Extremely cruel methods of slaughter, including one banned in the US, are used in OU supervised slaughterhouses in South and Central America and imported to the US. At the same time, Agri Star is still using its infamous inverted pen and apparently lied to PETA about it.
The OU is still allowing the importation of glatt kosher meat from Central and South America that is slaughtered by the exceedingly cruel shackle and hoist slaughter method and the slightly less cruel casting method.
(The Forward calls this "shackle and drag" even though there is no such term used in the industry. It does so because it misread The website of noted animal welfare expert Dr Temple Grandin describes the method as "shackle and drag by the legs and then roll the animal onto its back." But this is a description of the process, not the name of the process. Update 8:33 am CDT – The Forward's reporter tells me industry sources used the term "shackle and drag." My response to that was that the procedure is so rarely used in the US that many industry professionals don't know what it is. They may have seen it once on a video or on a vist to a South American plant, but they're really not familiar with it and probably use the term "shackle and drag" because it sounds like a companion to "shackle and hoist." Australia still calls it "casting" as does the USDA.)
This is not new. The Jerusalem Post has reported extensively on this and we've discussed it here many times.
Israel's chief rabbis banned the importation of meat slaughtered by shackle and hoist but did not set an implementation date for the ban. Years have passed and the chief rabbis continue to stall, saying that meat importers don't want to comply and the South and Centra American slaughterhouses need more time to make changes.
Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of OU Kosher, says his agency allows this cruelly slaughtered beef even though the OU admits the slaughter method is cruel.
Genack says he does this to keep glatt kosher meat affordible for struggling families – he even claims this is the "whole concept behind the O.U."
What Genack didn't say – and what the Forward apparently did not know to ask – is that Rabbi Joseph Ber Solevechik supported the banning of shackle and hoist slaighter in the US and called it exceedingly cruel. Solevechik is supposed to be the OU's guiding light.
Genack also says Israel's chief rabbinate is in charge of the kosher supervision in those plants and the problem is really theres not the OU's.
The Forward goes on to report that Alle Processing, the Satmar-hasid-owned glatt kosher meat giant that also owns the Meal Mart, Schreibers and Mon Cuisine brand imports a large quanitity of meat from South and Central America – something we've reported many times over the years.
Alle never promised to stop these imports, and there has never been any indication that it intended to or that it was concerned about the animal abuses inherent in those South and Central American plants.
So? What's actually new in the Forward's reports?
Agri Star, formerlly Agriprocessors, in Postville, Iowa is still one of the big three glatt kosher meat producers in America. Considering how poorly the plant is allegedly run, this is big news.
But more importantly, the Forward reports that Agri Star is still using the inverted slaughter pen made infamous on those PETA videos.
Agri Star had put out word early on that it was going to change to a standing pen. Because so much damage had been done to the slaughter line by poor or nonexistant maintanence, much work had to be done to fix the line before Agri Star could begin to slaughter beef – something we reported at the time. The idea was that the inverted pen would be replaced with a standing pen while that work was done.
What followed was a long period of time when I could not confirm the change had been made.
Then, about two months ago a source told me the inverted pen was still being used. I asked another source to try to confirm this, but he was unable to do so.
When told by the Forward that the inverted pen is still in use, PETA – which has been working with Agri Star to an extent from a distance – told the Forward that Agri Star had led them to believe that it was not.
In other words, it seems that Agri Star officials lied to PETA.
Agri Star claims to have a privately contracted animal welfare expert, Erika Voogd, who evaluates the plant on a weekly basis by making unannounced inspections.
But Agri Star refused to let the Forward speak with Voogd.
In general, animal welfare, humane slaughter, and food safety audits that are not shared with the public are unreliable. They are often performed by experts who under report problems.
Even if the inspections are good, there is no way to tell what Agri Star has really done to fix the problems it may have had.
In this case, Voogd comes from the meat industry. She worked for 9 years as Corporate Quality Assurance Manager for OSI Industries, Inc. – a meat industry firm that produces bacon, sausage and other products. She also trained food inspectors in South and Latin America for the USDA for beef exported to the US – the same beef killed in less than optimal ways. That said, she assisted Temple Grandin on at least one occasion training Far East McDonald's managers on animal welfare issues and has done a lot of work for McDonald's – which is very careful to make the slaughter of its beef as humane as possible. So she probably knows what she's doing.
The OU, the Crown Heights Beit Din and other kosher supervisors have already shown themselves to be untrustworthy, and Agri Star's line managers – mostly held over from the bad old days of Agriprocessors – have, as well.
As Temple Grandin herself said, what Agri Star needs is 24/6 streaming online videos of its animal handling and slaughter.
Barring that, reports should be transparant so we can all see if Agri Star corrected Agriprocessors' problems and maintained those corrections.
The news that Agri Star apparently lied to PETA tells me that Agri Star may be lying about a lot of things – including the results of those secret audits.
[Hat Tip: Joel Katz.]