Tza’ar ba’ale hayyim is one of the fundamental principles in Jewish law, enunciated in the Bible and then accepted as a mandatory norm in Talmudic tradition, banning any form of unnecessary pain on animals, and requiring people to minimise physical and psychological animal burden, especially, but certainly not exclusively, in ritual slaughtering. Over the hundred years, following the development of meat industry aiming to maximise profits to the detriment of animal’s fundamental rights, and with a dramatic impact on the natural environment, several rabbinical authorities have interpreted this principle in broader terms, recommending people to opt for vegetarian diets that are not only morally preferable, but also ethically more recommendable as environmentally more sustainable. The aim of this paper is to offer a succinct view on the meanings and interpretations of Jewish vegetarianism, from its biblical inception, through the rabbinical debate, to more recent interpretations among religious and secular authorities.

issue 23 / n.1 (2023) by Piergabriele Mancuso