My Guest Post on The Jew & The Carrot, Plus More Local Pride Updates
We find ourselves with another wake-up call that the kosher meat industry—or at least its principal players—is causing unnecessary animal suffering (tza’ar ba’alei hayim). As Rabbi Haviva Ner-David wrote in an article published in the Jerusalem Report last week, “Truth be told, if we consider complying with the requirements of tza’ar ba’alei hayim a requirement for meat to be considered ‘kosher,’ today’s food industry renders all meat production non-kosher.”
Cruelty to animals in the kosher meat industry is not limited to one isolated incident. The Local Pride abuses happened in a slaughterhouse owned by someone who had already been in the public spotlight and was supposedly working to correct matters. Recent debates about kashrut in the Jewish community have largely focused on labor issues and the tzedek hechsher initiative. Like the AgriProcessors scandal before it, the Local Pride investigation highlights that animals raised and slaughtered for kosher meat are often treated in a manner that’s inconsistent with Jewish values of compassion for animals. Like the cows’ bellowing in the Local Pride video footage, this latest controversy screams out for a holistic review of the kosher meat industry and Jews’ consumption of meat.
Yesterday, Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) issued a news release about the Local Pride investigation that's very consistent with my views on the subject. Here's an excerpt:
While opposed to all methods of slaughter, JVNA believes that properly carried out ritual slaughter is a relatively “humane” method of slaughter, which aims to minimize animal pain .... JVNA believes that the graphic depictions of the horrifying mistreatment of the animals at the Nebraska slaughterhouse should cause the entire Jewish community to examine the ways animals are currently being raised, treated, prepared, and slaughtered, to see if the laws and principles of the Torah are actually being properly practiced. And we hope that closer study of the values in Jewish tradition-- concern for the pain of fellow creatures, maintaining health, protecting God's world, conserving resources, feeding the hungry-- will ultimately lead Jews and others to adopt a diet that is more humane, healthy, environmentally sustainable, and capable of feeding hungry people -- vegetarianism.
Failed Messiah has been doing some wonderful reporting and analysis of this case ever since the story broke. On Monday, Failed Messiah dissected the inaccuracy-laden Kosher Today article on the subject and then had a follow-up post getting to the bottom of one of Kosher Today's false claims. Yesterday, Failed Messiah had an in-depth post recounting firsthand interviews with the OU's Rabbi Menachem Genack and Rabbi Seth Mandel, the USDA's Steven Cohen, and animal welfare expert Temple Grandin. In a follow-up post, Failed Messiah featured two photos showing that a meat hook had been used at Local Pride and juxtaposed Mandel's claim that it wasn't a meat hook with Grandin's claim that it is. Keep up the good work, Failed Messiah! Here's an excerpt from one of yesterday's posts:
Whatever Rubashkin's employees are doing with that meat hook, US law prohibits doing any butchering or preparatory work on an animal until it is dead. The definition of death is the legal definition, not the halakhic definition some use that, once the knife begins to cut the animal is dead. So what is really going on in Gordon? You can see that a meat hook is used. ... Whatever the reason for its use, it is illegal and it must be immediately stopped.