This Essay examines the moral status of animals and the definition of humanity under traditional Jewish law, as contained in Biblical texts and commentaries by ancient and historical Jewish scholars. Examining whether animals are capable of moral behavior, it provides examples from various Judaic sources to support the idea that animals are capable of making conscious, moral choices. This Essay goes on to investigate the effect that morality has on the rights and rewards given to animals under Jewish law, and whether, as conscious moral actors, animals have souls. Turning more broadly to the definition of humanity, this Essay discusses whether there might be an expansive contextual definition that would encompass animals with the cognitive ability to communicate and interact like people. Possible tests for humanity under Jewish law, all of which could include animals, such as the contextual/functionality test, or the moral intelligence test, suggest that from a Jewish law perspective, animals that possess the ability to make moral choices may be more human than not.
Not Alll Dogs Go to Heaven: Judaism's Lessons in Beastly Morality,
Animal L. Rev.
Available at: https://lawcommons.lclark.edu/alr/vol20/iss1/6