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H7. Hunting and Slaughtering for Food    [Make a Comment]

We may eat from either a hunted or a slaughtered bird or animal, but are forbidden to eat from an animal that was killed by beasts in the field or that died of its own accord. Whether slaughtered or hunted, the creature's blood must be poured out and, if it is an animal, its young must not be slaughtered with it on the same day. If it is a mother bird sitting on chicks or eggs, the chicks may be taken, but the mother bird must be let go1.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Genesis 9:3-4 (Maimonides RN182; Chinuch C452)
Every moving thing that lives will be food for you; just as I gave you green plants before, so now I give you everything - only flesh with its life, which is its blood, you are not to eat2.

Exodus 22:30(31) (Maimonides RN181, 182; Meir MN87; Chinuch C73, 452)
You are to be my specially separated people. Therefore you are not to eat any flesh torn by wild animals in the countryside; rather, throw it out for the dogs.

Leviticus 17:13 (Maimonides RP147; Meir MP49; Chinuch C187)
When someone from the community of Isra'el or one of the foreigners living with you hunts and catches game, whether animal or bird that may be eaten, he is to pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of every creature - its blood is its life. Therefore I said to the people of Isra'el, 'You are not to eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it will be cut off.'

Leviticus 22:28 (Maimonides RN101; Meir MN108; Chinuch C294)
However, no animal is to be slaughtered together with its young on the same day, neither cow nor ewe.

Deuteronomy 12:15-16
However, you may slaughter and eat meat wherever you live and whenever you want, in keeping with the degree to which ADONAI your God has blessed you. The unclean and the clean may eat it, as if it were gazelle or deer. But dont eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.'

Deuteronomy 12:21 (Maimonides RP146; Meir MP48; Chinuch C451)
When ADONAI your God expands your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, 'I want to eat meat,' simply because you want to eat meat, then you may eat meat, as much as you want. If the place which ADONAI your God chooses to place his name is too far away from you; then you are to slaughter animals from your cattle or sheep, which ADONAI has given you; and eat on your own property, as much as you want. Eat it as you would gazelle or deer; the unclean and clean alike may eat it.

Deuteronomy 12:23 (Maimonides RN182; Meir MN90; Chinuch C452)
Just take care not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you are not to eat the life with the meat. Dont eat it (but pour it out on the ground like water. Do not eat it)

Deuteronomy 14:21 (Maimonides RN180; Meir MN86; Chinuch C472)
You are not to eat any animal that dies naturally; although you may let a stranger staying with you eat it, or sell it to a foreigner; because you are a holy people for ADONAI your God. (See also, Ezekiel 44:31)

Deuteronomy 15:20-23
Each year you and your household are to eat it in the presence of ADONAI your God in the place which ADONAI will choose. But if it has a defect, is lame or blind, or has some other kind of fault, you are not to sacrifice it to ADONAI your God; rather, eat it on your own property; the unclean and the clean alike may eat it, like the gazelle or the deer. Just don't eat its blood, but pour it out on the ground like water.

Deuteronomy 22:6-7
If, as you are walking along, you happen to see a bird's nest in a tree or on the ground with chicks or eggs, and the mother bird is sitting on the chicks or the eggs, you are not to take the mother with the chicks. You must let the mother go, but you may take the chicks for yourself; so that things will go well with you, and you will prolong your life.

Acts 15:27-29
So we have sent Y'hudah and Sila, and they will confirm in person what we are writing. For it seemed good to the Ruach HaKodesh and to us not to lay any heavier burden on you than the following requirements: to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will be doing the right thing. Shalom!

This Mitzvah #H7 brings together into one, all the commandments in Scripture that address the hunting and slaughtering (sh'chitah) of animals and birds for food3. They reveal the compassion and mercy God has for His created creatures, and the holiness he requires of His people. Although hunting and slaughtering for food are permitted, the harvested creature's blood must be poured out at the time of its death in order for its meat to be considered kosher. This is specifically commanded in Leviticus 17:13 in the case of hunting, and in Deuteronomy 12:15-16, 23 and 15:20-23 in the case of slaughtering; its purpose is to comply with the Scriptures that forbid us from eating blood (see Mitzvah # H5 )4.

Each way of harvesting an animal or bird has its own challenges. The kosher way of sh'chitah (practiced by the ancients for centuries) is to cut the neck of the creature in such a way that its blood pours out, thereby fulfilling this Mitzvah #H7 automatically. The wound that results from hunting, on the other hand, rarely causes the animal's or bird's blood to pour from its body, so it must be bled as a separate and intentional act. An animal or bird that dies of its own accord (n'veilah) or is killed by a wild beast in the field (t'reifah) may not be eaten because there is no way to bleed it, and no way to know how long it has been dead nor the state of its former health. If it died of its own accord, the latter is of obvious concern.

The prohibition against slaughtering an animal together with its young on the same day (Leviticus 22:28) is a mitzvah of compassion that is reflective of God's compassion for His creatures. An analogous act of compassion is commanded by Deuteronomy 22:6-7, which forbids us from taking a mother bird who is sitting on chicks or eggs; the chicks may be taken, but the mother bird must be let go.

In today's developed world, most of us do not slaughter or hunt for our meat; instead, we rely on professional slaughterers and butchers and, unless they are rabbinically supervised, we have little control over what methods of slaughter and bleeding may have been used. One solution is to only purchase kosher meat; if that is not feasible, we ought to make some inquiry into how the animals we purchase are slaughtered and their meat processed. While certain procedures (such as shock or bolt stunning) used to render an animal senseless prior to slaughtering might not satisfy rabbinical standards of sh'chitah, bleeding it immediately after it is stunned would probably satisfy the biblical standard.

Acts 15:27-29 reinforces Genesis 9:3-4 (part of the Noahic Law) in making it clear that Gentiles are not to eat meat with the blood still in it, in much the same way as Jews are commanded to not to eat blood under the Law of Moses5. There is a common misinterpretation of these Scriptures which are often said to mea that one must not eat the limb of a living animal. Certainly one must not, but the prohibition is much broader than that; it prohibits the eating of any blood6.

In my opinion, both Jews and Gentiles are held to the same biblical standard of not eating blood, which includes not eating meat from an animal in which the blood has not been poured out. As for the other requirements of this Mitzvah #H7, they are mandated for Jews and K'rovei Yisrael, and strongly recommended for other Gentiles. Ritual slaughter (other than bleeding) is not biblically required for either Jews or Gentiles.


1. Except in the case of Genesis 9:3-4, all animals and birds referred to in this Mitzvah #H7 are assumed to be kosher.

2. This commandment is part of the Noahic Law that was intended for Gentiles and given prior to the Law of Moses.

3. A slaughterer is known as a shochet.

4. Fish are exempt from the requirements Mitzvot # H5 and #H7.

5. Under the New Covenant as well.

6. Since meat cannot be divested of all traces of blood, see Mitzvah # H5 for efforts that may be taken to reduce its blood to an acceptable minimum.


Commentators:
Maimonides, Meir, and Chinuch agree that Genesis 9:3-4 and Deuteronomy 12:23 forbid us to eat the limb or flesh cut from a living animal. They acquire this interpretation from Chulin 102b of the Talmud despite the fact that the Scriptures do not say that at all. They also associate these Scriptures with Exodus 22:30(31), which commands us to not eat the flesh of an animal that has been torn by wild beasts in the field.

Maimonides, Meir, and Chinuch state that we are forbidden to eat an animal that has died of its own accord (n'veilah), and Meir adds that n'veilah includes meat from an animal that was not properly slaughtered.

All three commentators take the position that Deuteronomy 12:21 teaches that ritual slaughter is required of all animals or birds that one wishes to eat, and none of the commentators allow for eating a hunted animal or bird - even if its blood is first poured out. This is probably one of the most extreme of the rabbinical fences placed around the Torah in that it adversely affects many in the world who must hunt in order to eat. Consistent with this view, the commentators interpret Leviticus 17:13 as applying to ritual slaughter when, in fact, the actual subject of the Scripture is hunting. All agree that fish and locusts need not be ritually slaughtered.

NCLA: Abstention from eating blood: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMm GFm
Other requirements of the Mitzvah: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMr GFr

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