A Conservative rabbi, Adam Frank, has an op-ed in yesterday's Jerusalem Post that was timed to run when the newest kosher slaughter scandal broke.
Frank is an activist with an Israeli animal rights group, Concern for Helping Animals in Israel. Both Frank and the group are mentioned in the Forward's coverage of the scandal because, acting for Concern for Helping Animals in Israel, Frank wrote the chief rabbis asking for shackle and hoist slaughter to be banned.
According to the Forward, the chief rabbis…
…did not respond to the letter.
Frank makes several especially good points in his Jerusalem Post op-ed. But he also errs.
Frank incorrectly thinks the OU can stop South American shackle and hoist slaughter. But this is simply false.
The majority of South American kosher slaughter is exported to Israel. The plants are set up and run according to the wishes of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. And those demands are not set by Modern Orthodox Israeli rabbis – they are set by haredim.
No pressure from the OU can with reasonable expectation change haredi demands.
I know personally that the OU wants shackle and hoist slaughter banned. Rabbi Menachem Genack has tried to achieve this ban for years. Indeed, it is said that the Rav, Rabbi J.B. Soleveitchik was especially opposed to shackle and hoist slaughter and is said to have been appalled at its cruelty.
The problem, the impediment, are haredi gedolim and the haredi-controlled chief rabbinate.
The OU could pull its certification tomorrow and nothing much will change.
Because American Jews will continue to buy South American shackle and hoist meat even if the OU is not on the package.
As previous Rubashkin scandals prove, Orthodox Jews don't care about animal suffering. The OU's removal of certification will be viewed as a political rather than a halakhic act. And some other rabbi or certifying agency will be right there to add a stamp of approval.
Still, the OU should remove its certification from all shackle and hoist meat. It may not be able to solve the problem unilaterally but it can immediately stop participating in and benefiting from this horrendous cruelty.
The AWOL Conservative Movement
Another group to blame are the Conservative rabbis themselves, who have dallied for years rather than launch their so-called hechsher tzedek supervision. What Chabad could have done well in two months and passably in one, the Conservative rabbis have taken years to plan – and they have still gotten nowhere.
A hechsher tzedek stamped on a package of meat would give consumers a way to make a choice. Do I buy this package of Alle or MealMart or Rubashkin or do I buy this package of hechsher tzedek meat? (Realize hechsher tzedek will not be issuing kashrut supervision and kosher certifying agencies will still certify products that also carry a hechsher tzedek.)
Adam Frank's own movement could make a tremendous difference, if it would just get over its implementation problem.
Conservative rabbis looked at the horrendous cruelty of Rubashkin slaughter and Agriprocessors mistreatment of workers and then made a very real choice between telling their congregations and institutions to stop buying Rubashkin and remaining silent.
Silence won out.
Because of fear.
Fear of what, you ask?
Conservative rabbis were afraid their congregations would have no ready source of kosher meat, and that these Jews would buy non-kosher beef rather than go without. So "kosher" meat obtained through unspeakable cruelty was the better choice in these rabbis eyes than risking the breakdown of what little kashrut these congregations have.
Put another way, instead of using the Rubashkin scandal as a massive teaching moment, the disciples of Avraham Yehoshua Heschel blinked.
Adam Frank needs to admit that.
So, how bad is shackle and hoist?
Very bad. And here is where Frank is at his best:
Shackling and hoisting is the brutal and outdated technique of chaining and suspending in mid-air a fully conscious adult cow by its rear leg. The problems associated with this method include the animal's scientifically measured hyper-stress levels, tearing of muscle tissue, tendons and skin, the compression of internal organs by the immense weight of the cow's mass on the organs and more. According to the halacha of kashrut, none of these injuries cause the animal to become a tref - or unkosher.
Would an animal, shackled and hoisted and then hung for a minute or two before being set free be able to live for a year?
Certainly not in the wild, where very lame animals are lucky to live out the day, let alone a year.
If it were not so cruel, it would be an interesting experiment. Shackle and hoist 10 cattle, hang them that way for a couple of minutes or more, put them down and let them free.
I'd bet most of those cattle would be dead or extremely ill within a few days.
But this is Orthodox Judaism and scientific experiments only take place for really important things like determining why olives – believed by rabbis to have the size of jumbo grapefruit in a Harry and David's gift basket at the time all key halakhic measurements based on their size were codified – have shrunk to the size of, well, olives.
Confused about this? Think giant prehistoric olives, like might have been seen in a Flintstones movie, filling the mouth of one of those really big dinosaurs.
(Of course, don't share this analogy with your local haredi rabbi. He'll freak when you say the "D" word.)
But do a scientific experiment to reduce suffering and cruelty? To be more humane? Nah. That stuff is waaaayyy to touchy feely for Orthodoxy.
Does YU use shackle and hoist meat?
So let me close with a question. What meat is used by YU's food service? What does the Stern cafeteria use? Is it South American shackle and hoist? Rubashkin "second cut done with a meat hook"? Which is it? Or is it both?
If Modern Orthodoxy takes the Rav's legacy seriously, neither will be served at YU and Stern.
[Hat Tip: Yankel.]