"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)


Jerusalem Post: When 'Kosher' Slaughter Is Not Jewish

On Thursday, The Jerusalem Post featured an op-ed by a Conservative rabbi condemning Jewish officials' response of inaction to findings of cruelty to animals at AgriProcessors, the world's largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse. In the article, which can be read in its entirety here, Rabbi Adam Frank writes:
Reacting to these published findings, the head of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's international ritual slaughter division, Rabbi Ezra Raful, said that he would permit the import of meat to Israel from the slaughterhouse in question, saying that "in the case of AgriProcessors, there is no halachic problem."

Rabbi Raful's statement is alarming and halachically problematic on a number of levels. First, he ignores the halachic category of dina d'malchuta dina whereby Jews are required to follow the laws of their host country as long as the law does not intrude upon Jewish law. The consequence of this statement is that the Israeli rabbinate publicly gives its approval that Jewish-owned business ignore US law because it prohibits a practice that is ostensibly permitted by Jewish law.

Second, the Israeli rabbinate characterizes Jewish law as holding a lesser standard of compassion to animals than even a secular government, creating the impression of moral failure in the eyes of both other nations and our own people. Third, by commenting that "there is no halachic problem," the rabbinate represents that the mitzva of tsa'ar ba'alei haim (prohibition against the unnecessary infliction of pain on an animal) as somehow non-applicable in the pre- and post-shehita process.

Rabbi Raful further says, "The Torah is not subjective and the same Torah that prohibits cruelty to animals allows shehita." This statement is a nonsensical red herring. The USDA report does not criticize shehita; it criticizes the causing of unnecessary suffering to animals before the shehita occurs and the torturous carcass dressing of conscious animals after the shehita takes place.

The Torah allows shehita, but the Torah does not allow cruel acts to be appended to the prescribed process of kosher slaughter. . . .

[T]he cessation of cruel practices at one plant does not address the problem of rabbis who continue to defend such practices. The rabbis whom we have entrusted to interpret Halacha and represent the honor of Jewish character have been derelict in their duties.

It is fair for the Jewish community to expect people of integrity, vision and courage to represent it. We have a right to expect our leadership to raise the alarm at the ethically atrocious, even in the face of popular criticism.

Fortunately, Judaism has a self-correcting mechanism that does not rely solely on rabbis discerning truth. The Jewish community is empowered to voice opinion, to hold its leadership accountable and to demand reforms of abusive industries.


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