The NY Jewish Week has a story on the Rubashkin shechita scandal buried deep within its electronic edition. In it, Rabbi Menachem Genack, the head of the OU's Kashrut Division, is reported to have said the following:
[PETA activist] Ronnen in his letter quoted the chief rabbi of Haifa, Shear-Yashuv Cohen, as saying that based on the videotape, he found that the shechita was “definitely unacceptable by halachic [Jewish law] standards.”
Rabbi Genack said he spoke by phone with Rabbi Cohen and that the Haifa rabbi mistakenly believed that the animal’s throat was torn away before shechita was performed.
Anyone who has seen the video knows that the tearing of the throat was done seconds after the shechita. The video is absolutely clear on this. The NY Jewish Week's reporter spoke with many involved in this dispute, but not Rabbi Cohen.
This is Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen's statement as e-mailed to PETA:
I must stress that I find it very difficult to offer an opinion without knowing the identity of the slaughterhouse involved and especially the name of the rabbi, if any, that gives it the kosher certification.
Judging by the video film that you have shown me, the procedure of this shekhita is definitely unacceptable by halakhic standards. I was surprised to see that immediately after the shochet makes the cut, a worker who is probably not Jewish jumps to the animal and tears away its entire throat. Also, I was surprised to see that even after that brutal act, the animal seems to still be alive and walked a few steps, and then it took about four minutes until it fell down and died.
This procedure is not only cruel and therefore unacceptable by Jewish religious law. It also cannot be certified as Kosher, as the animal must die as the direct result of the ritual cut. And a shokhet (= ritual slaughterer) has to check it to ascertain that this is indeed what has happened.
Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen
Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel
If the Jewish Week's reporting is accurate, it leaves us with two possibilities:
- The OU is lying.
- The OU is coercing Rabbi Cohen.
I've heard from a source deeply involved in this scandal that the OU has put tremendous pressure on Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen to force him to retract his anti-OU statements. Further, it appears that Rabbi Cohen did not know the name or location of the slaughterhouse until after the issue became public.
Knowing all this, it seems that both of the above are true.