Hunting for Sport

[This month's Iturei Yerushalayim #27 - Tevet]
Question: Is it permissible for me to hunt sheep in my farm in America with the purpose of eating them?
Answer: This subject is discussed at length in the responsa "Noda Bi-Yehudah" (Tanina, Yoreh Deah #10). It is permissible to hunt in order to make a living. There is no prohibition of "tza'ar ba'alei chaim" (causing pain to animals), since there is a human need, whether for food or another use. There is an issue of endangering a human life when hunting dangerous animals, such as a bear for its fur. It is ruled, however, that it is permissible to take a small risk in order to make a living, such as climbing a tree to pick fruit or building a structure while standing on scaffolding. In the case of hunting for pleasure, however, it is certainly prohibited to take even a small risk.

There is no prohibition of "tza'ar ba'alei chaim" in our case, since it is also considered a human need, similar to riding on a horse, using a cow to plow, or putting animals in cages at the zoo. "Tza'ar ba'alei chaim" is only forbidden when one causes them pain for no reason, while it is permissible if there is a human need. Furthermore, "tza'ar ba'alei chaim" is in a case that one causes the animal pain and keeps it alive, but there is no prohibition if one kills the animal in the midst of the pain.

But the Noda Bi-Yehudah wrote that hunting for sport is cruel and lowly, and reminds us of Nimrod and Esav. On the contrary, Hashem is merciful to all of his creatures. It is not strictly prohibited but it displays a negative character trait. For example, it is permissible to pluck a feather from a goose in order to use it for a quill, but the Rama writes that the Jewish People refrain from doing so because it is cruel. It you intend to hunt sheep in order to eat them, there is no cruel entertainment involved, since it is obviously permissible to eat animals. The question thus becomes how you can hunt a sheep without injuring it in such a manner that will not make it "trief" (unkosher), unless you catch it with a trap or lasso.