MooI was always comforted in my decision to eat meat by the notion that since I kept kosher, the meat I ate would always come from animals that were humanely slaughtered. I read all the standard texts promoting a meatless diet and the most compelling arguments presented involved the horrific practices one found in non-kosher slaughterhouses. With kosher slaughter, the guy in charge’s main task is to minimize the suffering of the animal, whereas with the non-kosher variant the only consideration is production. Kosher slaughterers receive special and extensive training in that regard, whereas non-kosher slaughtering can be done by pretty much anyone.

All this has now changed as a result of an undercover investigation and video released by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The videos are rather graphic and show cows getting their throats ripped immediately after the shechita. You see cows getting up and struggling – do not see the video if you have a weak stomach.

There has, understandably been tremendous fallout as a result. You can read all about it in detail at Failed Messiah and all over protocols. I have a hard time believing that the video represents the norm for kosher slaughter. However, until I know that for sure and until the relevant kashrut bodies assure me that this is indeed not the norm, I will stop eating all meat. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to ban kosher slaughter and I don’t think eating meat is evil, but if this is what it takes for me to have meat, if this is the norm, then thanks, but no thanks. I’m not interested.

About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

21 Comments

  • Amen.

    If you want to disgust yourself even more, there are books like ‘Beyond Beef’ that talk about the way other animals are treated as well…chickens have their beaks cut off so they won’t peck eachother to death in the horrible conditions they are kept in…baby cows are taken shortly after birth and kept in small cages so they can’t move (ie: develop muscle, thus becoming beef not veal), it’s all pretty awful. Kosher has nothing to do with it, but I have happily been a vegetarian for 15 years and when I hear about stories like this, it just confirms my personal choice.

    If you’re a total radical you can become a fruitarian, and just eat things that fall from trees onto the earth, but then you’ll turn orange from the 10 pound bags of carrots you’ll be juicing everyday, start cruising health food stores, and begin inviting women out ‘for juice’.

    Anyway, shame on this ‘kosher’ slaughterhouse, it seems to go against everything kosher slaughter was meant to be…

  • Who cares?

    I mean, really. Kashrut has little to do with minimizing the suffering of animals. Attaching moral imperatives we’re comfortable with now onto biblical statues is interesting, but undercuts most of what Judaic imperatives are all about. Mosaic law defies rationality (teffilin, anyone?) but you’re supposed to abide by them anyway, because God said so.

    When you decide that there’s a logical reason behind those laws, you allow for the possilibity that as contingencies change, the laws do too. I’ve always had a problem with people rationalizing eating prok with the idea that the prohibition only dates back to a time when people didn’t know how to avoid trichinosis.

    If you don’t like animals to suffer, don’t eat meat. I’m pretty sure that any living being with a little bit of self-awareness would much rather remain alive than dead. If God said you can eat meat, then He said that you have to kill it in the way He said. He didn’t say that you have to do so in a manner consonant with what PETA or anybody else deems fair treatment.

    It also seems a little strange that PETA still thinks that if you shock people enough, then they’ll give up meat. As B.R. Meyers says, “Research could prove that cows love Jesus, and the line at the McDonald’s drive-through wouldn’t be one sagging carload shorter the next day.”

    Most people like meat, and if it bothers them a little that animals suffer, they seem quite content to ignore it.

  • Well Aaron, there are some things I simply cannot ignore, what can I say?

    You state that “Kashrut has little to do with minimizing the suffering of animals.” and you’re not entirely wrong. Kashrut involves hundreds of laws, many of which have nothing to do with minimizing cruelty to animals. However, some clearly are designed to do just that. Stating that concern for animal welfare is a moral imperative that has only recently been attached to biblical statutes (you did mean statutes and not statues, right?) sounds all fine and good but it totally ignores the very well established and not at all modern concept of tsar baalei chayim. Being unduly cruel to any of G_d’s creatures is a sin, it’s that simple. And what went on in that slaughterhouse did not look too kosher to me.

    I never had a problem eating meat, and I’ve never been a huge fan of PETA. But kashrut has standards and if you read the reports that I linked to, many feel that Judaism’s standards and not PETA’s, have been violated. I mean seriously Aaron, if you think I’m some touchy feely hippie dude, well you should know better – we did have Friday Night Shabbat dinner together and we both commented on the yumminess of the chicken. You’re an otherwise smart and astute fellow – you should know how waaaay off your comments here are.

    😉

  • CK, you’re going veggie? What about this?

    Oh well. Welcome (temporarily) to our subsisting-on-carbohydrates ranks. Boca fake chicken patties are surprisingly good imitations, though I don’t remember if they’re kosher or not…

  • When you cut off a chicken’s head, does it flap around? Is it suffering? Please pass me the ketchup.

    I fully agree with Aaron. G-d let us eat meat, and told us how to do it too. Pass the BBQ sauce please, l’chaim.

  • I think it’s time to have Rabbi Yonah weigh in on this post. I’d like to hear what he has to say.

  • What this basically means to me is, the meat was not kosher. If the animal is killed in such a way, this is non-kosher meat.

    I really have no way of knowing from the video if this was one mishap and this meat never made it to the market, or if it was ongoing.

    And while I think PETA is a bunch of nut cases, this is a seriously disturbing video. Let’s avoid heaping scorn on anyone until we get the whole story (yes, PETA too)

    I find it hard to believe this is the “norm” for kosher slaughter. If so, I am very concerned about the beef I had for dinner tonight :S

  • I may be miss remembering, and I don’t feel like double checking at the moment, but it seems to me that the point at which humanity was ALLOWED to consume meat with G-D’s okay was AFTER Noah left the ark. If you look at that, then G-D would probably have wanted us to be vegetarians, but since the world had been pretty much devastated after the flood eating meat would have become necessary.

  • I pretty much agree with you little wolf, as so does Rav Kook, by the way. He believed the permission to eat meat was a temporary concession to human nature (not so much neccessity because other food was unavailable), and that in the messianic era, we’ll all be vegetarians again, like we were initially created to be.

  • One Vancouver rabbi (trained as a shochet) said:
    “The video doesn’t show tons of cows suffering, it only showed 1 -2. So it may have been a rare affair caught on film”

    His wife said:
    “Well dear, I’ve read quite a few articles about this incident and it seems to me that the kashrut may be in question. And the letter the OU sent out sounded very political”.

    Another Vancouver rabbi on shabbos said:
    “I couldn’t watch the video…too bloody. But from what I’ve read, it sounds troubling”

    And this is good to hear. None of the Ortho rabbis I spoke to belittled PETA one bit. They all agreed that this incident should be looked into.

  • Look, whatever the case is, eating meat is part of life. Like sex, procreation, sickness, defecation. It’s life.

    Not all of life is pretty. If these animal rights people don’t have
    animal blood on thier hands, theres some other skeleton waiting to pop out of their closet.

    I’m not going to stop eating meat because these people think
    animals shouldn’t die. Consumption of meat is part of life.
    They can get their protien from pills if they want to.

  • Tsar Ba’alei Chaim and Kashrut are separate concepts. While oftentimes the process of shechita is designed to minimize an animals’s suffering, the fact remains that as long as the ritual laws have been followed, the animal is kosher. That it might have been unhappy (or worse) at any point in its life doesn’t render it unfit to eat.

    This doesn’t mean that animal suffering is acceptable. It’s not. But the idea that we should keep animals as happy as possible until we cut their throats and sell their meat to sausage-makers is one that transcends Judaism.

    A tipped cow is still a kosher cow (unless it breaks its leg or develops a lung lesion during the tipping process). Whether it’s a morally edible cow is another story.

  • Although Aaron, I would argue that the verse about not cooking a kid in its mother’s milk speaks to Tzaar baalei chayim, even if it has come to take on a different meaning because of rabbinic interpretations vis a vis kashrut laws.

  • Aaron – that’s my point. I do not think, and many eperts in shechita agree with me, that what was shown on the video was a kosher shechita, plain and simple. I’m not talking about how the animals lived, I am talking specifically about how they died. Thus, until I know that these practices are not the standard, I am not eating any meat, plain and simple and furthermore, I urge anyone else out there who keeps kosher to do the same.

    Again – I have no opposition to eating meat. I love beef and my favorite jacket is a classic black leather Schott’s Perfecto. But what I cannot support is unneccessary cruelty.

  • CK, the NY Times reported that this is not standard procedure and many rabbinic kashrut authorities they interviewed were dismayed by this system of killing. It seems this plant caters primarily to a company called Aaron’s Best.

  • This is not the norm when it comes to shechita at all. My immediate family is in the kosher catering biz and some have visited various slaughter houses in both Canada and the US.

    Peta has also been claiming for years that kosher slaughter is far more painful to the animal than non-kosher slaughter where the animal is first stunned, etc. This ignores SCIENTIFIC research that shows the opposite. We are referring to a group that tends to not let fact stand in their way.

  • dan, i disagree that eating meat is somehow as essential to life as ” sex, procreation, sickness, defecation.” It is only a part of life because you want it to be. Because it’s been taken as the unquestioned norm for most people’s entire life. But the fact of the matter is that according to Judaism, God’s original intention for us was to be vegetarian.

  • With a very sharp, knick-free blade, with one smooth, deep stroke across the throat.

    From Wikipedia’s entry on kashrut:

    “A professional slaughterer, or shochet (????), using a large razor-sharp knife with absolutely no irregularities, nicks or dents, makes a single cut across the throat to a precise depth, severing both carotid arteries, both jugular veins, both Vagus nerves, the trachea and the esophagus, no higher than the epiglottis and no lower than where cilia begin inside the trachea, causing instantaneous loss of blood flow to the brain and death in a few seconds. Any variation from this exact procedure could cause unnecessary suffering; therefore, if the knife catches even for a split second or is found afterward to have developed any irregularities, or the depth of cut is too deep or shallow, the carcass is not kosher (nevelah) and is sold as regular meat to the general public. The shochet must be not only rigorously trained in this procedure, but also a pious Jew of good character who observes the Sabbath, and who remains cognizant that these are God’s creatures who are sacrificing their lives for the good of himself and his community and should not be allowed to suffer. In smaller communities, the shochet is often the town rabbi or the rabbi of one of the local synagogues; large factories which produce Kosher meat have professional full time shochets on staff.

    Once killed, the animal is opened to determine whether there are any of seventy different irregularities or growths on its internal organs, which would render the animal non-kosher. The term “Glatt” kosher, although it is often used colloquially to mean “strictly kosher”, properly refers to meat where the glatt (???) (lungs) are carefully examined for adhesions (i.e. scars from previous inflammation).

    Large blood vessels must be removed, and all blood must be removed from the meat, as Jewish law prohibits the consumption of the blood of any animal. This is most commonly done by soaking and salting, but also can be done by broiling. An interesting fact, little-known outside of Jewish communities, is that the hindquarters of a mammal are not kosher unless the sciatic nerve and the fat surrounding it are removed (Genesis 32:33). This is a very time-consuming process demanding a great deal of special training, and is rarely done outside Israel, where there is a greater demand for kosher meat, since all meat sold in Jewish towns is required to be kosher by law. When it is not done, the hindquarters of the animal are sold for non-kosher meat.”

  • i went to to hebrew school i studied in a hesitic day school I remember learning about this isue god say we could eat meat not becaus animals don matter but becaus humans are natrualy violent and well better a cow than guy. but if an animal sufers before or after the sloughter its traif(not kosher) the rabi who tought at my school was a kosher butcher poltry not beef he. told me that if a animal is feels pain during the prosses instead of cosidered a sin of hurting a animal its considered a sin of hurting a person.

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