Alle, Rubashkin and other kosher meat companies import large amounts of beef from South America. Much (but not all) of that beef is slaughtered using the shackle and hoist method.
Is shackle and hoist, an extremely cruel method of slaughter, illegal in the US?
If it is, shouldn't beef from South America be banned from importation under the US Humane Slaughter Act?
Surprisingly, shackle and hoist itself is not illegal in the US.
Yet, because there are more humane and efficient methods of slaughtering cattle, only a small number of cattle in the US are killed using shackle and hoist. (Smaller animals, 50% of veal calves and 100% of sheep and lamb are still shackle and hoisted, though.)
Originally, shackle and hoist was instituted as part of the U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 as a means of keeping animals off the kill floor and out the blood of other slaughtered animals.
In 1905-6, the Jewish community argued against using shackle and hoist because it is especially cruel. But the government's very real health concerns won out.
In 1958 the Humane Slaughter Act was passed. To reduce cruelty, it outlawed shackle and hoist done on conscious animals.
All animals had be stunned prior to hoisting and slaughter.
Jews would not allow stunning prior to slaughter. So the US Government gave the Jewish community a religious exemption. Animals kosher killed were not stunned prior to slaughter and continued to be hoisted alive and fully conscious.
However, all humane handling requirements before the point of slaughter must be met. So must all humane handling requirements after the point of slaughter.
So, while shackle and hoist itself is not illegal, cruel handling of the animals before or after slaughter is illegal – and that extends to animals slaughter overseas for consumption in the US.
I asked the USDA FSIS chief spokesperson Amada Eamich to clarify this for us. She wrote:
When a country is seeking equivalence, they must submit their humane handling policies for review. Humane handling protections and religious exemption compliance must be at least equivalent to that which is required in the U.S.
FSIS auditors will immediately delist any establishment they find inhumane treatment of animals.
I asked specifically about shackle and hoist:
It has to be done humanely as it is here in the US.
Leaving aside the issue of whether shackle and hoist can ever really be humane, the position of the USDA is that the treatment of animals in shackle and hoist slaughter must be at least as humane as it is in the US. Otherwise, the meat cannot be imported to the US.
Is South American shackle and hoist slaughter as humane as US shackle and hoist slaughter? Is it legal under the HSA?
Not if this newest PETA video is any indication.
I don't see why most South American shackle and hoist slaughter cannot be banned from importation to the US. Perhaps it's time we started asking the US Government to do so.