Friday, July 13, 2007


Before you get started, stand warned, if you are not Jewish there are parts of this article you are likely to just not get.

Also, many of you will simply wonder why I bothered with all the religious stuff. The last paragraph of this "introduction" will give you some idea of the reason for that.

Earlier this week PETA filed a formal complaint with Sheridan County Attorney Jamian Simmons asking her to prosecute the Rubashkin-owned Local Pride kosher slaughterhouse in Gordon for apparent violations of Nebraska's cruelty-to-animals statute. PETA's complaint follows a two-day undercover investigation during which an investigator documented the following abuses:

* Cows remained conscious for up to two minutes after their throats were cut open.

* Workers ripped into conscious cows' throats with a metal hook.

* Workers mutilated conscious cows' ears to remove identification tags.

Under Nebraska law, cruel mistreatment of animals is a Class I misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class IV felony for subsequent offenses.

According to the blog "heeb'n'vegan" published by a Jewish Vegan, "...numerous experts have come forward to condemn the cruelty of the practices observed at the Local Pride slaughterhouse.

Of particular interest to me, the blog publisher states, are the words of Dr. Bernard Rollin. Dr. Rollin is a distinguished professor who received his Ph.D. from Columbia University (1972). He is the author of numerous articles and books, including The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain and Scientific Change and Farm Animal Welfare. He is one of the leading scholars in the field of animal consciousness, and he has given more than 1,000 lectures around the world. He writes,

“When I was a boy learning the precepts embodied in the Jewish tradition, I was taught that the suffering of living things—tsaar baallei chaim—is morally and religiously intolerable. … What is depicted in this video is a mockery of these precepts, and a disgrace to Orthodox Judaism. … The drooling, the vocalizing, the manifest distress [depicted in the video] all serve to demonstrate that animal handling procedures at that abattoir are well below the threshold for acceptability. … In this video … the animals suffer while conscious for prolonged periods, in one case over two minutes. … In the same vein, the evident insertion of the meat hook to increase bleeding is both inhumane and a violation of the principles of kashrut. The ripping out of ear tags before the animal is unconscious is equally morally and religiously illegitimate. The vocalization and struggling after the cut is made speak for themselves and evidence suffering and a callous disregard for that suffering that should be abhorrent to and condemned by all observant Jews.”

In fact, three years ago when another Rubashkin family slaughter house was in the news, Rabbi Yudel Shain of the Lakewood, NJ-based Kosher Consumers Union made serious allegations about the state of kosher supervision at AgriProcessors. The Kosher Consumers Union is America's foremost advocate of issues concerning the kosher consumer. One of its aims is, "...protecting the kosher consumer by informing about mislabeling and false advertising that applies to food products that are falsely held out to the public as having met the Kosher Consumer's standards."

Among the explosive charges made by Rabbi Shain:

1. I photagraphed at AGRI an animal that was still very much alive (after shechita) & they shot it in the brain right away & it was used as a kosher animal. It is an accepted practice by Rabbinical certifiers NOT to use such an animal.

2. Rubashkin’s so called “Bais Yosef” meat is all a “sham”. The RUBASHKIN Certifier is of the stated opinion that all of their meat is “Bais Yosef” & that nobody really knows what is or is not Bais Yosef meat. (FYI contrary to Dayan Kohn BaisYosef means “no lung adhessions whatsoever”.) RUBASHKIN commonly send to caterers so called Bais Yosef meat for Sephardim and there will be 1 or 2 pieces marked accordingly “Bais Yosef’ & the rest isn’t Bais Yosef”. … Their so called Bais Yosef meat is a consumer sham! including the beef & veal certified by Rabbi Hatchuel.

3. The system at RUBASHKIN is that non-Jews do the physical “nikur” [removal of forbidden fats] which is then checked by the “Mashgiach” [rabbinic supervisor]. The Certifier was shown that the “Mashgiach nikur” physically can’t handle the load and some meat goes by without being checked. He responded “there isn’t enough full time work for 2 people, only for 1 1/2 people & we can’t hire half a person so we’ll leave it with one Mashgiach till there is enough work for two full time people”.

4. The quality of RUBASHKIN’s cattle is the cheapest available in the market (per USDA inspector, “low grade”) yet they have the highest ratio of “Kosher, Glatt, Bet Yosef” (including their veal) than most others. [Low-grade cattle normally have significantly higher levels of non-kosher and non-glatt than high-grade cattle.]

5. RUBASHKIN commonly switches labels, as it was found on numerous occasions that on top of a nonGlatt label was stuck on a Glatt label, ‘cause they were short for an order. The Non-Jewish RUBASHKIN truck drivers have in their possession a box of different kosher labels to put on to boxes of meat as per a store’s request (I have 1 of those boxes of labels that I saw fall off a truck).

6. The lung in an animal is an organ that constantly expands & contracts in the cavity of the animal. The lung is a relatively free hanging organ attached to the animal mostly by the tissue & muscle of the trachea, and slightly to other areas by some membranes. Once one cuts the supporting tissue & muscles around the kunah [lung] it is basically detached easily from the animal with a good pull or via a meat hook.

Immediatly after shechita while the animal is still in the schechita position, a non-jewish worker (the Shochet leaves the room) utilizes an 8 inch (approx) knife to enlarge the opening around the trachea & also cutting into the “diaphragm area. He then use a meat hook to grab & pull the trachea a few inches & cutting off the trachea near the lung.

The concerns are that by making the cut along the diaphragm area & around the trachea one may (in)advertently also puncture the lung. The knife is inserted quite deeply into the neck area thereby risking cutting the sirchos of the upper lung lobes. (Simlah Chadosha.)

Another serious concern is that by hooking & pulling on the trachea it will rip and dislodge the sirchos / adhesions that go from the lung to the Ribs and / or also some sirchos on the lung itself and then having the $$ opportunity to call it Glatt or at least kosher.

After the above procedures, it is practically impossible to check the lungs properly for Glatt or sirchos.

7. The “Weinberg pen” allows a shechita munachas, which is the preferred method of shechita throughout history. The design of this pen’s head restrainer is not proper. The metal bar should come way below the neck’s shechita area. The Shochet is obviously afraid of nicking his knife on the metal bar, so he must do a controlled shechita with 7-8 back & forth knife strokes (a possibility of shehiya exists). An experienced Shochet utilizes 1-2 Back & forth knife strokes. Because of this “controlled cut” the Shochet obviously is not severing all of the arteries, requiring an unacceptable “2nd cut”.

Severing all neck arteries causes an almost immediate total collapse of the animal.

8. Some 6-7 months ago a Shochet from a prominent “Torah community” was invited to see the beautiful “Rubashkin system” of shechita. He was impressed by the “show”. Now when the Shochet saw the PETA pictures he was aghast! While he was there they weren’t ripping tracheas, animals weren’t walking, thrashing around after the shechita etc. “I was taken for a ride! How can I believe “anything” I saw?” The Israeli Rabanut’s representatives claim they never saw many of the unacceptable items depicted on the PETA pictures.
The "heeb'n'vegan" blog cites an interesting article about shechita, titled "If Cows Could Talk, Like Balaam's Donkey," by vegetarian rabbi Haviva Ner-David in the July 9 issue of The Jerusalem Report. Ner-David lives in Jerusalem and is the founding director of Reut: The Center for Modern Jewish Marriage.

Ner-David begins by talking about how repulsed she was by a cow's suffering at a
kosher slaughterhouse she visited. She writes that "the way shehita is carried
out today cannot be called kosher in terms of both the spirit and the letter of
the law. The Shulhan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law) tells us that an animal about to
be slaughtered should not see the animal being slaughtered before because fear
will cause the animal to flinch and therefore be rendered a treifa because the
knife will not cut smoothly. This rule (as well as other ways this cow's
suffering could have been minimized) was blatantly ignored by the slaughterhouse
I visited that day."

According to many halakhic authorities, shehita is
meant to minimize the animal's pain ("Guide to the Perplexed," 3:26). In the
past, shehita was a more humane way of slaughtering animals than was common in
the surrounding cultures in which Jews lived. This is no longer true. Though
stunning prior to slaughter has become the norm in non-kosher slaughter,
halakhic authorities do not allow stunning. In addition, though not an absolute
halakhic requirement, ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities and the Israeli
rabbinate require that the cow be inverted during shehita, which is not the
common position in non-kosher contexts.

Truth be told, if we consider
complying with the requirements of tza'ar ba'alei hayim a requirement for meat
to be considered "kosher," today's food industry renders all meat production
non-kosher. Until recent times, animals were raised on private farms, under
relatively humane conditions, and when the time for slaughter arrived, it was
possible, at least, to treat the animal with dignity. This was true for kosher
slaughter as well.

Today, mass production has taken over. Under these
conditions, it is impossible to treat animals in a way that would comply with
the laws of tza'ar ba'alei hayim. This is why all Jews concerned with Jewish
values and/or Jewish law should consider vegetarianism.

A side note: The slaughter house processes kosher beef, lamb and bison products using workers from the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The website "Failed" written by a disgrunlted ex-follower of Chabad Lubabvitch says:

The Jewish community has a long history with Pine Ridge and the Oglala Sioux. Most of it good; some, not. The tribe’s positive exposure to Orthodox Judaism has largely been through left-leaning Orthodox Jews, including at least one rabbi, Moshe Lichtman, who practice a sort of social action, peace and justice style, Judaism and who work with non-Orthodox Jews.

But the Rubashkin family has a history of illegal and anti-social behavior – a history that includes bank fraud, misappropriating union dues paid by it’s employees, the documented recruitment of illegal alien workers, repeated EPA violations and the original Postville controversy.

One wonders whether the Oglala Sioux have trusted too much, based on their past experience with an atypical "bein adam lehaveyro"* Orthodoxy.

As a vegetarian Jew myself who during one of my stranger "periods" became pretty darn religously observant, I would call upon the Jewish community to, at the very least, openly condemn the most blatant animal cruelty displayed at the so-called kosher slaughterhouses run by the Rubashkin family.

The following is from The Forward.

Video Renews Beefs About Slaughterhouse’s Practices

A video from a kosher slaughterhouse in Nebraska is reigniting concern about the way the nation’s largest kosher meat company handles its animals.

The three-and-a-half minute video shows bloody images of cows being killed at the Local Pride slaughterhouse in Gordon, Neb., which is owned by the Brooklyn-based Rubashkin family. The footage was filmed and released by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The Rubashkins, adherents of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect, also own the Postville, Iowa-based AgriProcessors, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. In 2004, AgriProcessors came under sharp criticism from a number of rabbis and animal rights activists after PETA released a separate video from the Postville slaughterhouse that showed gruesome footage of cows walking around after having their necks cut. Since then, AgriProcessors has also come under fire for the treatment of its workers.

The new video shows much less gut-wrenching detail than the one from 2004. A PETA spokesman said that allegations this time around are more limited. Unlike the previous video, which was filmed clandestinely, the new one was made with the knowledge of the workers, according to PETA. The group 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.

“It’s extremely disappointing to find that three years later, AgriProcessors still can’t slaughter without horrible abuse of the animals involved,” Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s vice president of international grasssroots campaigns, told the Forward.

PETA has filed complaints with the county attorney in Nebraska and with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Calls to AgriProcessors’ headquarters and to an AgriProcessors’ spokesman were not returned before press time. Nat Lewin, a Washington lawyer who has defended AgriProcessors in the past, said that the video does not show anything illegal or out of the ordinary in slaughterhouses.

“All I can conclude is that it proves that PETA is out to destroy or make unlawful [kosher slaughter] in all its actual implementation,” Lewin said. “The purpose of the video is to have people say, ‘Look, there is a man with a beard and a long knife.’”

The new footage comes from a Nebraska plant that the Rubashkins opened in 2006. It is staffed by residents of a nearby Indian reservation. The Nebraska plant is reported to have 100 employees, an eighth of the number who work at the Iowa facility.

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. Lewin said that “after [kosher slaughter,] animals may move, but when an animal moves that does not mean it is conscious.”

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 rights 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 kosher slaughter at the Nebraska plant is certified by a number of Orthodox authorities, including the leading kosher certifier, the Orthodox Union. In 2004, the O.U. initially defended AgriProcessors but soon thereafter assumed a more critical stance, demanding that changes be implemented.

The CEO of the O.U.’s kosher division, Menachem Genack, told the Forward that he had not had a chance to watch the new video. He said that after hearing from PETA, he had asked one of his inspectors to go to the plant. Genack said that based on what he had learned, “this is nothing like the same story as Postville.”

A spokesman for a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, Amanda Eamich, said that her agency had sent a veterinarian to the Nebraska plant after receiving the PETA complaint. Eamich said that her agency is “reviewing the procedures” at the Nebraska plant but has not made any conclusions.

In 2004, PETA made complaints to the local prosecutor in Iowa and to the USDA. A USDA investigation found that the plant had “engaged in acts of inhumane slaughter.”


heebnvegan said...

Now that's what I call comprehensive and informative!

I hope that what readers take from this is that even when both religious and government authorities are monitoring conditions at a slaughterhouse, animal welfare is not taken seriously. The best way to stop supporting cruelty to animals in the meat industry -- kosher or otherwise -- is by not eating animals. For more information about vegetarianism and this slaughterhouse investigation, visit

Anonymous said...

I was involved in Shechita proccess as Shochet apprentice for a while and assure you that after my 70 old teacher did the slit and he did it about 10 per day, animal was dead almost instantenioesly.
Some convultions occured, but that is just post effect. Do you think to use bolt gun , like non kosher slaughter houses do is more humane towards the animals, aspesially on pigs, who are very intellegent and know very well what is going on. You should visit ones the pig slaughter house and witness by yurself horrible scream all over at the time of the slaughter.

Anonymous said...

"Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

- Einstein

It's very selfish and ignorant to eat animals. I have been vegetarian for 12 years. I am healthier and stronger. I will never turn back.