Dear Friends,  

I just read the article about Maurice, the two-year-old giraffe, who was euthanized and then given to the lions to eat. And more upsetting was the large crowd of people gathered around the pit, watching the lions ripping the giraffe apart, and eating him.   Zoo officials in Denmark explained that such killings are a way of protecting genetic lines of animals, and that it is commonplace for zoos to limit the number of animals of various species, lest a “genetic problem” be created.

This episode has aroused questions about the Jewish laws of Kashrut, and the Islamic laws of Halal-both of which deal with the ritualistic slaughter of animals fit for eating.  At the heart of the Jewish laws of Kosher/Kashrut, there is an insistence that the animal be killed in the quickest and most merciful way.  The knife is to be checked for any possible nicks that might compromise a clean and precise cut, and the location of the cut is to be exact so that death is immediate.  The same sensitivities apply to the Islamic laws of Halal; to spare the animal a painful death.

I understand that to vegetarians, the matter of eating meat is a violation of human sensitivities, and the assumption that we have a right to “dominate” the world of nature.  And it is interesting to note that our early sages expressed that the original intent was that human beings would be vegetarians.  But humanity had a yearning for meat, and so Judaism evolved laws that would bring sensitivity and a moral sense to something so basic as the foods we eat, and the way in which we treat all living creatures. 

Surely, the spectacle of lions eating a giraffe with an audience of adults and children is far from “Kosher.”  It should violate our sensibilities and cause us to think about our human quest to eliminate “the thrill of killing” from our human experience. 


                  Shabbat Shalom    


              Rabbi David Greenberg