Treating animals with respect

In Parshat Shmini, we learn about the laws of keeping kosher by being presented with a list of which animals we are allowed to eat based on the characteristics of the animal (the animal must have both a split hoof and chew its cud, the fish must have fins and scales etc).

Thinking about where our food comes from and not just eating anything that we see teaches us sensitivity towards animals.

When we use other articles that come from animals such as leather shoes, we must also be conscious as to where they came from. The Rema quotes Rav Yaakov Weil (Mahari Veil 37) who says that although it is customary to bless others when they wear a new article of clothing with the words “tibale v’titchadesh”, “may you wear it out and acquire a new one”, this blessing would not be appropriate for leather shoes which would entail killing another animal as it says in Tehillim, Psalms 145:9 “And His tender mercies are over all His works.”

The same can be said for a fur coat. If you tell someone to wear out their fur coat, then you are wishing that down the line more animals will need to be killed to produce a new fur coat.

Nowadays, people often buy more than they need to for the sake of fashion and often don’t think about where their leather shoes came from. On the other hand, there are a lot of shoes being made today that are not leather. Warm coats are now being produced from other materials so fur is not as necessary as it once was and fur coats are not as popular today as they used to be, partially due to the campaigns of the animal rights activists and partially due to their high price tags.

We can learn from the laws of kashrut that animals should be treated with respect and only killed when necessary. The next time that we shop for meat, shoes or coats we should ask ourselves if we really need these particular products and remember that these items should be used in moderation.