"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)


Media Coverage of the Kosher Meat Scandal

I've talked about the new undercover investigation of a Rubashkin-owened kosher slaughterhouse and the attention it's received in the Jewish blogosphere. This post will focus on coverage in the conventional media.

PETA issued a press release about the investigation on Monday, and the Associated Press put out an article that afternoon. As can be expected from the short turn-around time, the AP article didn't dig very deep. This excerpt is the best the article does to make people realize that something is wrong at Rubashkin's Local Pride slaughterhouse:
The alleged violations of state, federal and kosher laws cited in the complaint include: the animals were allowed to writhe in pain for up to two minutes after their throats were cut; and staff tear the animals' necks with a meat hook and cut tags from their ears while they are still conscious.

"The intentional infliction of cruelty at [Rubashkin's] Gordon, Nebraska, facility is ... part of a continued pattern of disregard for the welfare of animals - and the cruelty-to-animal statutes - in the locales where [Rubashkin] operates," PETA said in the complaint.
The Forward's article is certainly the most probing so far. It includes telling quotes from Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union's kosher division, and Nathan Lewin, a lawyer who has defended AgriProcessors previously, indicating that both parties are dismissing the criticism out of hand and not taking the issue seriously. The article also does a nice job of explaining what the investigation found:

[PETA] alleges that the video provides proof of the Rubashkins’ failure to follow through on reforms that they agreed to make after the previous video was released, including a promise to use a gun to immediately kill any animal that is not rendered insensate after the kosher cut is administered. . . .

In the new video, the cattle appear be moving their eyes, necks and tongues long after their throats have been slit. In one case, PETA says the movement went on for two minutes. In testimony gathered by PETA, a number of veterinarians hold that cows are still conscious until their eyes roll back. ...

The video appears to corroborate PETA’s allegation that factory workers cut off the ears of cows while the cows are still moving. Other footage appears to show a worker using a metal device — a hook, according to PETA — to reach into the throats of the animals after the cut but before the animals stopped moving.

The most controversial scenes from the 2004 video showed a worker using a hook to pull out a moving cow’s trachea. AgriProcessors had promised to stop the practice.

Among the critics of the new footage is animal [welfare] expert Temple Grandin, who was also a prominent critic of AgriProcessors after the release of the 2004 video. She visited the Iowa plant last year, after a series of reforms had been implemented, and gave it a clean bill of health. Now, in response to the new footage, she is again criticizing the company.

“They’re not working on fixing the details of their procedure,” Grandin told the Forward. “Now, it’s nowhere near as bad as the other AgriProcessors thing. I would label that atrocious. This I would label poor.”

The JTA (a newswire for Jewish publications) had a brief that didn't identify any of the alleged abuses at Local Pride. It did, at least, include a quote from a PETA representative and this worthwhile snippet:

An animal rights group says America's largest kosher meat company still isn't treating its animals humanely.

People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals released a new video showing that AgriProcessors, which produces the Aaron's Best line of kosher meats, has not followed through on its pledge to shoot with a gun any cow that appeared to be alive after it had been through the kosher slaughtering process.

AgriProcessors came under fire in 2004 when PETA released a video it had shot surreptitiously at the slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, showing gruesome footage of cows flailing after they had had their throats slit in accordance with the practice in kosher ritual slaughter.

After the video's release, the slaughterhouse agreed to reform its work practices, but PETA now says AgriProcessors has broken that agreement.

I don't think anyone is likely to be appalled by what's going on at Local Pride after reading either newswire article, but at least the news is hopefully getting out there, providing an excellent opportunity to submit letters to the editor and/or guest op-eds to Jewish weeklies. The coverage in the Forward and the blogosphere have been much better at explaining the situation.


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