Going Ape

Should primates be treated as humans?

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Comments (26)

(26) Anonymous, December 8, 2008 9:14 AM

I love all animals and am grateful that it says in the Torah all that it says about not causing suffering and the other laws that also apply to animals. However, I spoke with my Rav and I will have to ask for th specific source, yet animals have a different life source unlike humans and they do not go to animal heven. Their life is a one time life whereas humans can become gilgulim(reincarnated.) In other words, doggies don't go to doggy heaven. Interesting. Not to be take n as a mean thing. No one is more kind than Hashem. Animals are meant to serve man and man should never hunt for sport or abuse them, yet to equate them as equals as humans- no.

(25) Anonymous, July 9, 2008 4:08 AM

Kevin, you are right that the Torah commands us to be kind to animals, and, if fact, before the great flood humans were not permitted to eat animals since they were both creations of Hashem, on equal footing. However, during the great flood, Noah saved the lives of some of the animals in the ark. Humans and animals were no longer on an equal footing, since the animals now owed their very existence to Noah. From that time on Hashem permitted the consumption of animals by humans. There is a very significant difference between humans and animals. Humans were given bechira (free will) to choose good *or* bad. Jews have 613 mitzvos that they must observe, and non-Jews have the seven Noahide laws. The fact that they have free will makes them accountable for their choices. Animals, on the other hand, have no free will, and therefore they have no Torah obligations. The fact that the torah requires nothing from animals is proof that they do not share equal status with humans. To equate an animal to a human, and attribute to it human traits and choices is beyond absurd. Animals are just that -animals. The torah requires that we treat them with kindness and compassion, but not to bestow upon them human rights and privileges.

(24) chavi, July 2, 2008 8:50 AM

The dog in Perek Shira

In Perek Shira (The song of the universe) each of Hashem's creations sings His praise. The very last creature is the dog. Immediately following, it states that Rabbi Yeshaya fasted 85 fasts, because he said, "It is written that dogs are greedy and do not know satiation--should they merit to sing praise of Hashem?"
I asked my father, who is a holocaust survivor and a learned Rabbi, why Rabbi Yeshaya had such a problem with dogs singing Hashem's praise- they are so cute and lovable! My father answered,"To you they seem cute and lovable. But the dogs of the Nazis that we saw during the war were vicious killers. They would rip a person apart with great satisfaction. They thirsted for human blood." Today, we know that pit bulls can be killers, too. Some of it is attributable to the training they got from their human owners, but some of the cruel traits are inherent in the animal.

(23) Kevin, July 2, 2008 3:10 AM


If the torah says be kind to animals why do humans eat kill animals.

(22) EB, July 2, 2008 2:37 AM

Be kind, but kinder to humans

It's important to be kind to animals, but that is so that WE are kinder people, not because they have rights. It's just not good for US to do cruel things.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Solomon is right. Instead of animal protection movements signifying improved kindness and sensitivity in the human race, it ususally signifies a lessening of appreciation of the values of humans.

Case in point is when Nazi Germany outlawed shechita as one of their first laws. Another area is where owners treat their animals like members of the family, and sometimes the real family suffers.

Bottom line - don't be cruel, and if an animal is in trouble, you should certainly help. But people come first! Make sure all your (human) relationships are in order before you head out to save the blue whales

(21) Devorah, July 2, 2008 1:07 AM

I question your comment

I am not a biblical scholar, but what I have learned (though I cannot quote chapter and verse) is that all creatures were created in the image of G-d. I would like to echo the observation of Chaya, about the sensitivity of a pet to an ailing human. I have seen it in my own household. These pets have a 6th sense of which we know nothing about. And about the motherless apes, or orangutan which nurtured orphans of that species. Have you seen pictures of dogs and cats at play - because they have not been taught that they are enemies? or another one which circulated recently of a kitten and a bird?

The antagonistic ways are taught and learned. When you put people outside of a political arena and ask them to co-exist, they do so peacefully.

Albeit, I do not see the need to have special laws for care and treatment of animals, as this is supposed to be a natural thing for humans, as you presume, only we have a soul. There will always be cruelty - because there will always be the devils of the world needing to prove themselves.

I do feel that there should be recognition that all creatures were created in His image and therefore should be treated with respect. If an animal kills or maims a human, they are subject to the same psychological and legal repercussions as humans - animals though are put down immediately, whereas a human killer has the opportunity to rehabilitate and go out into the world to do it again. More humans harm and maim other humans than animals do to humans. Maybe they have more of a soul, unless they are physically threatened, they will leave you alone.

(20) Grace Fishenfeld, July 1, 2008 10:16 PM


It is required that mankind takes care and maintains everything on earth.It is our job repair and continue the life cycle. We have that obligation. Apes are part of the animal kingdom and are not in the same position as man. They are part of our charge, as are the other creatures. We have learned that everything has its place and function. Apes do not function in the same capacity as people. Divirah,(6/29)puts it clearly as does Rabbi Salomon.

(19) Anonymous, July 1, 2008 8:37 PM

On the mark, as always

This story should give us the chills when we recall that 1) the Chafetz Chaim was reputed to have said (remarking upon the Germans' overly-exquisite care of their pets in the 20's that such a society would soon have no regard for either people or animals and 2) the lovely friends at PETA expressed dismay at the terrorists' using booby trapped donkeys to blow up at the side of the Gush Etzion tunnels road several years ago. Blowing up Jews did not seem to disturb them. Not that we should be shocked.

(18) Tova Saul, July 1, 2008 7:21 PM

Some cute quotes

I'm not saying whether animals have some kind of souls and an afterlife (although I believe they do), but here are some cute quotes about dogs and heaven....by some famous folks....

Responding to a dying old woman's inquiry
James Herriot, the late British author/veterinarian noted:

"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty
and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of
humans. You've nothing to worry about there."
He goes to note regarding animals
joining their masters in the afterlife:
"I do believe it. With all my heart I believe it."


"You think dogs will not be in heaven?
I tell you, they will be there long before any of us."
Robert Louis Stevenson
"That would be a low-grade sort of Heaven,
And I'd never regret a damned sin
If I rush up to the gates white and pearly,
And they don't let my Malamite in."
Pat O'Cotter - A Malamute Dog
The poor dog, in life the the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still the master's own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonour'd falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth,
While man, vain insect hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Lord Byron

If I have any beliefs about immortality,
it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven,
and very, very few persons.
James Thurber
"If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die I want to go
where they went."
Will Rogers, 1897-1935
"Heaven goes by favour. If it went by merit,
you would stay out and your dog would go in."
Mark Twain

"The dog is a gentleman, I hope to go to his
heaven, not man's."
Mark Twain
"Can't find God in the usual places ...
churches, books or preachers' faces?
Keep on searching and don't give up,
You may just find Him in the eyes of a pup.

Author: Richard C. Call
Save a Homeless Puppy, Rescue an Older Dog
Sometimes he sits at your feet looking into your
face with an expression so gentle and caressing that
the depth of his gaze startles you. Who can believe
that there is no soul behind those luminous eyes!"
Theophile Gautier
Once a dog has entwined himself round your heart
he is not only yours for life, but you are his.
When he is gone, his place is forever sacred.
Other dogs are just as precious
but they all have their allotted spot in your
affections kept for them or their memory.
A heaven without one's dogs
would not be the heaven we hoped for.
A dog is always man's best friend.
Written By: anonymous

(17) Tova Saul, July 1, 2008 6:22 PM

Rabbi Solomon's point, and Spain's point

As an animal rescuer and an Orthodox Jew, I do agree with Rabbi Solomon. People are definitely in a class of their own, and can act like angels, although they so often behave abysses beneath animal behavior.

However, humans inflict horrors far far beyond one's worst nightmares on massive numbers of animals in the name of entertainment, hunting, trapping, unnecessary experiments and testings worthy of Dr. Mengele (such as for cosmetics that have no "animal-friendly" label on them), horse-racing, and plain sadistic "fun". A few decades ago, there were some idiot "scientists" who decided to try to raise a baby chimp to talk. It learned some sign language. When they would return it to its cage, it would sign: "Hurry---Open now!" This chimp also heard rats in a laboratory next door, and open the cages to release the rats, as it understood they were in stress. Who was more "human"? I am not sure, Rabbi Solomon, that it was the best thing to talk about, although you are definitely right. As benighted as Spain seems to be as to the difference between an ape and a human, maybe this will lead to an end of keeping apes in captivity there.

As for Spain-----Wow. Here's a country whose favorite sport is watching about 10 men on horseback with axes on long spears, hacking away at the neck muscles of a bull. The bull gores the horses, lifting them off the ground, while other men run out and stuff the holes with sawdust so that the horses won't bleed to death until the bull-neck-hacking is done. Then the bull can no longer use its neck muscles to fight well at all. Then the matador comes to torment the bull even more, until he finally kills it. Meanwhile, millions of people cheer in the stands and from their TVs. Let's see them get rid of that, if they want to be so humane.

Also-----I enjoyed everyone's comments, especially reading that there are other Orthodox Jews out there besides me with well-taken care of pets, and who speak out for animals.

And, oh yes---I believe animals have their own kinds of souls. Was it Will Rogers who said, "If dogs don't go to Heaven, I hope I go to wherever they go when they die." or something like that.

(16) David Pressler, July 1, 2008 1:40 PM

Apes and human rights...

Granted that FULL human rights to apes is somewhat fetched, but to declare that animals do not have souls is to be blind to the Kadosh Baruch Hoo and what he has created. The good rabbi needs to re-examine his interpretation of the Torah. 313

(15) ruth housman, July 1, 2008 1:24 PM

Anima: means soul

I have respected a lot of your columns but this one is really making me upset. Have you ever held a bird in your hand and felt its trembling beating heart? Have you saved the life of a seagull who you knew wanted to live, and so you nourished that bird all night feeding him through a dropper only to hear a veterinarian say that this is an endangered species. Give him to me, I will kill the bird. And I screamed, Who speaks for God? and watched the vet physically shrivel, mend that wing, and I found sanctuary for that bird. I have two rescue dogs now, a rescue cat and a domesticated bird, a cockatiel, wandering about lost in Scituate, MA.

I KNOW animals and I know that anyone who cares for animals, personally or just this thing we call LOVE, will tell you about SOUL.

I am so worried about your column because it's just so wrong, so unjust, and so not about God and creation. We are not only the stewards of this world but we must recognize that such arrogance is an arrow straight to the heart. The world will never achieve this thing we call peace with ideas circulating like this, dangerous cruel ideas. Of course the great apes should have access to health care and all the creatures that swim and inhabit this earth. God is in the wings. Have you heard this phrase, meaning beshert. I look to the skies and every day, to the birds who spell, with their "cygneture", LOVE.

(14) Bracha Meyer, July 1, 2008 10:25 AM

We have betrayed the gift of animals

We have betrayed the gift of animals. They were born to be free yet we have locked them in cages and inadequate areas called "zoos" for our pleasure. We have all the ability in the world to know wild animals by watching video, there is no need to cage "great" apes for supposed educational value.

We have four parakeets who do not have their wings clipped buy fly about freely and fly back to their cage at night which we cover for total darkness and on taking of the cover they fly out to enjoy the day again.

We put out food for the wild squirrels and were putting out food for the wild birds until our landlord required us to stop or else.

I understand that we raise and slaughter animals for food and I wish I had stayed a vegetarian every time I eat a piece of meat. I haven't eaten veal for probably 20 years because I know of the cruelty in how the calves are raised in tiny crates with no way to ever walk.

We are only supposed to eat animals that are killed quickly and as painlessly as possible by kosher standards, so why is veal that was produced by such cruelty in life allowed on kosher restaurant menus? Shame on us for allowing this.

Give the great apes and all the wild animals in the zoos their freedom, good for Spain and this is not an insult to Hashem but a rectification of our unreasonable caging of wild creatures.

(13) Elektra, July 1, 2008 10:09 AM

Taken From "Ask Moses"

Taken From "Ask Moses"

Do animals have souls?
by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg
"Every object which was created by G-d contains a divine spark which gives life and existence to that object. This spark is known as the "soul." This soul is infinite and immortal, because it is a manifestation of the infinite G-d."

This is the teaching of Kabbalah, that all things contain this "spark" of divinity. How can you state that animals have no "soul"?

(12) Anonymous, July 1, 2008 9:55 AM

Not Enough Info

I'm not sure there is enough info here to form an opinion.
If the laws were meant to be specific to the treatment of animals as living beings as opposed to "products", then this is quite different than treating them with all the legal rights applicable to humans.

I am not convinced animals have no soul, even if it may be different from our own. I don't see why that idea would be threatening to our determination to feel "superior" to animals.The idea that animals have no soul seems much more a Christian concept than a Jewish one.

(11) Shaun Camilleri, July 1, 2008 9:43 AM

I think it is right that not only apes however all beings be given rights in law - why not. It does not even conflict with G-d's law. We are to respect his/her creation however some people are not scared or do not respect G-d. So why not put it into law. I do not feel threatened by it as a human being and since G-d created everything to the grain of sand I believe all living beings worship their creator in their own way.

(10) Anonymous, July 1, 2008 9:23 AM

animal souls?

I agree with you, Chaya. There is something very special about animals. Why have some companion animals able to detect a situation(heart attack or diabetic attack)before it happens, and help get their human companions to safety by warning them of an impending danger! Why do animals not HAVE TO live in this World as long as humans (if we are here to make "corrections")! Look at the "Search & Rescue" dogs during 9-11. Some of them were so depressed when they couldn't find bodies among the rubble, that their handlers had to "plant" (live) bodies in a make-believe situation so that they could find what they were there to do. There is an excellent film about "War Dogs" that showed how they helped humans during the major wars. I could go on and on. I am sure you are familiar with the poem "Rainbow Bridge". I don't bother to argue with doubters, anymore. I am just happy that my companion animals have proven to me what we already know.

(9) chavi, July 1, 2008 9:19 AM


It is clear to me, that from an evolutionary perspective, the Spanish parliament has not evolved yet beyond the primate state. They're just trying to take care of their brothers.

(8) ellie, July 1, 2008 9:19 AM

agree and maybe a little disagree

I agree...did not Hitler proclaim the Jews to be a lessor bred ...like animals. And that is partly responsible for the so called "good Germans" to accept the happening of degrading and banishing Jews.
However, animals are treated to cruel experiments for the sake of mankind. Makeups......operations illnesses becoming our food at a born to die and live within horrible conditions that even bring questions of the health of the flesh we consume.
There is also the dangerous slippery slope of our sense of superiority. Look where it has brought us -- to polluting our oceans and sea life, our air and bodies, to etc etc. It is time to put man in context of his smallness so that he begins to respect life and its physical supports. If we are created in God's image, then how can we attribute such wonderment to Hashem while creating such havoc to others. Does not Judism believe that man is not complete, men are completing him (based on free will) And, in fact we have proven ourselves to be short range thinkers, powerless creatures who mainly set up societies that support the Cains who, with their greed and willingness to do unto others what others would never allow themselves to do onto them (sometimes even in retalliation) and are bringing about the downfall of humanity one greedy, thoughtless step at a time.

(7) ALAN SCOP, July 1, 2008 9:06 AM



(6) chaya, July 1, 2008 8:51 AM

How do we know animals don't have souls?

Have you ever heard the anguished cry of an elephant mourning another elephant? Have you read about Koko the ape who learned sign language, named her pet kitten All-Ball and nurtured her? I'm convinced that my own cats actually see the malachim when we sing Shalom Aleichem on Friday night. Plus, when I was sick in bed for a week, my cats didn't leave my side. One of my cats went into my daughter's room, took a heart-shaped pillow from her bed and plopped it down next to me. I know it's not politically correct to say this in frum circles where pets are often reacted to with disgust and fear, but I'm not always sure that animals don't have souls.

(5) Beverly Kurtin, June 29, 2008 9:30 AM

Could not agree more

For once I totally agree with Rabi Salomon. However, I had to chuckle when you mentioned health care. Zoo animals get better health care than many humans in our health care for profit society in which we live.

We have three cats that permit us to live with them. People who have cats will fully understand that statement. We feel that we don't own them per se because they are G-d's creatures, we did not create them. We look at them as animal companions, which they certainly are.

When I was recovering from open heart surgery, one of our late cats would very carefully lay down on my chest and purr very deeply while forcing heat into his abdomen. Oy, what a blessing that was. He would do that until I fell asleep and then very carefully leave.

Would I give human rights to any of our animal? No way! However, we treat them the with loving care they deserve. They get regular veterinary care and only the best food that money can buy. It is our responsibility to treat our companions with compassion. But to even consider for a millisecond giving them human rights? No.

The great apes and the chimps have some human characteristics that go beyond the physical. If they seem themselves in a mirror, they know they are looking at themselves, so they have a sense of self. Some apes are being slaughtered so that humans can steal their lands in their rush to destroy more forest land. It is a terrible shame, but should they be granted human rights? No. Should the killers be arrested and jailed? Certainly. But not on a charge of murder, for that would be giving them the rights that are reserved for human beings.

Bottom line, I totally agree with Rabbi Salomon. It's time we stop this nonsense and center our concern for human rights on HUMAN BEINGS who are being slaughtered by their governments, i.e. Darfur, Burma, and the hundreds of other smaller areas we don't hear about through the selective "media." I am saddened by the slaughter of apes but weep uncontrollably when I consider the plight of the genocide that has never stopped for even a second on this planet with which we've been blessed.

(4) Daniel, June 29, 2008 9:30 AM

Excellent Distinction

Yasher koach R' Salomon, thank-you so much for your excellent elucidation. And as always, your dry sense of humor always brings a smile to my face as well.

(3) Susan, June 29, 2008 9:30 AM

How A bout Ape Rights?

Rabbi, I don't know much about Spain and how they view humanity or their animals. But we have in prominent places, Animal Rights groups here in USA.
Of course We have Human Rights too. We have Smokers Rights and hundreds of other Rights.
I've seen Louisianna. And I've seen Appalachia. And I've seen many, many Nursing Homes and foster homes. Those rights aren't working too well for those humans, are they?
The apes shouldn't get Human Rights because those Rights don't even protect humans.
If they were smart, the Apes should lobby for their own "Ape Rights".
I can live with that.

(2) Dvirah, June 29, 2008 6:55 AM

Our obligation is not their right

Much as I love animals, here I agree with R. Salomon. We have an obligation to maintain the Earth which includes both plant and animal life. But this is not to put them on the same level of conciousness.

(1) Rosen, June 29, 2008 1:32 AM


I tend to hear more the debate of whether dogs, family pets, are considered either personal property or members of the family. Many dogs are pretty affectionate, especially labrador retrievers, and some dogs are considered lap dogs, not just that they are small and fit in people's laps, but want to please humans. Still, they are animals like apes, only more domesticated, and does not necessarily allow them to the same rights as human's superiority.

Rabbi Soloman is correct that humans are set to a higher standard than the animal kingdom, even though we are supposed to treat animals humanely.


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