Why is it wrong to eat meat from a living animal? Is it because it is cruel? Is it because it is impure? Why is it?

  • 2
    Not a direct answer to your question, but just because something is prohibited doesn't necessarily mean it's "wrong" in some kind of moral way that we should be expected to understand. It's forbidden to wear clothes made out of a wool/linen combination but one would be hard-pressed to find a reason why that is "wrong" besides for the fact that it's forbidden. – Daniel Jun 29 at 13:24
  • Even in a narrow-scope forum such as this, you should clarify "religiously wrong" vs. "wrong for moral people" vs. "wrong for reasons of survival" – Carl Witthoft Jun 29 at 15:18
  • I assume you’re looking for a reason for the prohibition, so “G-d said so” isn’t an acceptable answer? – DonielF Jun 29 at 16:49

Rambam explains this prohibition as follows:

Guide for the Perplexed 3:48

It is prohibited to cut off a limb of a living animal and eat it, because such act would produce cruelty, and develop it: besides, the heathen kings used to do it: it was also a kind of idolatrous worship to cut off a certain limb of a living animal and to eat it. (Friedlander translation)

The Sefer Hachinuch as well links it to cruelty, going so far as to say that there is no greater cruelty in the world:

Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah # 452

משרשי המצוה כדי שלא נלמד נפשנו במדת האכזריות שהיא מדה מגונה ביותר ובאמת שאין אכזריות בעולם גדול ממי שיחתוך אבר או בשר מבעל חיים בעודנו חי לפניו ויאכלנו

For more mystical reasons see R. David Ibn Zimra's explanation in Metzudas Dovid Mitzvah #189.

R Jack Abramowitz answers in the following way

The reason for this is similar to that for the prohibition on eating blood: when a limb is severed from a living animal, it still contains the animal’s life force. This is also evident in the verse stating the prohibition to Noah: Flesh with its life…you shall not eat (Genesis 9:4). To eat a limb torn from a live animal is unspeakably cruel. Since we are what we eat, eating such a thing only reinforces the trait of cruelty.

For further reference, see the Talmud in the tractate of Chullin on pages 101b-103b, the Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah 62, Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos #182 (negative).

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