Wartime trade-offs


As a long-time Jewish vegetarian, I was pleased to read professor Nemeth’s plea on behalf of the animals in the Gaza Zoo (“Save the animals in the Gaza Zoo,” WJW, Aug. 28). As he says, “Humaneness and the Jewish tradition require it.” Humans like other animals make trade-offs, consciously or not. He rightfully says that “putting nonhuman animal welfare before human welfare has precedence in Jewish law,” But can it be an infallible rule in all situations? When the Israeli military decides to take out a Hamas missile target at or near a hospital, school, mosque or zoo, some person has to weigh the risks of collateral damage, including the priority of that site. That is not the heart of Nemeth’s argument but it is the context, and we need to be careful in the application of an ethics of animal welfare, most of which does not come out of the hell of war.
If Nemeth had to make the decision: the zoo or another human site; 10 humans vs 10 animals; one innocent woman and child vs 100 innocent animals  . . . the decision about welfare in this case is not so clear. Nevertheless, I applaud the professor’s salvo into a neglected subject, our responsibility towards animals in war and peace.

Silver Spring 

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