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December 13, 2004

BREAKING! Rabbis Alleged To Have Lobbied USDA To Permit Throat-Ripping And Benefit Rubashkin

When the OU said they did not know about the throat-ripping, was it telling the truth?

According to a source in the food science community close to the USDA, on the afternoon of October 23, 2003, rabbis from the OU, Star-K, CRC (Chicago), Agudath Israel, and from other haredi kosher supervision agencies met in Washington, DC with senior USDA staff including some of the most senior political appointees in the agency.

[UPDATE  1-31-08 – As I later mentioned on other posts, I was able to confirm this meeting with both the USDA and with two rabbis who attended. But, despite FOIA requests, the USDA was unable to provide an agenda for the meeting or to state with clarity which senior staff were present. The rabbis themselves were unable to say whether then-Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman was there for the meeting or not, although it appears she did attend part of it.]

The rabbis wanted to change USDA directives governing ritual slaughter, apparently to benefit Rubashkin and allow throat-ripping.

In the extended post below you will find two versions of the same USDA directive covering kosher slaughter. The first is the current language, approximately one year old. The second is the original version. [Emphasis added to both.]

You'll see the so-called "second cut" is specifically permitted in the new version of the directive.

USDA FSIS inspectors are also instructed to not stop the production line for violations of the Humane Slaughter Act. Instead, line inspectors are told to call their regional office for a ruling on whether a kosher line can be stopped.

In practice, staff are reluctant to do this which means kosher lines will rarely be stopped, even for good cause.

Similarly, sources tell me it is unlikely a regional office will order a line stopped because that regional office itself must contact Washington to notify USDA staff of the stoppage.

It appears the rabbis and senior USDA staff have in effect succeeded in gutting the Humane Slaughter Act for glatt kosher production.

The documents posted after the jump in the extended post…

From USDA Directive 6900.2, revised approximately one year ago, allegedly in conjunction with the OU and other kosher supervision agencies and rabbinic organizations:

PART V --RITUAL SLAUGHTER OF LIVESTOCK

A.  General Requirement

Section 1902 (b) of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 provides that “slaughtering in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument and handling in connection with such slaughtering” is humane. Section 1906 of the Act further provides that, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit, abridge, or in any way hinder the religious freedom of any person or group. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, in order to protect freedom of religion, ritual slaughter and the handling or other preparation of livestock for ritual slaughter are exempted from the terms of this chapter. For the purposes of this section the term ‘ritual slaughter’ means slaughter in accordance with section 1902(b) of this title.”
B. What are the responsibilities of inspection program personnel in establishments where there is ritual slaughter?
1. In an establishment that performs ritual slaughter, inspection program personnel are to request the plant manager to inform them about what type of ritual slaughter (e.g., Kosher, Halal) will be performed, when it will be performed, and who will perform the ritual slaughter.
2. Inspection program personnel are to verify that the humane handling of animals prior to preparation of the animal for ritual slaughter is consistent with parts II and III of this directive, with the exception of the discussion of stunning (9 CFR 313.2(f)) in part III of this directive. Examples of verification activities may include confirming the availability of water, checking the condition of pens and ramps, and verifying that there is no excessive use of electric prods.
3. Inspection program personnel are to verify that after the ritual slaughter cut and any additional cut to facilitate bleeding, no dressing procedure (e.g., head skinning, leg removal, ear removal, horn removal, opening hide patterns), is performed until the animal is insensible.

C. What actions do inspection program personnel take if they have concerns with humane handling prior to the handling and preparation of the animals for ritual slaughter or concerns with dressing procedures performed after ritual slaughter prior to the animal becoming insensible?
1. Inspection program personnel are not to interfere in any manner with the preparation of the animal for ritual slaughter, including the positioning of the animal, or the ritual slaughter cut and any additional cut to facilitate bleeding.
2. If inspection program personnel have concerns while verifying part V. paragraph B., they are to call the DO through supervisory channels.

PART III – VERIFICATION OF HUMANE HANDLING OF LIVESTOCK
A. What is the regulation related to handling of livestock?
Section 313.2 states:
(a) Driving of livestock from the unloading ramps to the holding pens and from the holding pens to the stunning area shall be done with a minimum of excitement and discomfort to the animals. Livestock shall not be forced to move faster than a normal walking speed.
(b) Electric prods, canvas slappers, or other implements employed to drive animals shall be used as little as possible in order to minimize excitement and injury. Any use of such implements which, in the opinion of the inspector, is excessive, is prohibited. Electrical prods attached to AC house current shall be reduced by a transformer to the lowest effective voltage not to exceed 50 volts AC.
(c) Pipes, sharp or pointed objects, and other items which, in the opinion of the inspector, would cause injury or unnecessary pain to the animal shall not be used to drive livestock.
(d) Disabled livestock and other animals unable to move. (Also refer to FSIS Directive 6900.1, Humane Handling of Disabled Livestock).
(1) Disabled animals and other animals unable to move shall be separated from normal ambulatory animals and placed in the covered pen provided for in section 313.1(c).
(2) The dragging of disabled animals and other animals unable to move, while conscious, is prohibited. Stunned animals may, however, be dragged.
(3) Disabled animals and other animals unable to move may be moved, while conscious, on equipment suitable for such purposes; e.g., stone boats.
(e) Animals shall have access to water in all holding pens and, if held longer than 24 hours, access to feed. There shall be sufficient room in the holding pen for animals held overnight to lie down.
(f) Stunning methods approved in section313.30 shall be effectively applied to animals prior to their being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast or cut.


From USDA Directive 6900.2, original version:

PART V -- Ritual Slaughter of Livestock

A.   General Requirement

Section 1902 (b) of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 provides that slaughtering in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument and handling in connection with such slaughteringis humane.

Therefore, an establishment may slaughter in accordance with the requirements of Kosher, Halal (Islamic), or any other religious faiths requirements. Inspection program personnel should not interfere with any slaughter procedures that are performed in accordance with such requirements. To enable inspection program personnel to be informed about what is occurring, they are to request that the establishment provide a written statement from an official of the religion who has authority over the enforcement of religious dietary laws that describes the ritual slaughter method that the faith prescribes, if this description has not been attached by the establishment to FSIS Form 5200-2, Application for Federal Meat, Poultry, or Import Inspection.

Although an operation may be performing exempted ritual slaughter, it is not exempted from other humane handling regulations in 9 CFR 313.1 and 313.2(a)-(e). Consequently, inspection program personnel are to verify that establishments that conduct ritual slaughter comply with the applicable regulatory requirements for humane handling contained in 9 CFR 313.1and 313.2(a)-(e).

1.       How do inspection program personnel verify that an establishment performing ritual slaughter meets the statutory and regulatory requirements for humane handling of livestock?

When verifying whether an establishment that performs ritual slaughter meets the regulatory requirements for humane handling, inspection program personnel should assess humane handling activities in all areas of the establishment as described in Parts II and III (except those discussions concerning stunning).

1.       Are there circumstances in which it is appropriate for inspection program personnel to act under the HMSA to interrupt ritual slaughter?

Inspection program personnel may act under section 1902 (b) of the HMSA if, after the animals throat is cut, it struggles or bellows for an extended period of time or otherwise exhibits consciousness, or if the act of slaughter includes throat sawing, hacking, or multiple slicing of the neck with a sharp instrument. Such incidents are examples of noncompliance because either the cut of the carotid arteries is not instantaneous and simultaneous, or the animals do not lose consciousness by anemia of the brain. If any of the above incidents are observed, inspection program personnel are to take steps to ensure that the animal is immediately and humanely rendered unconscious and slaughtered.

1.       What actions do inspection program personnel take if there is a noncompliance during ritual slaughter?

If inspection program personnel observe a noncompliance regarding ritual slaughter, resulting in the injury or inhumane treatment of animals (e.g., consciousness after the ritual procedure), inspection program personnel are to take action as set out in Part VI B.

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Shmarya,
Do you know the back story on why the original directive was writtened in the first place? It would seem good people at the USDA observed violations and tried to stop them.

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