Save a Rare Kosher Bird

 

Guest post by R. Chaim Loike

Rabbi Chaim Loike teaches practical shechitah at RIETS and speaks frequently on kosher birds.

The Philby partridge (Alectoris philbyi) is a partridge which is indigenous to Northern Yemen. It was at one time imported by the San Diego Zoo, and there were quite a few hobbyists who successfully raised the bird. For unknown reasons, the San Diego Zoo stopped raising this bird about a decade ago, and most hobbyists have likewise moved to more interesting exotics. At the same time, the situation in Yemen has become rather hostile. Although the bird is not listed as endangered, the collapse of the Yemenite government combined with rampant poaching does not bode well for the future of this species.

The Philby partridge is unique because it is one of the few historically kosher birds, which is not raised in captivity. The birds which we generally eat include the classic domesticated chicken, turkey, duck and, if you are lucky, goose. The Talmud in the third chapter of Chullin explains that the majority of avian species are kosher. However, the Rama (SH”A YD 82:3) notes that our tradition is to refrain from eating any birds whose kosher status cannot be proven via a mesorah, a tradition of permissibility. All said, of the ten thousand recognized avian species, there are only three dozen species which are proven kosher. The Philby partridge could likely qualify for this short list. Photographic evidence exists that the Philby was consumed by the local Yemenite Jewish community. There is also scientific data that the Philby will hybridize with the kosher species of partridge. This suggests that the only reason why the Philby partridge may not become a recognized kosher bird is that the bird is just too rare.

After approaching a few zoos, it was discovered that there are so many species in danger of extinction that the institutions are forced to prioritize. This rare bird, from a remote part of the Arabian Peninsula, was not considered a priority. To this end, a few rabbis are trying to save this bird. We have already acquired a foundation stock and are now looking to breed this bird. If our breeding efforts are successful, we hope to establish three breeding colonies. Additional birds will be distributed to schools, camps, and other institutions that appreciate both the mitzvah (Rambam, MA 1:1) to differentiate between the kosher and non-kosher species and the importance of conservation.

How much will this cost? We are looking to raise five thousand dollars. This will cover the equipment needed to raise and maintain the three colonies, as well as food, vitamins and medication. We will work, b’ezras Hashem, to save this species. Your contribution will be a major factor in determining whether or not we succeed. Join the campaign: www.indiegogo.com/shecht.

 

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13 Responses

  1. IH says:

    Sounds like a fitting use of revenue from the OU Kosher business. Have they been approached?

    Also, is there any activity in regard to this species in Israel?

  2. an interesting project, but

    “Additional birds will be distributed to schools, camps, and other institutions that appreciate both the mitzvah (Rambam, MA 1:1) to differentiate between the kosher and non-kosher species and the importance of conservation.”

    is there likewise a source in the rambam for conservation?

  3. Yossie says:

    What is the criteria for mesorah? I am wondering because I know that peacocks used to be kosher and indeed, can be found in old books describing kosher birds.

  4. Eliezer Maron says:

    Can you publish some recipes as well? Each $25 contribution should come w/ a photo of the bird and a recipe booklet. Philby Pheasant looks good.

  5. Synapse says:

    Abba,

    Probably the opposite. Most rishonim rejected the idea that an animal could truly cease to exist and go extinct.

  6. joel rich says:

    Photographic evidence exists that the Philby was consumed by the local Yemenite Jewish community. There is also scientific data that the Philby will hybridize with the kosher species of partridge.
    ===============================
    Worth a post on its own. I seem to recall r’hs saying that the hybridize issue was key (with the zebu). Does photographic evidence have halachic value?(similar to archeological?)
    KT

  7. shachar haamim says:

    I’m not sure the hybridize issue is applicable to fowl.
    This is usually an indicator that a mammal which has simanei kashrut but for which there is no mesorah (e.g. American Bison) is a kosher animal. What’s the source that this works for fowl?

  8. Tal Benschar says:

    The birds which we generally eat include the classic domesticated chicken, turkey, duck and, if you are lucky, goose.

    Are there any sources of kosher goose in North America? In Israel? (I do seem to recall that at one point kosher foie gras was a small export industry in Israel.)

  9. eli says:

    can a donation to this cause be taken from maaser ?
    semi-related and interesting – i asked the business halacha institute ( http://www.businesshalacha.com/ ) if i can count a donation to wikipeda as maaser. they were not into it. may i suggest a post on the idea of how things may be considered maaser/tzedaka as it pertains to either non-jewish charities, supporting secular intellectual pursuits, the peace corp etc., or really anything of the sort that is not exactly kupat ha’ir.

  10. Shalom Rosenfeld says:

    IIRC for birds the hybridization rules are a bit tighter (or at least subject to machlokes), IIRC Netziv says you can prove that questionable bird X is kosher if it freely mates with known-kosher bird Y as often as with species X. (As it turned out, the Muscovy duck passed this test easily.)

  11. Shalom Spira says:

    Ye’yasher kochakhem R. Loike and respondents.
    Indeed, as R. Shalom Rosenfeld indicates, the contribution of Shu”t Meshiv Davar, Yoreh De’ah 22 is significant in the sphere of ornithological kashrut. What precisely may be inferred from that Meshiv Davar is discussed in a correspondence between R. Ari Z. Zivotofsky and R. J. David Bleich in Tradition 36:2 (Summer 2002), pp. 107-112.

  12. abba's rantings says:

    ELI:

    how about taxes?

  13. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    kosher goose has been available in the us for many years. the problem is limited market, and the fact that empire (and rubashkin, when they were around) sells it three in a case, frozen. thus, local butchers are loath to stock it. also, some ppl have a minhag to eat goose on rosh hashana (dont know why.) try a good butcher store, and / or RH time.

    muscovy duck, though kosher per r shmuel salant (the r ilowwy story from new orleans), is not accepted by the rabbanut, i am told.

    bison (and elk) are prob the only “glatt” meats that is accepted only by the o-u. (note — almost all meat in the is is o-u and another hechsher. these two are excepted.)

 
 

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