Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim
Tzar Ba’alei Chayim צער בעלי חיים (literally “the suffering of living creatures”) is the tenet in Jewish Law that forbids causing pain to animals. The Torah states explicitly that animals have souls and should be treated with compassion. There are many mitzvot in the Torah which teach us how to treat animals. The Talmud clarifies that the overarching tenet of Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim is a mandate from the Torah. The Shulchan Aruch states: “It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our religious duty to relieve the pain of any creature.” In the Guide of the Perplexed (3:48) Maimonides states: “Since the desire of procuring good food necessitates the slaying of animals, the Torah commands that the death of the animal should be the easiest. It is not allowed to torment the animal by cutting the throat in a clumsy manner, by piercing it, or by cutting off a limb while the animal is still alive.” Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim is a fundamental value of the Jewish tradition. Whether religiously or culturally, showing compassion to all living creatures is part of the Jewish heritage and character.
Sharks were once the apex predators of the ocean. Yet, we have replaced them and made them our prey. Current practices of Shark Finning and Whaling are cruel and barbaric, and blatant violations of Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim.
What is Shark Finning?
Image Source: Bite Back
What is Shark Finning?
In short, shark finning is the process of slicing off sharks' fins and dumping the rest of the body, sometimes throwing the still alive animal back into the water with no way to swim.
The drive for this horrible practice stems from a desire for shark fin soup, a popular delicacy in China that has not waned with the increasing population. Because shark fins are worth so much more than the rest of the body, the fishing practice often leads them to die from profuse blood loss and suffocation as they fall to the ocean floor.
Additionally, sharks are being killed at such high numbers that the slow-growing populations cannot make a come back. It is estimated that 73 million sharks are killed for their fins, while an additional 50 million are accidentally caught as by-catch. Resulting in over 100 shark species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and a cascade of effects down the food chain.
Because sharks are often feared and looked at as bloodthirsty animals, a trope that is simply not true, their inhumane killing is often overlooked.
Tikkun HaYam Shows the Truth About Sharks
Tikkun HaYam takes divers on trips to have close encounters with these gentle giants. When humans come in close contact with sharks, they can dispel, from their own experience, the rumors of these "vicious creatures" and fight for them, knowing they are calm and gentle kings of the ocean.
What Can You Do?
Image Source: Animal Welfare Insistue
While there are currently bans on shark fins in several states, the ban has not yet been placed nationally. You can make a difference by reporting shark fin soup in states where it is banned (find a list of restaurants that serve shark fin soup here), or contacting your state representatives and urging them to ban the inhumane and unsustainable support of shark finning.
You can also make a change in the way that your community views sharks. Only about 10 people per year are killed by sharks, but about 11,417 sharks are killed by humans every hour. When you see or read articles about shark attacks, urge your news stations and newspapers to write about the real predator and the real prey. Join the Facebook group Stop Shark Finning for more information.
There are numerous organizations that actively fight against shark finning, you can find a list on our Connect With Other page.