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Chief Rabbi of Israel Issues Ruling Condemning Horse Racing as Cruel and a Violation of Jewish Law

Press Release







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October 19, 2006, Tel Aviv


Amid the battle raging in Israel between those in favor of the government’s decision to bring gambling on horse racing to the country and the environmental and animal protection organizations who oppose it, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, issued a historic rabbinic ruling (psak halacha) against the practice.


The Rabbi’s ruling concludes:

It seems self-evident that one ought to instruct every God-fearing person to hasten to gather his livestock and his horses at home [an allusion to Exodus 9:20] and not to participate in horse-races — neither in establishing them, nor by watching them: because of the pain to animals caused thereby, because it is "a dwelling place of scoffers," and because it is "playing with dice" [that is, gambling].

Among the reasons the Chief Rabbi cited in drawing his conclusion are that racing involves the slaughter of many healthy horses only because they are not economically profitable, which violates the Jewish law against wanton destruction. Many horses die due to catastrophic injuries during training and racing or from other conditions caused by being pushed beyond their natural limits, such as heart attacks or bleeding in the lungs, which affects virtually all horses raced.


The Rabbi also wrote that establishing horse slaughter in Israel would create a risk that horsemeat would be sold there, which would also violate Jewish law because it is not kosher. Furthermore, Judaism forbids gambling because it enriches one at the expense of another.


Hakol Chai, the Israeli sister charity of the U.S.-based Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI), had asked the Rabbi to rule on the practice as part of its campaign to prevent gambling on racing from coming to Israel. The charity appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to stop the first race track from being built, and the case will be heard in mid-December. Environmental groups in Israel also filed formal objections to the plan, on the grounds that no environmental impact statements had been prepared and the planned race track project would harm the environment.


Read the Chief Rabbi's complete ruling.




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