Undercover Investigation of Shackling and Hoisting (Part I)
[U]ndercover investigators documented that workers were tripping cows by tying a rope around one of the animals' legs and pulling on it, causing the cows to fall to the ground violently. Once the animals were down, one of the shackled back legs would be partially hoisted in the air. A worker would stand on one of the animals' legs while other workers--including one holding the animals' heads in place with a sharp metal pole--attempted to restrain the thrashing animals so that they could slit their throats. Some animals were forced to endure this trauma for several minutes. After the cows' throats were slit, the animals were immediately hoisted into the air by one leg to be bled out, but some cows were obviously still conscious and struggled for many minutes. Workers were caught on tape cutting into the animals' heads, necks, and joints while the animals were still conscious and able to feel pain.
Eighty percent of kosher slaughterhouses in South America use shackling and hoisting, according to PETA. The Forward reports that "[i]n recent years, every major American kosher meat producer has set up a South American operation." The Forward also notes that Israel imports nearly 60,000 tons of meat from South America annually and that, citing Rabbi Menachem Genack (the CEO of the Orthodox Union's Kosher Division), "the Israelis are the major market force in South America." In other words, this inhumane slaughter method is used in four out of five cases on a very large scale and this is a key concern when we talk about animal welfare issues that affect kosher consumers in the U.S. and Israel.
The cruelty of shackling and hoisting, as shown in the undercover video, has been the subject of criticism from animal welfare experts and heavyweights in the Jewish community alike. Dr. Temple Grandin, a leading animal welfare expert who has designed equipment used in kosher slaughterhouses, said, "The methods used to restrain cattle in this plant were atrocious. Shackling, hoisting, and holding the fully conscious animal down with four people is a barbaric way to handle cattle in a modern slaughter plant. This is total animal cruelty." The Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism responded by quoting from and reaffirming a previous statement by its Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards against shackling and hoisting. Even the Orthodox Union has weighed in against shackling and hoisting. In the Forward article linked to above, Rabbi Genack said that shackling and hoisting is "not the kind of system that we want to have, that we would be proud of."
It seems unlikely that shackling and hoisting will be stopped because of secular animal welfare laws in Uruguay or Argentina. It would be wonderful if the Orthodox Union and U.S. companies exerted their influence to make slaughter practices more humane. But it seems as though the key player here is the Israeli Rabbinate, which definitely has enough influence to get shackling and hoisting stopped in South American slaughterhouses. PETA has a petition you can sign urging the Israeli Rabbinate to take action. The Rabbinate is being pressured not just by PETA but also by Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI). The Forward article states that Rabbi Adam Frank, an activist with the organization, recently wrote a letter to the Rabbinate in which he asked, “Since less painful and more humane methods of animal restraint and treatment exist and are used in the kosher slaughter process, is the Shackling & Hoisting of a conscious animal an unnecessarily cruel practice, thus defining it as prohibited under Jewish law?” CHAI and Frank have not yet received a response, according to the article.
This is not the first time that a PETA undercover investigation has unearthed cruelty to animals in a kosher slaughterhouse. Read about PETA's 2004 investigation of Iowa's AgriProcessors (the world's largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse) and 2007 investigation of Nebraska's Local Pride, both of which are owned by the Rubashkin family.
Click here to read Part II, which focuses on responses in newspapers and on blogs.