Leading rabbi: Nonsurgical neutering is the Torah way

Weighing in on the controversy over sterilizing cats and dogs, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel says surgery is wrong.

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Cat (illustration)
Cat (illustration)
Flash 90

President of the Hotam Forum of Torah institutes, Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, has weighed in on the current controversy over the mass spaying and neutering of stray cats and dogs. The rabbi said that in his opinion sterilization should be carried out in a non-surgical way, through hormonal injections.

Rabbi Ariel entered the public fray over the subject that has received intense media attention since Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel announced that his office is looking into the possibility of sending thousands of cats and dogs to countries that will accept them, as an alternative to sterilizing them.

"Surgical sterilization causes sorrow to cats, and that is why we say hormonal sterilization is necessary," he explained, and commended the decision to set aside funds for researching the matter. "In order to advance the subject of hormonal sterilization, research needs to be promoted. Surgical sterilization is improper according to Halakha (Jewish law) and causes the animal sorrow, while chemical sterilization does not."

In addition, he commended the decision to invest in research regarding identification of chicks before they hatch, in order to prevent the destruction of millions of chicks annually. "The subject of destruction of chicks is very serious, without a doubt, and a solution needs to be found."

Minister Ariel's positions on sterilization were finalized after the Hotam Forum presented its professional opinion on the matter in the Knesset's Education Committee.

The prohibition of sterilization is based on the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) chapter 22, verse 24: "Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to God; you shall not do it within your land."

"The meaning of this is that one must not cause an animal to completely lose its ability to procreate," Hotam wrote. "This prohibition relates to both males and females. The prohibition has several aspects: removal of organs of procreation or an action that permanently cancels their ability to procreate. In addition, surgery on an animal involves causing sorrow to an animal which is prohibited."

On the other hand, temporary sterilization is not forbidden, the forum explained, and it therefore recommended hormonal sterilization for animals by means of injections, or by implanting a chip that depresses the animal's sexual activity for six to 12 months.

The debate has indirectly spurred discussion about abortion as well, a subject rarely debated in Israel, which has some of the world's most liberal abortion laws.