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July 18, 2007

The OU Speaks About Rubashkin, Meat Hooks and Animal Abuse

So what is really happening on this new PETA video taken at Rubashkin's Gordon, Nebraska plant? I've spent the last few days doing some legwork, including a long interview with the OU's Rabbi Menachem Genack, the OU's head of shechita Rabbi Seth Mandel, Dr. Temple Grandin, the USDA and other insiders, and here's what seems to be the inside scoop.

Rabbi Genack was unable to tell me why the non-Jewish worker probed inside the neck of the animal after shechita. He referred me to Rabbi Seth Mandel, assuring me that Rabbi Mandel "speaks for the OU."

Rabbi Mandel told me the following:

  1. The probing is done to separate the trachea from the esophagus.
  2. It is done at the request of the USDA.
  3. It is not done as part of the kosher slaughter process and is not a second cut.
  4. It is not done at the OU's request.
  5. It is not done at Rubashkin's request.
  6. It is completely humane.
  7. The animals feel no pain.
  8. The animals are not conscious.
  9. When I challenged him about this, he said there are "conflicting" studies. I pointed out that experts are unanimous in agreeing these particular animals are still conscious. He then said, if PETA were "serious" about protecting animals, they would "pay for a study" to show when animals become unconscious. That they have not is a sign that PETA's "agenda" is "anti-shechita."
  10. I pointed out that any such study would involve killing animals, and PETA will not do this.
  11. Rabbi Mandel then said that PETA "goes after" shechita.
  12. I pointed out the dozens of other campaigns PETA has run that have nothing to do with shechita or Judaism.
  13. He then asked why PETA was focusing on Rubashkin. Doesn't this focus prove an anti-shechita bais?
  14. I told him that, after the Postville scandal, what would you expect PETA to do? Stop looking? Close their eyes?
  15. Rabbi Mandel insisted the neck incision is probed with an "instrument." "It is not a meat hook! It is not a meat hook!" Rabbi Mandel said.
  16. The ear tags are most likely cut off by removing the button that holds it on, not by cutting the ear.
  17. Rabbi Mandel spoke extensively about PETA's "agenda."
  18. Rabbi Mandel makes monthly "surprise inspections" of the Gordon plant.
  19. The head of the shochtim (rosh hashochtim) is an employee of Agriprocessors and is paid by Rubashkin, not the OU.
  20. Rabbi Mandel refused to give me his name without first getting permission from Rubashkin.

The USDA's FSIS chief spokesman Steven Cohen, when told that the OU claims this procedure is mandated by the USDA and approved by the USDA, told me that "the USDA does not interfere in ritual slaughter." He was unaware of this particular procedure and believed it to be part of the shechita process.

Dr. Temple Grandin told me that there is no such USDA-mandated procedure and that she has never seen anything like it done at any other kosher plant. She also insists the "instrument" used to probe the neck is a small meat hook. "It should be in the boning room used to move pieces of meat. It should not be on  the kill floor."

She tells me the animals would feel pain and that "you should not even put a pencil in there" until the animal is insensate.

Another USDA and kosher slaughter insider told me there is a mandated USDA procedure called Weasand, which is the tying of the esophagus to prevent the stomach contents from coming up. He also said the "instrument" looks like a hook.

So what is happening at Agriprocessors Gordon plant?

In October of 2003 a meeting was held in the USDA between Agudath Israel of America, rabbis from various kosher supervising agencies and senior USDA officials including, according to some reports given me, Ann Veneman, the then-Secretary of Agriculture. The rabbis complained about the wording of a new USDA Humane Slaughter directive that outlawed "sawing." They were afraid USDA inspectors would stop slaughter lines because they would mistakenly view a shechita cut as "sawing."

The outcome of that meeting was a new directive (some say the wording of this new directive came from Nathan Lewin, Rubashkin's attorney and a Agudah operative) that prevented line inspectors from stopping ritual slaughter lines without first gaining approval of a regional USDA office. This was understood by some inspectors to mean, "Keep your hands off the rabbis and let them do whatever they want."

Indeed, one can see a USDA inspector in the new PETA Rubashkin video. He does not stop the line.

Whatever Rubashkin's employees are doing with that meat hook, US law prohibits doing any butchering or preparatory work on an animal until it is dead. The definition of death is the legal definition, not the halakhic definition some use that, once the knife begins to cut the animal is dead.

So what is really going on in Gordon?Rubashkin_hook

You can see that a meat hook is used. You get a clear shot of it during the penultimate slaughter. (Click on the photo to the right for an enlargement. Another picture can be seen here, as well.)

Whatever the reason for its use, it is illegal and it must be immediately stopped.

Comments

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I can just envision that conversation, with Rabbi Mandel furiously waving his hands.

/I wonder if he is a Touro graduate

He happens to be a Harvard graduate (linguistics PhD), a close student of the Rav, and a great scholar. A little respect, please.

I thought that the chief rabbi at Rubashkin was Rav Weissmandel. Is there a difference in the meat coming from Idaho than Nebraska? Is there a way to tell by looking at the package where the meat is from?

Weissmandl is the Rav Hamachshir. There are many different kosher supervisions functioning (if you can call it that) in Postville, Gordon and in South America.

There is to my knowledge no way to tell wheree the meat you eat comes from.

Why should we be surprised at such things happening when for many years the Jewish community has been ignoring that animal-based diets seriously violate basic Jewish mandates to protect our health, treat animals with compassion, preserve the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people.

Even if shechita is carried out perfectly at Rubaskin's and other kosher slaughterhouses, can we ignore the horrible treatment of animals for months or years on factory farms, completely contrary to the mandate to avoid tsa'ar ba'alei chaim.

And please keep in mind that the mistreatment of animals at the slaughterhouse is to creat a product that is contributing very significantly to an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish and other communities and whose production is contributing to global warming and many environmental threats which are imperiling all of humanity and all of G-d's Creation.

Are there no Jewish leaders willing to tell it like it is on these issues?

Good of you, Richard, to becloud an otherwise clear issue with your unsupportable health claims. Glad we can count on you and JVNA to always strike a deaf tone.

He happens to be a Harvard graduate (linguistics PhD), a close student of the Rav, and a great scholar. A little respect, please.

Thanks for clearing that up.

The probing is done to separate the trachea from the esophagus.

Does anyone know if there is a lot of connective tissue between the trachea and the esophagus on a cow?

Speaking of striking a deaf tone,Shmarya, you must be one of the few people in the country who doesn't recognize that the consumption of animal foods has been linked to heart disease, several forms of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

Since this group seems properly concerned about the treatment of animals during the final minutes of their lives, why are you ignoring the horrific treatment of animals on factory farms for months and yars?

And what about the recent Israel Union of Environmental Defense report (discussed in a July 6, 2007 articl in the Jerusalem Post) that Israel will suffer from global warming causes reduced rainfall, severe storms and major floods as the Mediterranean Sea rises and the UN FAO report (November 2006) that "livestock" agriculture causes more greenhouse emisions (in CO2 equivalents) than all the world's transportation vehicles?

Thanks

=================

I've answered my own question. Yes, the OU maintains that shechita is the most humane method of slaughter.

Since this group seems properly concerned about the treatment of animals during the final minutes of their lives, why are you ignoring the horrific treatment of animals on factory farms for months and yars?

No doubt there are a lot of things wrong with the meat business. However, it's probably better to focus on problems one at a time since there a so many issues to track.


"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."
-- Albert Einstein

True. And besides that, Richard's grasp of medical and nutritional science is, to say the least, quite incomplete.

Regarding:""""Is there a difference in the meat coming from Idaho than Nebraska? Is there a way to tell by looking at the package where the meat is from?"""
Easy to tell where meat came from-place ear close to package of meat-if you still hear the mooing-pass it by!

Please evereybody get a life.

Distinguish between issues which are your issues and those which are halachic issues.

Tsa'ar ba'alei chayim is a general principal, but if you are not a talmid chacham, you probably don't know where and how it applies and where and how it does not apply.

Whatever the goy does after the shechita is not going to affect the kashrus of the shechita.

The simple fact is that if given a choice, the animal in almost all cases would rather not be killed.

Someone who as the shliach tsibbur says "al kan tsippur yagia rachamecha" (may you have mercy on us as you do on the mother/nest situation) is removed as shliach tsibbur.

If the real concern is kashrus - Rubashkin has always been problematic as far as checking the knives, chabad shochtim, etc.

As for health, some people thrive on more carbohydrates. some people need meat. The low fat, low cholesterol fad is a hoax supported by the government and the medical establishment.

PETA wants to eliminate all eating of meat. They do not deny this. Shechita is a smaller, and therefore easier first target.

If the real concern is kashrus - Rubashkin has always been problematic as far as checking the knives, chabad shochtim, etc.

Not to mention labelling. Do we have enough reasons yet to shut them down for good?

They should have been shut down for good the very first day they opened for business.

During the investigation of the first Rubashkin Shechitah Scandal in 2004, a worker, who had been present from the beginning, gave sworn testimony that the (throat ripping proceedure) had been going on for at least 7 years, if not longer.

And the OU and USDA looked the other way and did nothing.

The OU's claim, at that time, that none of the meat ever produced in the plant was problematical, was an outright lie and deception.

"Tsa'ar ba'alei chayim is a general principal, but if you are not a talmid chacham, you probably don't know where and how it applies and where and how it does not apply."

Fortunately for us Jews, plenty of great scholars do NOT feel that a working understanding of halacha is beyond the grasp of the average person. Living a life according to halacha is not the sole purview of people that sit and shuckle in front of books all day. Since we're told "without work, there is no Torah", surely it must be possible to be out in the world, working, without constantly having to call up a rav to check with them about each action we take all day long...

Ditto NC. Us "common folk" are allowed to learn. Why anyone would have an objection to Jews trying to figure out the details of a halacha is so threatening is beyond my ken.


Tsa'ar ba'alei chayim is a general principal, but if you are not a talmid chacham, you probably don't know where and how it applies and where and how it does not apply.

Why anyone would have an objection to Jews trying to figure out the details of a halacha is so threatening is beyond my ken.

Because that would threaten their monopoly. The rabbinate are no longer teachers; they are a clerical class- like France's First Estate of pre-revoloutionary times. They want us to be unquestioning subjects, not bnei chorin.

Futhermore, what's so esoteric about not causing an animal to suffer unduly? Common sense (and compassion) could guide you there.

SHAME on you rabbi Mandel

you are the biggest joke that OU has to represent

i have spoken many times to rabbi Mandel about improvements in kashrus of meat labeling and he acts like the biggest dummie

there is none sense letter that rabbi Mandel wrote about a month ago were he confirms indirect that the ou certifies dairy farm and ignores all the animal abuse

here is were rabbi Mandel confirms that cows are not treat properly kashrus wise

Clarification:

The following confusion was erroreously generated concerning dairy products. Please note that dairy products with proper hashgacha remain halachically permissible without question.

One of the conditions which require surgical procedure on a cow is something called a "displaced abomasum" or DA for short...
Apparently there are those who hold that this operation renders the animal a treifa and any milk from such an animal is therefore not kosher.
Recently this issue, which was dealt with a number of years ago, has again been raised.

According to a post on the Areivim list by Rabbi Seth Mandel, a rabbinic coordinator at the OU the following are true:
There are many inaccuracies in what was published in a newspaper on the basis of remarks of a certain rabbi. As far as I remember, none of his
statements are correct. The rabbi in question usually uses old information which has long since changed, and he cannot verify it since he cannot visit most plants (he is persona non grata in many companies). Professionals in kashrus usually ignore what he says.
In regard to the milk, the following are the facts in the US:
1) Animals cannot be checked for treifos before they are shechted, unless

it is so obvious that the animal is dying (e.g. a nail protruding from the

stomach out of the skin, causing bleeding). Farmers check their animals

for DA; a vet or a farmer can usually detect signs of it, although most

rabbis cannot.
2) Contrary to what the letter implied, cows milked for cholov Yisroel are

not checked for DA all the time, certainly not by the Jew supervising the

milking. Milking is done as in any dairy, with scores of cows being

milked simultaneously by machine, and the Jew does NOT inspect every

cow. He is just present in the dairy during the milking, and not always in

the milking barn, just somewhere in the dairy.
3) The Cholov Yisroel dairy under the OU asks its farmers to remove any

animals with DA from the herd, and we assume other cholov Yisroel
dairies do as well. It is the farmer’s responsibility, and usually the

farmers have the animals inspected by a vet before they join the herd,

and they examine them periodically afterwards. It is the farmer who is

saying that his animals are healthy. There is no reason not to believe

him, because…

4) Even in herds where the farmer does not say he culls out DA animals,

the percentage of dairy cows with DA is less than 5%. So there is not

even a mi’ut hamatzui of DA dairy cows. Any dairy farmer can certify

that his animals are healthy and be correct, because there at most will be

only one or two in large herds that are not.

5) So the only difference with cholov Yisroel is that the farmer says he

will remove DA animals, but he is not obligated to do it every day nor

every week. Generally the farmers will notice after a few days if the

animal is sick, both by cholov Yisroel and cholov stam. In either case,

the animal will be removed from the milking herd until its health

improves. In some cases it has the small operation to cure DA, which

itself is a machlokes haposkim whether it causes the animal to be treif.
6) Cholov Yisroel has a big drawback that cholov stam does not have.

Regular milk is milked at several dairies and mixed. Cholov Yisroel

generally comes from only one herd or a couple of herds, all with a Jew

present. In that case, the miut of animals that have or had DA may be

kavua’. I do not believe this to be a serious problem, since the animals

are removed, if not today then tomorrow.
7) I have been in dairies in some other countries, and it is also true where I

have been that only a small percentage of animals have DA and they are

removed from the dairy herd. Where I have been, there is not fixed

agreement with farmers to cull DA animals from the herd. I cannot

testify about all countries outside the US.

BUT to claim that cholov stam is forbidden and cholov Yisroel only is permitted is simply not true. As stated, there may be a halakhic ma’alah in cholov stam in the US if is one is worried about DA animals. In many other countries, there is no difference. And we are only discussing DA. Most other treifos cannot be checked for without killing the animal, which one does not do with dairy cows until they are too old and sick to give much milk.

Seth Mandel
Rabbinic Coordinator

As it was written:

"As for health, some people thrive on more carbohydrates. some people need meat. The low fat, low cholesterol fad is a hoax supported by the government and the medical establishment."

The problem with Cholesterol is very real. Red Meat is loaded with it!

As an endurance athlete who has run numerous marathons, I can attest to the importance of avoiding red meat as much as possible. The ideal diet for any endurance athlete would be the Pritikin diet, as propounded by Dr. Nathan Pritikin.

Red meat may have a decent amount of protein, and there are still those people who advocate that you need to "eat muscle in order to build muscle". However, that erroneous idea is more than offset by the horrendous levels of cholesterol that are present in red meats.

If you are not an edurance athlete, then it might not matter to you. If all you ever do is sit down to the card table to play Bridge, or sit out in the yard while watching the clouds go by, then a higher level of cholesterol might not matter "too" much.

But,if you want to live a longer, healthier life, then it would be wise to avoid the dreck that you find in the meat aisles....(unless it's turkey or chicken. White meat is okay, and so is ground turkey.)

Just an opinion from an endurance athlete who has "been there, done that" in running marathons.

Shalom

If this is the same Seth Mandel who graduated from Brookline High School in 1967, then you, sir, are way off base. (no disrespect intended to you, sir.)

The Seth Banjamin Joseph Mandel who sat beside me in home room during our senior year at Brookline (MA) High School (1966-1967) was a young man of incredible genius, the sort who comes along maybe once in a lifetime.

I know nothing about you, sir, but I am suggesting that you might be amiss in how you referred to Rabbi Mandel, ESPECIALLY if he is the same one who was in my high school graduating class. (Sadly, I lost contact with him after graduation.)

Seth, if you read this, PLEASE try to contact me. Our 40th class reunion is coming up this October!

Shalom

I am simply appalled to hear that this is still going on EVEN NOW. Why do people continue to patronize these pigs?

I'm sorry Mr. Leeman, but you're not only a Catholic, you're one of the Knights of Columbus. Your authority on the subject is null and void.

I've already sat shivah for you sir, as you are dead as one of God's chosen people.

I hate animal abuse! I do not like people are so unfair to the animals and the abuse or to take away their lives just for their fur or meat! This is inhumane !!!!!

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