Farm-Animal Sanctuaries: Where the Torah Comes to Life

The Beet-Eating Heeb might be inclined to say that bloggers are the most valuable members of the vegan-advocacy movement.

OK, so he is a little biased.

But he is willing to say that farm-animal sanctuaries rank right up there, especially after reading the “The Lucky Ones,” the poignantly titled 2012 autobiography of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary Co-Founder Jenny Brown.9781583334416_TheLuckyOnes3.30.indd

Whether it’s out of ignorance or indifference, carnivores are blind to what – make that “who” – they are eating. But farm-animal sanctuaries yank the blinders right off.

At a typical such sanctuary, visitors see and feel for themselves that cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys have unique personalities, just like our dogs and cats. And these farm animals can be every bit as affectionate.

In addition, these sanctuaries vividly and intimately convey the same idea that the authors of the Jewish sacred texts sought to convey: That the gap between humans and animals is rather small.

The Beet-Eating Heeb would never say that humans and animals have equal standing, Jewishly speaking. And frankly, all but the most extreme animal-rights activists, when push comes to shove, value human life more than animal life, if ever so slightly. (If your house is on fire, you’re going to make sure your kids are safely outside before you go looking for your pets.)

But it’s also true that human beings have a unique and unfortunate tendency to exaggerate their superiority over other sentient beings. Indeed, meat-eating itself is based on the faulty premise that animals are vastly inferior and thus should be killed if we like the way they taste.

The wise authors of the Torah and other sacred texts recognized that egocentric human beings have a tendency to view themselves as the be-all and end-all. So these authors – who, if you’re Orthodox, would include God Himself – repeatedly told us that animals should be treated with compassion, and that animals have almost equal standing in the Divine hierarchy.

It’s a busy new year. Neither you nor The Beet-Eating Heeb has time right now to explore the entire theology of animals in the Jewish tradition.

So let’s just consider three of the many verses that define the proper human-animal relationship:

Genesis 9:8 – “And G-d said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘I now establish My covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living thing that is with you – birds, cattle, and every wild beast as well – all that have come out of the ark, every living thing on earth.’ ”

Exodus 20:10 – “The seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God: You shall not do any work – you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements.”

Shulchan Aruch, Book 4 — “It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature.”

Just to review, animals are included in God’s covenant with human beings, animals are entitled to a day of rest on Shabbat, and it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature, not inflict it.

Jenny Brown

Jenny Brown with one of the steers at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

All of these teachings are followed to a T in a farm-animal sanctuary like Jenny Brown’s.

What The Beet-Eating Heeb finds to be particularly moving in her book are her accounts of her extraordinary efforts to relieve the pain of injured and sick animals – animals who were subjected to abuse and deprivation in factory farms and even in smaller farms.

Jenny is not Jewish, but she is fulfilling a Torah mandate, bigtime.

The only problem with farm-animal sanctuaries is that relatively few people ever visit one. Unlike reading a blog, which is available to anyone with an Internet connection, visiting such a sanctuary usually requires schlepping out to the countryside.

Jenny has found a way around that problem by writing a compelling book.

The book in itself is a pretty valuable addition to the veg-advocacy movement, The Beet-Eating Heeb would have to admit.

About The Beet-Eating Heeb

I'm a meat-abstaining Jew who believes our religion commands us to treat our bodies with care, to treat animals with compassion, and to treat our planet like it's the only one we've got.

Posted on January 17, 2013, in Book Reviews, Factory Farming / Animal Cruelty, Torah/Bible and Veganism and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. once again a bill is passed to keep our mouths shut!!!!THE PEOPLE must not know what is going on.The goverment is sh.t scared always to tell the truth about anything!!!!!makes you think…………………..How many vegans in Goverment will stand up and do the right thinh i wonder.

  2. I’ve been to Farm Sanctuary in California a few times and it’s a wonderful social and educational experience. I look forward to returning.

  3. Thanks for this informative article, very encouraging – another book to read ; ) best wishes Sharon and Mark.

  4. Wow, laurabs1, that’s courageous, and inspiring to me! Yes, I am compelled, by the mitzvot!

  5. Great article. I’m lucky to live so close to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. It’s a sanctuary in every sense of the word. Jenny and Doug have saved countless lives and inspire countless more.

  6. Richard Schwartz

    Great article.

    Kol hakavod.



  7. I just attended a hearing in NH, on HB 110, a very dangerous bill that if passed, would criminalize the taking of video or photo’s of farmed animal cruelty, and NOT turn it over to authorities within 24 hours. The sponsors and supporters of the bill are all in the animal ag business . The hearing was packed and the bill has been moved to a subcommittee that will discuss it again this Tuesday. For me, a Jewish woman, it is my religious duty, moral obligation, to stop abuse when I see it and work for the end of animal exploitation and violation. Here in NH, we are still dealing with the Wild West mentality, as in so many places that look at animals so differently. If I am ever arrested, I’ll need experts in Jewish Law who can testify that under that law, I am bound to do what I must, to stop animal abuse. Thanks for sending this. I must gather any and all scripture that can be used in my defense under my religious freedom, to help animals. Laura Slitt Bartlett,NH

    • The introduction of these ag-gag bills offer a golden opportunity to educate the public about the horrific conditions in animal agriculture. Try submitting an op-ed to the state’s most influential newspaper and use the bill as your hook.


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