Q. Is it true that hunting is against Jewish law?
A. Absolutely. We have a duty to emulate God who is tenderly concerned for animals as well as people (Psalm 145:9). The historian William Lecky wrote, “Tenderness to animals is one of the most beautiful features of the Old Testament writers”. It is a constant theme in Judaism both in the Bible and in all our later literature.
Hunting down human beings for sport is ethically unthinkable. So is hunting animals. There are only two hunters recorded in the Bible – Nimrod and Esau, and neither has ever been a Jewish role model.
Albert Einstein used to relate a conversation with Walter Rathenau, who was then head of the German Reichstag. “Rathenau declared,” reported Einstein, “that when a Jew says he is going hunting for pleasure, he is telling lies!”
Only two types of hunting are permitted – hunting for food (Lev. 17:13 refers to “hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten”) and hunting down fierce animals that are a threat to human safety – but neither is done for sport.
Possibly there is a question in relation to fishing, but people generally go fishing for food, not for the thrill of the chase or because they get pleasure from seeing the fish suffer.