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