consumption of the macher class?

11:49 PM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...


Wasn't there some Agudah ban concenring weddings that has been widely ignored?

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sherlock (aka rtjb):
that's b/c the rabbis didn't enforce the ban as they said they were going to. I bet not one rabbi didnt attend a wedding b/c the takanot werent met.

12:11 AM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

sherlock (aka rtjb)

That was a joke I was hoping someone would get, not an assumed name. I was calling Mycorft Sherlock.

Good point though.

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great PETA ad, btw.

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Somewhat Anonymous said...

I would think that if there is any halachic problem with wearing fur nowadays it would only be due to the exceptional cruelty with which the fur-bearing critters are being treated, and not because there is any inherent problem in judaism with killing an animal for the use of its hide and fur, essential need or no. That being said, the general halachic rule is that you may make use of something created through a sinful act as long as you were not the one who committed or directly encouraged said sin.

Dr. Schwartz has had articles published in the 5TJT before, talking about how it is the good and correct thing for Jews to be vegetarians, so his opinion admittedly carries very little weight with me. He and PETA would be pretty much equally opposed to fur if the animals were hunted in the wild and killed swiftly and painlessly.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

The arguments against trapping animals in the wild don't prove that there is a problem with wearing fur in general. What about mink and rabbits raised on farms? How is wearing that fur different from wearing natural leather
shoes? Also, it is not a good idea to give respectful treatment to PETA. PETA believes that animals and humans are equal and unfortunately their actions are logically consistent with their beliefs. Ingrid Newkirk has made statements justifying the actions of eco-terrorists.

1:01 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

yitzchak goodman:
Actually, farm-raised fur-bearing animals are treated poorly as well. From the article:
Treatment of animals raised on "fur ranches" is also extremely cruel. Confined to lifelong confinement, millions of foxes, beavers, minks, ocelots, rabbits, chinchillas, and other animals await extinction nothing to do, little room to move, and all their natural instincts thwarted. The animals are simply a means to the maximizing of production and profit, and there is no regard for their physical, mental, or emotional well being. Because of the enforced confinement and lack of privacy, naturally wild animals often exhibit neurotic behaviors such as compulsive movements and self mutilation. The animals finally suffer hideous deaths by electrocution by rods thrust up their anuses, by suffocation, by poisoning, which causes painful muscle cramping, or by having their necks broken.

And about PETA, I agree, and do not approve of their tactics. However, I thought it was of some interest that their ad campaign targeted Jews, and quoted Orthodox rabbis.

1:05 AM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

Orthomom, you may have already seen this , but just in case.

1:09 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

somewhat anonymous:

I actually am willing to concede that the issue is not prohibited from the point of view of Jewish law. That being said, the same mindset that taught me as a little child to kill an ant quickly so that it wouldn't needlessly suffer and cause tzaar ba'alei chayim, should make us at least think twice whether we shuld be or need to be wearing a byproduct of animal suffering.

1:11 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...


I saw that. Sick stuff. And I did say above that I do not approve of PETA's tactics.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

The animals are simply a means to the maximizing of production and profit, and there is no regard for their physical, mental, or emotional well being.

Notice the language here. Sounds like they are talking about people, doesn't it? If you look at the other details, you will see that they would apply to animals raised for food as well.

1:34 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Notice the language here. Sounds like they are talking about people, doesn't it? If you look at the other details, you will see that they would apply to animals raised for food as well.

I can't understand what you're saying here. You're grasping at the language used to describe the animals to try and prove what, exactly? That we don't have to consider whether this cruel and inhumane treatment of animals in exchange for a fashion item is ethical???

1:39 AM  
Anonymous roach said...

Mom, I am with you totally. Wearing fur is not a jewish value.

1:42 AM  
Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

I can't understand what you're saying here. You're grasping at the language used to describe the animals to try and prove what, exactly? That we don't have to consider whether this cruel and inhumane treatment of animals in exchange for a fashion item is ethical???

Leather shoes are a fashion item. Animals raised for food are kept in pens. There isn't any method of slaughter that can't be made to sound cruel. Animals being raised for food are "simply a means to the maximizing of production and profit." It *is* wrong to make a human into "simply a means to the maximizing of production and profit." It is a problematic argument to make about animals.

2:12 AM  
Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

Further thought: proper consideration of the ethics requires keeping humans and animals as separate categories.

2:15 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Mom, I am with you totally. Wearing fur is not a jewish value."

Oh yeah ....have you ever been to Williamsburg? Check out the picture below OM fur post. I wonder how many innocent, fuzzy streimels had to die to support that fashion.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous bb said...

right on, orthomom!

9:07 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Oh yeah ....have you ever been to Williamsburg? Check out the picture below OM fur post. I wonder how many innocent, fuzzy streimels had to die to support that fashion.

I agree, and it bothers me. Interestingly, the article mentions the shtreimel issue to say:

Imitation fur is produced at such a high level of quality that even among Chasidim there is a small but growing trend to wear synthetic "shtreimlach" (fur-trimmed hats).

Not sure how large the trend could possibly be, though. Probably a very small minority.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post om, as usual.

9:33 AM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

firstly striemals are made from a certain number of minks i do not recall the reason, so they dont use fakes.
secondly, orthomom are you telling me that you or your husband dont wear leather shoes, belts, jackets etc.
it is the same thing. they make synthetic leather belts shoes and jackets. so until all the holier than thou people who wont wear fur but still wear leather stop wearing animal products for good then you have no leg to stand on.if you disagree i would love to know the diff.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Tam said...

Ok Rebbe Shlita,

I don't wear leather for these very reasons. Can I cut and paste Orthomom's post and be taken seriously?

10:18 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

rebbe shlita:
There is a big difference between leather and fur - one that even the most militant PETA activist will concede. Leather is a byproduct of the humane slaughter of animals for food. Fur-bearing animals are killed in an inhumane, painful manner, solely for the use of their pelts. I have trouble reconciling that with the commandment against tza'ar ba'alei chayim. Therefore, I choose not to wear fur. My choice. Actually, since I put this post up, I recieved an email from a reader that has convinced me to stop eating veal as well, per a psak from Rav Moshe, as it is, by definition, raised in inhumane conditions.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yum, how could u give up veal?

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

orthomom - your arguments against wearing fur are solid and i happen to agree with you. but i would never back myself up with views or information put out by peta. some posters have commented above that the problem with peta is that they equate animals with humans. i would venture to say that peta places the animal above the human. ex: they have taken to throwing pies at people in the fashion industry who aren't against fur the way they are (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6448213/did/9651212). in other words, in order to protect the lives and rights of animals these peta fanatics are willing to degrade and shame a human being (which, as we all know, according to the torah, is akin to killing him). that's not even to mention the deeply offensive and disgusting ads drawing parallels between some slaughter houses' treatment of animals and the treatment of concentration camp inmates during the holocaust. so please - make your points but don't back them up with peta propaganda.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Rivka said...

I think Peta is being incredibly hypocritical in their ad campaign. Are they planning on using these same Orthodox Rabbis to support the Halachic slaughtering methods, or do they only quote the information that furthers their purposes?

11:21 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

If you read my comments above, I actually think PETA's tactics are nuts. However, the ad was (I think) an interesting addition to this post.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

The last anonymous - why is this such a terrible scandal? If it's true, which I have no idea if it is, why shouldn't he be able to put a blog like anyone else.

And Orthomom - second you on the wearing of fur. I inherited my grandmother's fur coat, which I have very fond memories of from childhood - so I take it out and look at it occasionally. But I don't wear it outside (although in the cold Ithaca winter it is sometimes tempting!). And also on veal, and foie gras (although to be honest, living out here in the boonies, the opportunity to find either kosher veal or foie gras is nonexistent). I also object to the way that chickens are usually raised (factory farming) and try to buy eggs from chickens that are free-roaming. And I did succeed in buying some kosher organic free-range chickens from an out of town butcher who delivers to Ithaca. Not that that would necessarily satisfy all of PETA's requirements.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Somewhat Anonymous said...

On Veal: I do not believe that the cruel manner in which animals are raised for veal production (not letting them move much so that their muscles atrophy and remain soft) applies to kosher veal, as it comes from calves. A kosher meat processor would not be allowed to keep animals in such cruel conditions. Kosher veal comes from calves, which have naturally softer meat.

If there is any problem at all with fur it is based on the forbidden actions of the producers, not on any inherent value, worth or rights of the animals. It seems that some of the people here (Not sure if this includes you, Orthomom) have a problem with using fur whether the animals are treated cruelly or not, as it is not necessary - as if we need necessity to justify killing the animal for its fur. I believe that this is contrary to the Torah view on cruelty to animals, which is based on it being a bad thing for people to so (to be cruel) rather than focusing on the harm suffered by the animal. It follows that there is absolutely no problem in killing an animal for its fur if the stritures of Tzaar Baalei Chaim are not violated. To argue otherwise grants animals an intrinsic value (and rights?) of their own, which it seems to me would run contrary to the way the Torah views animals.

4:25 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Somewhat anonymous:

About kosher veal - that is what I thought, that there wasn't much of a cruelty issue with ksher veal. However, the person who e-mailed me told me that that is a commonly held misconception, and I am refraining from eating veal until I find out otherwise.

About the fur issue, my concern is not about fur altogether, though I personally may not feel 100% comfortable with the thought of killing animals for solely their pelts - even in a humane fashion. My problem is really with the fact that halacha-abiding Jews should perhaps think twice before being consumers of a product whose industry mistreats animals in such a widespread fashion.

That being said, it is hard to separate the question of whether people would feel more comfortable wearing fur if the animals were killed with less cruelty, as that is not a possibility right now. According to all the research I have done, all fur-bearing animals are killed in a inhumane fashion. Present me a case where there is a fur-producing company that raises and then kills the animals in a humane fashion, and I will be happy to give them my "hashgacha". ;)

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When GD created the world.he did not allow man to eat meat until after the flood.However,he did permit man to kill animals for clothing.this fact should end this whole ridiculous matter.

7:39 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

this fact should end this whole ridiculous matter.

It's not an issue of whether it is strictly speaking, allowed from a halachic perspective. It's an issue of whether I and others feel comfortable wearing fur, with all the information that is available today about the cruel and inhumane treatment that fur-bearing animals receive on their way to becoming that fur coat. I personally do not feel that the benefit of wearing fur outweighs the stricture against tsaar ba'alei chayim. Feel free to disagree. That's why I have a comment section. But there is no way that by expressing your opinion will "end this whole ridiculous matter".

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cattle don't have a great life and for the most part, are killed in a cruel manner. But I bet you really love leather shoes.

2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

synthetic "shtreimlach" (fur-trimmed hats).

I have Satmar friends who wear these on rainy days.

2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

with the commandment against tza'ar ba'alei chayim.

That's a mitzvah in Torah 1.1 -- 614 commandments.

2:36 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Cattle don't have a great life and for the most part, are killed in a cruel manner. But I bet you really love leather shoes.

As I stated upthread, leather is a byproduct of killing animals for food. In addition, as I mentioned as well, the treatment of fur-bearing animals is particularly cruel and inhumane, and they are killed only for the use of their pelts. I am entitled to draw the line somewhere, and this is where I draw it.

>with the commandment against tza'ar ba'alei chayim.

That's a mitzvah in Torah 1.1 -- 614 commandments.

I actually used the word "stricture", not commandment.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's quite amazing to walk around the zoo in jerusalem on chol hamoed. there is frequently more fur in the crowd than on the animals.
we stopped eating goose and veal a while ago because of some of those issues. but our strident vegetarian son thinks that it is hypocritical to then not become completely vegetarian.
... at least he still wears tfillin and reads from the torah.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous chuck said...

R Avigdor Miller writes in books that the world and EVERYTHING in it was created for our (humankind) use
that said i agree with momof4 even regarding bees or ants in the house, I'll trap and throw 'em out rather than kill 'em
but i feel that leather shoes, tfillin and even a religious garb like a shtriemal is ok
no more than ok - its a must have

4:33 PM  
Blogger Ari said...

Genesis 3:21 Figleaves just weren't good enough. Hope you don't take down your mezuzas and throw red paint on Torah scrolls because they are made from animal skins

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no reason that you cant get a faux fur streimel. What kind of mida is it to encourage the torturing of animals even if you don't do it directly. Animal's are skinned ALIVE! How heartless or in denile can you be. It's one thing if a person doesn't know how these animals are treated, but if they do, they are encouraging pure evil. P.S. I am not a veterarian and I wear leather, a by-product of animals killed for food.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, I would have no problem with fur if the animals were trapped painlessly, treated well, and killed humanely by being put to sleep.

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