Dr. Temple Grandin says that, while kosher slaughter itself (if properly done) isn't a problem, animal handling and related issues at kosher slaughterhouses are. "There are many bad conditions in kosher plants,” Grandin wrote.
Farm Forward reports that after liberal Modern Orthodox Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz recently announced in the Wall Street Journal that he was following a plant-based died becuase of abuses in the kosher slaughter industry (abuses Shmuly knew about for more than eight years, but that's a subject for another post), Yanklowitz was attacked in the Jewish media.
“As I learned about the reality of industrial kosher slaughter ... I began to realize how far current practices of animal treatment and slaughter are from the traditional ethical values. I also found out that animals sent to kosher slaughterhouses are raised on the same cruel farms as those sent to non-kosher slaughter,” Yanklowitz wrote.
These are indisputable facts FailedMessiah.com has regularly reported for almost a decade.
That Yanklowitz is very late to the game doesn't stop him from positioning himself as both a a trailblazer – which he certainly is not – and a martyr – which he isn't, either.
Farm Forward is likely unware of Yanklowitz's glomming on and his years of 'look at me, look at me!' behavior.
That said, Farm Forward to rebut the critics in the Jewish media, some of whom – as others have done before them – defended kosher slaughter by essentially lying about it.
Kosher slaughter is perfectly humane and animals are rendered unconscious immediately, they claim – failing to note that kosher slaughter in many commercial slaughterhouses doesn't work like that, especially if a rotating inverted pen is used, like at Agriprocessors / Agri Star, for example.
Others, like Agudath Israel's spokesman, argued that kosher slaughter and humane slaughter are two different and very separate things. Kosher slaughter may be humane, but that humaneness has nothing to do with why Jews keep kosher or why kosher slaughter is mandated in Jewish law.
This tosses away various aggadic explanations of kosher slaughter and the very real halakhic (Jewish legal) requirement that a knife used to slaughter must be perfectly smooth and perfectly razor sharp. Even the slightest imperfection or nick in the blade renders the slaughter invalid. Why? A dull or nicked blade will tear as much as cut. And that and will cause unnecessary pain to the animal.
But how does that jibe with the meat hooks used to rip the throats out of live animals at the Rubashkin family's Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa exposed by PETA and the New York Times in 2004? That meat hook throat-ripping created an international scandal, and Orthodox and haredi rabbis – including those of Agudah – stood by Rubashkin and insisted the meat hook use did not make the meat of those animals non-kosher.
The answer is that while it doesn't jibe ethically or morally, Jewish law allowed it anyway.
As several haredi rabbis and shochets told me then, once the shochet's knife has touched the animal's neck and began to cut, the animal is dead accoding to halakha (Jewish law). What happens to it after that, even only five seconds after that [even sticking a meat hook into its gaping neck and ripping out its throat and hacking it with a dull knife as the animal thrashes in terror] doesn't matter. The animal is halakhicly dead and its meat is kosher.
Dr. Temple Grandin, the world's leading expert on humane slaughter, is a longtime friend of kosher slaughter.
Grandin condemned what Agriprocessors did in the strongest terms and called the abuses she saw on PETA's undercover video the worst she had ever seen.
But since then Grandin has defended kosher slaughter despite Agriprocessors, claiming that as long as kosher slaughter is done correctly and animal handling is also good, kosher slaughter can be very humane.
Earlier this month, Farm Forward asked Grandin what she thought of Yanklowitz’s (very belated) criticism of the kosher meat industry.
“I support Rabbi Yanklowitz,” she told Farm Forward in an email. But she insisted kosher slaughter itself is not the problem – very serious animal abuse and mistreatment in kosher slaughterhouses is. "There are many bad conditions in kosher plants,” Grandin wrote.
It is 10 years since the Agriprocessors abuses were made public. Since then, animal abuse at other kosher slaughterhouses in South America, Europe, the US and Israel have repeatedly created public scandals.
During those 10 years, kosher certifiers and haredi rabbis have fought and blocked attempts to institute ethical kosher supervisions that would only certify the humane treatment of animals and employees by kosher slaughterhouses, leaving the actual kosher supervision to existing haredi or Orthodox supervisions.
It's been a decade. Orthodox and haredi rabbis have been left on their own to fix the problems. But nothing has changed.
The kosher meat you eat – especially if it is glatt kosher – comes from cattle, sheep and poultry that are almost certainly inhumanely raised. Most suffer some mistreatment while waiting at the slaughterhouse to be killed, and some of it is likely inhumanely slaughtered, as well.
There is no excuse for this. It is a shame and stain on the Jewish people, on all of us, whether we keep kosher or not. It's long past time Jews told rabbis they won't stand for it any more.
[Hat Tip: Dr. Rofeh-Filosof.]