GORDON, Neb. -- An Iowa meatpacking firm that has drawn fire from an animal-rights group has bought an old packing plant in Gordon, Neb., and plans to process kosher beef, lamb and bison products using workers from the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
If the plant passes a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection scheduled for Friday it could begin slaughtering cattle as soon as Monday, according to Tally Plume, executive director of the Oglala Oyate Woitancan Empowerment Zone, which encompasses the reservation.
The firm, Local Pride, announced this week that it would begin hiring and training local workers for the plant. The plant will employ 40 to 50 local residents, according to a Local Pride news release. Plume said many of the workers would be tribal members.
Local Pride is owned by the Rubashkin family, which also owns Agriprocessors, operators of a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.
Local Pride is working with the empowerment zone, created on the reservation in 1999, along with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Workforce in Action Program, the city of Gordon and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
Plume said the empowerment zone board expanded the zone, with USDA approval, to include 300 acres where the plant is located in Gordon, 36 miles southeast of Pine Ridge village.
Plume said the project considered Gordon for a site because the reservation lacks infrastructure to accommodate such a facility.
By being in the empowerment zone, Local Pride will be able to get a tax break for hiring tribal members, Plume said.
Reservation residents already have undergone training at the Postville plant.
"The potential for employment on this project could get pretty high," Plume said. He said the Postsville plant began with about 50 employees and now has 700 workers.…
Meanwhile, Plume said he was not worried about allegations by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that Agriprocessors' Postville plant uses cruel slaughtering methods that violate federal rules and strict kosher slaughtering standards.
PETA cited a video secretly made by an activist working undercover at the plant that showed workers using large knives to slice cows' throats, as required for kosher preparation. The video also shows some of the cows then stumbling around for as long as three minutes. PETA says the animals were still alive and suffering.
Plant officials say the animals' movements are involuntary and that massive blood loss to the brain brought on by slitting their throats renders them insensitive to pain within seconds.…
Plume said he is confident that the USDA probe will exonerate the Iowa plant. He said rabbis will be present at the Gordon plant as well.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency also filed a lawsuit accusing the Postville plant of exceeding limits set in wastewater discharge permits and failing to submit proper risk management plans or hazardous chemical inventory forms.
Plant spokesman Mike Thomas told the Courier that those matters have already been resolved with city and state officials.…
The USDA is expected to find against Rubashkin in the PETA-exposed throat-ripping scandal. But the USDA has been moving slowly and has refused to release the findings from last year's investigation.
The Jewish community has a long history with Pine Ridge and the Oglala Sioux. Most of it good; some, not. The tribe's positive exposure to Orthodox Judaism has largely been through left-leaning Orthodox Jews, including at least one rabbi, Moshe Lichtman, who practice a sort of social action, peace and justice style, Judaism and who work with non-Orthodox Jews.
But the Rubashkin family has a history of illegal and anti-social behavior – a history that includes bank fraud, misappropriating union dues paid by it's employees, the documented recruitment of illegal alien workers, repeated EPA violations and the original Postville controversy.
One wonders whether the Oglala Sioux have trusted too much, based on their past experience with an atypical "bein adam lehaveyro"* Orthodoxy.
*In Judaism, the mitzvot (commandments) are broken down into two main parts, "bein adam lehaveryro," between people, and "bein adam lemakom," between people and G-d. Although both parts are meant to be equal, Orthodoxy tends to put more weight on commandments between people and G-d (for instance, prayer and keeping kosher) and to minimize the interpersonal and social justice commandments (for instance, not stealing union dues).