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Unethical slaughter methods continue to be commonly used in the production of kosher meat sold in the United States and Israel, but resistance to these outdated practices is mounting due to public pressure. The most well known problem is the abysmal slaughter conditions common in South American plants that provide a large portion of U.S. and Israeli kosher meat, including the painful “shackle and hoist” method. More than four years ago, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate promised to stop certifying meat from animals killed using the shackle and hoist method as kosher, but the practice persists.
The largest American kosher certification agency, OU Kosher, also continues to certify animals from South America as kosher, despite the persistent use of these painful methods. The USDA even shut down a calf slaughter plant in New Jersey that regularly performed kosher slaughter due to humane violations.1
In response to these and other problems in kosher certification, the American Orthodox rabbi and founder of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, Shmuly Yanklowitz, declared in the Wall Street Journal, “As I learned about the reality of industrial kosher slaughter … I began to realize how far current practices of animal treatment and slaughter are from the traditional ethical values. I also found out that animals sent to kosher slaughterhouses are raised on the same cruel farms as those sent to non-kosher slaughter.”2
Rabbi Yanklowitz, who follows a plant-based diet, was challenged in the Jewish press because of these comments, so we asked animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin what she thought of Rabbi Yanklowitz’s criticism of the kosher meat industry. “I support Rabbi Yanklowitz,” she wrote to us in early June, 2014. As far as Grandin is concerned, kosher slaughter itself is not the issue, but rather the very serious animal abuse and mistreatment that is all too common for animals eventually certified as kosher. In her email, Dr. Grandin put it simply: “There are many bad conditions in kosher plants.”
The severity of these problems has inspired resistance even from within the kosher meat business. One professional Jewish slaughterer (shochet), Yadidya Greenberg, has gone so far as to provide a “scorecard” for natural kosher beef, offering an insider’s perspective on the treatment of animals, the environment, and workers. Farm Forward applauds Greenberg, Rabbi Yanklowitz, and countless other religious leaders who, in Yanklowitz’s words, are working towards “a day when the kosher-meat and dairy industries respect the sentience of the animal and venerate the divine in creation“.3
See our original feature on kosher meat certification for more information.
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June 2, 2014
Shmuly Yanklowitz, “Why This Rabbi Is Swearing Off Kosher Meat,” The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2014, available here.