The Forward's Nathaniel Popper reports Temple Grandin, the renowned expert on animal handling and the slaughter process, has given Rubashkin's reformed process a thumbs up – of sorts, for now:
Temple Grandin, an animal science professor, issued her endorsement last week, after visiting the AgriProcessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. The plant, owned and run by Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim, has been the subject of criticism since 2004, when an animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, released video footage from inside the slaughterhouse that showed cows going to a loud and violent death. When Grandin initially viewed the video, she said it was the "most disgusting thing I'd ever seen."
After her June 27 visit to Postville, Grandin stood by her original statements but said that AgriProcessors appears to have improved its slaughter process.
"What I saw there today was working very well," she told the Forward after her full-day visit, for which she was paid as a consultant by AgriProcessors.
"They have to learn to keep their process good," she added.…
Grandin said that at the end of her visit, she recommended that the plant internally audit its slaughter process every week. "They've got to have that kind of auditing control — otherwise they have a tendency to slip back," she said.
PETA had been pushing for Grandin to visit the plant – they did so even before making their undercover video of Rubashkin abuses publiic – and Rubashkin had consistently refused.
For her part, Dr. Grandin told me last year that, as I had been told by several highly placed sources in the animal welfare and food processing communities, she had indeed offered to go to Postville for free and work with Rubashkin to improve the process. She had also agreed to work with the rotating pen that so many, including Dr. Grandin, oppose. Rubashkin continued to refuse.
Another highly placed source in the animal welfare and food processing communities has told me that the OU's Rabbi Genack worked very hard to convince Rubashkin to allow Dr. Grandin to inspect the plant, and that only in the last few weeks was the decision made to allow her in. (This roughly corresponds to the time the US Department of Justice served subpoenas on Rubashkin and other kosher meat providers as part of an investigation of anti-trust, price-fixing and collusion, and the time the Forward's story broke on Rubashkin's abuse of workers. A cynical person might think letting Grandin in was a PR stunt meant to take pressure off the OU and Rubashkin.)
But how does Rubashkin's official spokesman describe the visit? Like this:
"PETA's efforts to further their extreme political agenda at the expense of religious freedom have never been a factor in AgriProcessors' thinking," Thomas said. "Dr. Grandin has been to AgriProcessors before; she consulted with AgriProcessors shortly after the plant opened in 1989. We had been asking her to consult with us again for a number of years, and three months ago we were finally able to settle on a date."
A far cry from what Grandin and others have consistently claimed for the last 18 months.
And then we have this curious doublespeak from the OU's Rabbi Genack and PETA's response:
Menachem Genack, the rabbinic administrator of the Kashrus Division of the O.U., said that he was glad the plant had been able to fix its problems; however, he was hesitant to give credit to PETA, which first brought those problems to light.
"Do I think PETA represented things accurately and appropriately? I don't," Genack said. "Do I think there were mistakes there that had to be corrected? I do."
Although a spokesman for PETA, Bruce Friedrich, said he was happy that the plant had taken corrective steps, he questioned whether the O.U. has taken sufficient measures to ensure that similar problems do not crop up in the future at AgriProcessors and at other kosher plants.
"It shouldn't require a PETA investigation and three years of hand wringing to ensure that the Jewish commitment to compassion is part of the O.U.'s standard operating procedure," Friedrich said.
Friedrich is correct. The sad thing is that so few Jews understand this.