"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Chief Rabbinate to Revoke Hechsher of Meat From Shackled-and-Hoisted Animals Because of Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim

A couple of months ago, I noted that the office of Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger in Israel had released an encouraging statement that seemed to mark the end of Israel's imports of meat from animals killed by shackling and hoisting in South America. (The cruel slaughter method is no longer used in Israel or the U.S.) I was, however, skeptical because a similar forward-looking statement in 2008 was never enforced. This time around, it looks like the Chief Rabbinate's plan will be enacted.

On June 18, Haaretz reported that "by 2011 the Chief Rabbinate will no longer certify [as kosher] meat from slaughterhouses that use shackle-and-hoist - a controversial method employed in almost all South American kosher slaughterhouses, which provide 80 percent of all the meat imported into Israel." This is a major step forward, both because it means action will be taken within the next half-year and because business considerations (e.g., the fact that an overwhelming majority of Israel's imported meat comes from the slaughterhouses in question) will not be allowed to determine what's right.

This decision has far-reaching implications. Avi Blumenthal, assistant to Rabbi Metzger, said, "The chief rabbi believes this method is primitive and causes unnecessary pain and anguish to the animals. If the meat factories switch to more humane, kosher methods, we will certify their meat." The Chief Rabbinate doesn't have the authority to stop imports of the meat into Israel. Rather, it is specifically saying that it will not certify the meat as kosher because of the way animals are treated.

All too often in recent years, kosher certification authorities have contended that tza'ar ba'alei chayim (unnecessary animal suffering) is a distinct issue from kashrut and does not invalidate the kosher status of meat. In this situation, a hechsher is actually being revoked because of tza'ar ba'alei chayim (or perhaps the negative publicity it has caused), which means that it is not an independent consideration.

In the past, the kosher certification establishment has claimed that a statement like "Cruelty to animals means that meat from those animals is not kosher" is false. I have no rabbinic authority, but a logical extension of this new decision seems to make that statement true.

Haaretz quoted Rabbi Michael Melchior, the Danish-born former chief Orthodox rabbi of Norway, as saying that "lessening an animal's suffering is a religious requirement from the Torah - just like the kosher requirement itself."


  • At 7/07/2010 10:29 AM, Anonymous Shmuel said…

    This is a very big topic. All too often, we ourselves blur the lines by taking the rabbis stamp of approval (i.e., hechsher) as a green light, but we need to ask ourselves these questions – and more importantly the rabbis. I recently heard a report that corn-fed cows are destined to die within six months of when they are slaughtered, because corn causes the animals serious stomach disease. This of course, brings up an even more pressing question: does kosher meat fall under the category of a treifa, which would ultimately mean it is not kosher at all?

  • At 7/07/2010 10:57 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…


    You raise a good point in theory. But there are so many welfare issues in practice (e.g., that do affect the animals when they are still alive) that get neglected in discussion that, frankly, I have a hard time imagining that specific point being part of the big-picture conversation any time soon.



Post a Comment

<< Home