I remember learning that tzaar baalei chayyim only applies to kosher animals and being very surprised and disappointed, but I don't remember the source at all. Does anyone know where this idea comes from, and who holds by it?

2 Answers 2


This is incorrect. Examples given include loading and unloading a donkey as we see in Tzaar Baalei Chayim Thus, the halacha applies to all animals

In Shemot, we are told to help him unload: “If you see the ass of your enemy straining under his load, and you refrain from unloading it, go and unload with him” Shemot 23:5.

This verse is one of the main sources for the prohibition of causing unnecessary suffering to animals, tza’ar baalei chayim (Bava Metzia 32b). While man was given dominion over the animals (Bereshit 1:26), this dominion is not one of tyranny, and it has limits. Any time we use animals for our benefit, we have to be sensitive to their feelings and avoid any unnecessary pain.

Others refer to Bil'am and his donkey as part of this halacha.

Tza’ar Ba’alei Chaim

The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim (chalek 3, perek 17), writes that this is the Torah source that one is not allowed to cause pain to an animal – known as tza’ar ba’alei chaim. There are many other sources brought in the Rishonim and Acharonim regarding this. Rashi, in Shabbos 128b, says that tza’ar ba’alei chaim is derived from the pasuk in Parshas Mishpatim, “Azov ta’azov imo.” Rabbeinu Peretz, in Baba Metzia 32b, says that there is no Torah source for tza’ar ba’alei chaim; rather, it is a halacha l’Moshe miSinai. The Shita Mekubetzes, in Baba Metzia there, quotes a Ra’avad that says that it is drawn from the aveirah of placing a muzzle on an ox when he is plowing. The Charedim (14:1) says that tza’ar ba’alei chaim is part of the mitzvah of vehalachta bidrachav (and we should follow in Hashem’s ways). The Chasam Sofer, in Baba Metzia there, says that tza’ar ba’alei chaim is derived from the pasuk of “verachamav al kol ma’asav” (and He has mercy on all of His creations).

  • Irrespective of the OU's choice of it, does the donkey example actually technically fall under the halachos of tzaar baalei chayyim? I would think it might actually fall under another category such as mitzvos bein adam l'chavero. Also, my main interest is in finding a source for the stipulation about kosher animals, even if it is ultimately wrong, or not the majority view. I'll try to clear up the question to reflect that
    – SAH
    Aug 3, 2017 at 17:13
  • Oh ok, are you saying that they say Bil'am transgressed tzaar baalei chayyim with his donkey? In principle I agree, however it's also a bad example of the standard for tzaar baalei chayyim halachos, because we know that different rules apply to gentiles for animal cruelty in particular
    – SAH
    Aug 3, 2017 at 17:15
  • Read your new link and wish the article did a better job of addressing my second commont above
    – SAH
    Aug 3, 2017 at 17:21
  • @SAH the gemarra in Bava Metziah they quote discusses the bein adam lachaveiro aspect of unloading an animal, but also discusses the pain the animal feels.
    – robev
    Aug 3, 2017 at 17:42
  • @SAH I believe that the Gemara, itself, cites the verse from Bilam as the source for the rule. What is clear from reading the verse is that the angel chastises Bilam for hitting his donkey. So, it seems like strong proof that G-d was concerned about an animal's welfare.
    – DanF
    Aug 3, 2017 at 17:43

See the Gemara Chullin 7: that clearly discusses a tzaar balei chayim issue when Rebbi offers to remove the hooves of mules that were at risk of harming others. Although, technically this would not be tzaar balei chayim as there was a clear benefit from behooving them Rebbi was stringent in this regard. One could still argue that he was also going beyond the letter of the law with regard to tzaar Baalei chayim by non kosher animal...

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