1-5771 Mitzvah N-90
Negative Mitzvah 90– This is a negative commandment: do not eat a limb or any part taken from an animal while it still is living.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “You shall not eat the life with the flesh” (Devarim . 12:23); and by the Oral Tradition it was learned that this is an admonition not to eat a limb or part that was cut from a living creature. If someone ate an olive’s amount from a living animal, he should receive whiplashes. Even if he ate a whole organ or limb, if it contained an olive’s amount he should be whipped; and if it did not contain an olive’s amount, he would be free of penalty. Yet if he ate an organ or limb from a living creature and also some flesh from a live animal he would violate two prohibitions, This commandment and (#87 – You shall not eat any flesh in the field that is trefah [Ex. 22:30])
This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.
While the Hafetz Hayim takes this law from Deuteronomy, it is also part of the “Seven Commandments of Noah” which were given right after the flood and are considered, under Jewish Law, to apply to all human beings, not just Jews. Jews have 613 commandments to follow according to tradition, but non-Jews are only obligated for seven, and this is one of them. We should understand that any person who would tear a limb from a living animal in order to eat it, by this act is showing that he or she has no basic compassion or humanity. The unspeakable pain to the animal by this action should be considered as evidence of the heartlessness and cruelty of the human who acts is such a way. The punishment is lashes and we can see that the pain of the whip is in direct measure to the pain that person caused the animal. If any other part of the animal besides the limb or organ is consumed, it is a double violation of cruelty and eating trefah. I have to assume that the reason the law is mentioned is because at one time this was the practice in some locations. I like to think that the only “people” who do such things today are psychopaths.
The underlying assumption here is that animals have feelings. Perhaps they are not “sentient” creatures as human being are but there is increasing evidence that human beings are not as unique as we would like to believe we are. In fact, anthropologists are having an increasingly hard time drawing the line where human beings begin and where animals end. To say that animals don’t have the same feelings as we do, is just not true. We can site many laws in Judaism that take into account the feelings of animals; sending the mother bird away before taking her eggs; not boiling a goat in its mother’s milk; permission to violate Shabbat to save the life of an animal. These are just a few examples.
But even if you don’t like to admit that animals have feelings, there is also the damage that such acts of cruelty have on people as well. There is plenty of evidence that those who have tortured and murdered other people, started out torturing and killing animals. Judaism took the killing of all animals out of the hands of most Jews, regulating the killing of animals by assigning one class of people, those trained in the laws of Shechita, of ritual slaughter, as the only ones given permission to kill animals. Most Jews do not kill animals even for their own food. Hunting is not a Jewish sport. Neither is cock fighting, dog fighting, bear baiting or other forms of animal cruelty that seem to plague society even in our modern times.
I don’t think that Judaism would have a problem with training animals to perform tricks for public amusement, as long as the training did not involve inflicting pain and suffering on the animal. A reward for proper actions is permitted, but the punishment involved must take into account the feelings of the animal. An animal trainer must not be heartless.
Animals who are guilty of cruelty to humans can be put to death. If an animal who never harmed anyone suddenly turns and wounds or kills a human being, such an animal must be restrained and kept away from the public. If the animal should escape and attack again, not only will it be put to death but the owner is also liable for not properly restraining the animal.