Would it be considered tzaar baalei chaim (animal cruelty) to assist a wild animal at the expense of another? Would it be acceptable

  • to help a wild predator catch wild prey (causing distress to the prey)?
  • to prevent a wild predator from catching wild prey (causing distress and prolonged hunger for the predator)?

This is different from the question of feeding live animals to pets, in which case they depend on their owners entirely for their food.

For an example of the first point, if one caught a live pest of some sort, rather than killing it outright, would it be wrong to release it in a place where it will inevitably be killed by another animal (such as a spider web)? Or would this perhaps be better than killing it, since the human is not directly the cause of the animal's death?

For an example of the second point, suppose one saw a mouse about to be eaten by a snake, and chased away the snake to protect the mouse. It seems like a virtuous act of compassion, but if one were to keep on doing this to the snake, it would eventually die of hunger.

Does the answer depend on if there was a human benefit (such as animal population control)?

  • 1
    This question could have implications regarding whether TzB"Ch regulates ecology-affecting behaviors.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 21:12
  • 2
    may depend on your intent in each case. if your intent is to watch an animal suffer then it's damaging to you and makes you cruel. if it's as an act of compassion then good - but this is just conjecture
    – ray
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 21:17
  • An interesting angle on this question is where humans interfere with the natural order, causing an imbalance, such as too few predators (overabundance of white-tailed deer) or too many predators (black bears in New Jersey). Either way, humans by their very existence interfere with derech hatevah.
    – atrain
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 0:53
  • "would it be wrong to release it in a place where it will inevitably..." wouldn't that be considered a "GraMah" i.e you are indirectly causing harm to the animail ?
    – eramm
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 9:36
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    IMHO (I am not a rav) - "She'v V'al Ta'ase Adif" unless you benefit from the predetor catch/victims survival.
    – Alaychem
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 12:29

1 Answer 1


In Bava Metziah 84b we find Rabi Yehuda Hanasi being used by a calf as a hiding spot to escape slaughter. He told the calf to go back because 'for this you were created'. He subsequently suffered for many years until he stopped one of his household members from killing some rodents in the house and told her to just leave them be. After this compassionate act, he was shown compassion.

Apparently this is all on his level, both the cruelty and the kindness, but it is definitely a lesson for us, at least lifnim mishuras hadin, (beyond the halacha).

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