Iowa's Secretery of Agriculture, Patty Judge, accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution from Rabbi Sholom and Leah Rubashkin during her run for the Democratic nonination for governor last year. That amounted to just under 10% of what she raised. An additional $35,000 was given by other large farm interests, including others she regulated. Some had been under investigation in recent years for environmental violations. Judge regulated these donors as well. 35% of her campaign war chest came form these interests.
Judge is best known to the Jewish community for excoriating Rubashkin after viewing the undercover video of his slaughter operation. (Please see link on left sidebar of this page.) But, less than two weeks later, after being given a private tour of the closed plant, led by Sholom Rubashkin, and watching three or four animals slaughtered by a hand-picked schochet, she declared the plant operations "humane."
During that tour, Patty Judge heard Rubashkin say the following:
Rubashkin noted that muscles on the barely recognizable heads continued to twitch more than an hour after the heads had been separated from their bodies. "Look. It's breathing. It's calling for help," Rubashkin said, referring sarcastically to PETA's claim that videotaped movements of cattle after their throats had been cut constitutes evidence they were conscious and suffering.
Judge's office denied that Judge had given a free pass to Rubashkin, or that her judgement of what she saw in any way effected what took place at the plant before being exposed by PETA in late November, 2004. But, at the same time, Judge refused to personally clarify her remarks, and stood by in silence as Rubashkin and his rabbis used them like this:
Officials at the Orthodox Union, the world's largest Kashrut-certifying organization, expressed satisfaction at Secretary Judge’s comments. “We are gratified that a personal inspection tour of AgriProcessors by Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, Patty Judge, made it clear that kosher slaughter there is done humanely,” declared Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union, and Rabbi Menachem Genack, Rabbinic Administrator of the OU Kosher division. "Clearly, humane slaughter goes on at the AgriProcessors plant, in conformity with the laws of Torah which make it clear that humanity to animals is a religious requirement in Judaism.”
In a statement issued several days earlier, Rabbis Weinreb and Genack declared:
“After carefully studying the [PETA] video, Rabbi Menachem Genack and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, one of the OU’s distinguished poskim (rabbinic decisors), traveled to Postville, Iowa to review the procedures at the AgriProcessors plant. They found that these procedures meet all OU standards to the highest degree, and that the shochtim (rabbinic slaughters) are all highly proficient, skilled and knowledgeable. Nevertheless, the OU and AgriProcessors, Inc. have worked together to make certain changes, namely that the trachea will no longer be removed following shechita (kosher slaughter), and that any animals that appear to have survived the procedure will be promptly stunned or shot.”
“This was the first time I had an opportunity to see kosher slaughter," Secretary Judge said. "I was glad to see how it works." She said she saw three cattle slaughtered, and that they were rendered insensible and unconscious within “two or three seconds” after the shochet's cut.
Judge accepted the $10,000 contribution from Rubashkin not long after.
The OU's statement, quoted above, makes it clear that throat-ripping, the practice of ripping out the trachea of the just-schechted animal with a hook while it is still alive and fully concious, had been stopped. It does not note that it made this decision only after the USDA released teaching guidelines for its FSIS inspectors telling them to stop the line and shut down any plant doing it.
This appears to be another indication that Rubashkin and his family, including his brother-in-law, Rabbi Milton "Yehoshua" Balkany, and perhaps certain officials closely linked to the OU, have been using their political influence and liberal campaign donations to thwart the release of the USDA's investigation of AgriProcessors. The investigation is widely belived to be damaging, not only to Rubashkin, but to the kosher industry as well, and to specific rabbis and supervising agencies whose lobbying to remove USDA restaints on humane slaughter directly led to Rubashkin's shop of horrors.
As more evidence of influence peddling appears to surface, the pressure on the Bush administration rises. To keep a FSIS investigation under wraps for more than one year after its completion, to refuse to relaese any information related to this investigation under the Freedom of Information Act because the investigation – completed, according to the FSIS in early January, 2005 – is still "open," and to otherwise stonewall journalists can only lead one to believe that the Bush administration has something to hide. That something? Follow the money.