I strongly commend Anna Olswanger’s letter (“Circuses are not Jewish,” July 5).
What she understands – and what is lost in Roger Berkley’s reply (“Nothing non-Jewish about circus animals,” July 19) – is critical.
Mr. Berkley is correct in his assertion that the Torah sanctions the use of animals for important human needs. At the same time the Torah also teaches that emotionally aware and sensate animals, like humans, are being, not things. They are co-creations by God, together with humans. Cruel abuse (tza’ar ba’alei chayim) is strictly forbidden. Humane treatment, to the fullest degree possible, in raising, transporting, and handling of aware, sensate animals is demanded by Jewish law and tradition.
Frivolous use for mere human pleasure, excitement, and amusement comes under the category of tza’ar ba’alei chayim. Blood sports (fishing or hunting for sport), dog/cock/bull fighting, and so on, all would be included.
Mr. Berkley’s questioning of the fact of circus abuse of animals is hard to understand. There has been extensive undercover investigation with vivid and graphic video documentation. Go to PETA.org/circuses to view this.
This evidence has brought several state legislatures to bring strong pressure for reform.