«Brit Shalom» – a guide to practical Noahide daily life, brief version

Chapter Eight. Animals (The Prohibition To Eat a Limb From a Live Animal)

And as for Me, I will establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living soul that is with you, of the bird, of cattle, and of every living animal upon the earth with you. (Genesis 9:9-10)
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; as with the green herbs have I given you all these. However, you shall not eat flesh whose blood is still in its soul. (Genesis 3:3-4)
On that day, I will make a covenant with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; I will also banish bow, sword, and war from the land. Thus I will let them lie down safely. (Hosea 2:20)

This is a brief version.

To get a full version [hide]1. The Torah permitted humans to feed themselves with every type of plant life, as it is stated:255 Gоd said, Behold I have given you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the surface of the entire earth and every tree which has seed-bearing fruit; it shall be yours for food. (Genesis 1:29) And humans were also permitted to eat many types of animals, as it is stated:256 And the fear and the dread of you shall be upon every animal of the earth and upon every bird of the sky; of all that moves upon the ground and of all fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; as with the green herbs have I given you all these. (Genesis 9:2-30)

2. The Torah prohibited eating “a limb from a live animal” or, in other words, any part of an animal that was taken from it while it was still alive, as it states:257 “However, you shall not eat flesh whose blood is still in its soul.” This prohibition applies even after the animal whose flesh was detached – while it was still alive – is now dead.258

3. Among the reasons why eating flesh from a live animal is forbidden is to distance humanity from brutality, pursuit of lustful pleasures, and impulsivity.259

4. It is forbidden to eat a limb from a live animal but it is permissible to make use of it, for example, as food for dogs.260

5. The prohibition of eating a limb from a live animal pertains to birds as well. However, in this case, violation of the prohibition does not result in any punishment.261

6. An animal or a bird that is still convulsing even after is has been slaughtered is still considered alive as long as is has not ceased all movement.262

7. If the head of an animal is removed, it is permissible to eat the animal even if it is still convulsing.263

8. This prohibition applies to any quantity of flesh that is eaten.264

9. Hard tendons and skins from domesticated and wild animals, bird feathers, horns, and hooves, are not included in the prohibition of eating a limb from a live animal, because it is not customary for humans to eat them.265 But, the skin of a pig and all other soft animal skins, taken while the animal was still alive, since they are customarily eaten, are forbidden for consumption.266

10. This prohibition does not apply to insects, fish or grasshoppers, that is, any cold-blooded animal whose blood is not considered separate from its flesh.267 And even though it is permitted to eat them while they are alive,268 it is preferable to kill them first in order not to cause them to suffer.

11. It is permissible to clean the wound of another person by sucking blood from the wound.269

12. Medications that contain components that include flesh taken from a live animal are permissible.270

13. Food in which a limb taken from a live animal is mixed uniformly throughout the food, as long as it is a minority of this mixture, is permissible to eat.271

14. In a case where there is doubt as to whether a particular food is, in fact, a limb taken from a live animal, we assume that it is permissible since most of the food that we eat is not taken from a live animal.272

15. It is forbidden to cause animal suffering without any positive purpose or without any direct benefit to human beings.273

16. It is forbidden to eat human flesh.274

17. Where human life is in danger, it is permissible to eat every food that the Torah forbids.275

18. All parts of the body of an animal are permissible after its death, including the intestines.276

Behavioral Guidelines

1. The sages of Israel were divided regarding the status of blood from a living animal, that is, blood taken from an animal that is still alive.277 Practically speaking, it is permitted,278 but blessings will come to those who are stringent in this matter.279 And it is appropriate to refrain from eating blood even from an animal that was already slaughtered.280

2. Noahides are not obligated to eat only those animals that are ritually slaughtered. Nevertheless, it is best to make every effort to minimize suffering of the animal. And therefore, it is best when a meat eater eats animals that are properly slaughtered.281

3. It is best to avoid cruelty towards any living creature, and one should not make them suffer, and should have mercy on them. Included in this behavior are:

  • Not to slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day.282
  • Not to do any work, such as plowing, with animals of two different species.283
  • Not to muzzle an animal to prevent it from eating agricultural produce associated with its work (e.g. threshing).284

The sages were uncomfortable with the idea of using animals for games or sport because they suffer from such activities, such as in bullfights285 and hunting for sport.286

4. Whoever finds a nest and wants to take the chicks or the eggs that are in it must first chase away the mother and then take them in order that the mother should not see her offspring being taken away. But it is better not to take them.287

5. It is not proper to eat meat or drink wine in excess.288

6. Blood from a slaughtered undomesticated animal or from a slaughtered bird should be covered with earth.289

7. Whoever wants to be strict with himself and eat only kosher foods according to the laws of Judaism, can do so,290 and may even accept upon himself a portion of the laws of kashrut. And here are some of these laws:

  • Not to eat “treifa” (unfit meat), that is, meat from an animal with a fatal defect.291
  • Not to eat animals or birds that died without being slaughtered by human beings.292
  • Not to eat any of the animals forbidden to a Jew as they are listed in the book of Leviticus.293
  • Not to eat meat mixed with milk or other dairy products.294


253 Exodus 22:24.

254 Deuteronomy 25:13-16.

255 Genesis 1:29.

256 Genesis 9:2-3.

257 Genesis 9:4; Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:10.

258 Bavli Chulin 121b; of the prohibitions among the nations regarding taking a limb from a live animal, we omitted a limb hanging by a thread, an unfinished egg, and an animal slaughtered by a Jew since these are uncommon cases.

259 Maharal, Gevurot HaShem, Chapter 66, ד”ה ואלו שבע מצוות

260 Bavli Pesachim 22b.

261 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:11; cf. ibid. Hasagat Hara’avad and Radbaz.

262 Bavli Chulin 121b; Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:12-13.

263 Mishnah Ohalot 1:6; Mishneh Torah, Avot HaTumah 2:1.

264 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:10.

265 Bavli Pesachim 24b; Mishneh Torah, Ma’achalot Assurot 4:18.

266 Mishneh Torah, ibid. 4:20-21.

267 Bavli Sanhedrin 59b.

268 Terumot Tosefta 9:6; Shabbat 90b, Tosafot ד”ה דלא לימרו.

269 Mishneh Torah, Ma’achalot Assurot 6:2, because something forbidden to Jews by a decree of the sages does not apply to Noahides; see Chatam Sofer, Responsa, Part 6, Siman 25.

270 Bavli Avodah Zarah 67b; Mishneh Torah, Ma’achalot Assurot 15:28; see Pri Megadim, Siftei Da’at 62, 4.

271 Mishneh Torah, Ma’achalot Assurot 15:4.

272 Chatam Sofer, Responsa, Yoreh De’ah, Siman 19.

273 Exodus 23:5; Numbers 22:32; see Sefer Chasidim, Siman 666, and I already included this halacha in laws of bloodshed.

274 See Bavli Chulin 92b; Mishneh Torah, Ma’achalot Assurot 2:3; see Malbim Leviticus 11, Siman 72; Yad Eliyahu, Responsa, Siman 45.

275 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 10:2; See Parashat Derachim, Derech Ha’Atarim, Lecture 2 (beginning).

276 Tur, Yoreh De’ah, Siman 27; see an expansive discussion in Sheva Mitzvot HaShem, Part 1, page 282ff.

277 Bavli Sanhedrin 59a.

278 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:10.

279 From the standpoint of natural law.

280 Deuteronomy 12:23.

281 See The Guide for the Perplexed, Part 3, Chapter 48.

282 Leviticus 22:28.

283 Deuteronomy 22:10.

284 Deuteronomy 25:4.

285 Responsa, Toldot Yaakov, Rav Ya’akov Zev Kahane, Yoreh De’ah, Siman 33, ד”ה לכן.

286 Responsa, Nodah BeYehudah (Tanyina), Yoreh De’ah, Siman 10.

287 Deuteronomy 22:6-7; The Guide for the Perplexed, Part 3, Chapter 48.

288 Leviticus 19:26; Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 248.

289 Leviticus 17:13; Sefer HaChinuch Mitzvah 187; there is thus a hint that humanity, in the future, will cease to eat meat, according to Rav Kook’s, Chazon HaTzimchonut VeHaShalom (A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace).

290 Rabbeinu Bachya, Bereishit 9:3.

291 Exodus 22:30, Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 73.

292 Deuteronomy 14:21, See Tosafot, Sanhedrin 56b ד”ה אכל תאכל ,initially there was permission to eat such animals, cf. Rashi to Chulin 98b ד”ה במקולין and Rashbach Gaon, Bereishit 34:12, Rav Menachem Azariah da Fano, Asarah Ma’amarot, Ma’amar Chikur Din, Part 3, Chapter 21.

293 Ibid. Chapter 11.

294 Exodus 23:19.