December 16, 2004

Special JVNA Newsletter - Postville Slaughterhouse Case #5

Shalom everyone,

This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is a fifth follow-up to the newsletter on the Postville slaughterhouse issue sent out on December 1. It includes much material from various perspectives to give you an idea of some of the latest developments. For additional information, please do an Internet search for recent articles and/or check web sites of PETA, the OU, and other involved groups.

This newsletter has the following items:

1. Great Article by World Renowned Shechita Expert Temple Grandin

My Letter To The Editor Re The Temple Grandin Article/Suggestions Welcome

My Letter to the Jewish Media/Suggestions Welcome

My Opinion Article Draft/Suggestions Welcome

Statement By a Conservative Rabbi on Postville


Humane Society of the US Calls For Persecution of Animal Abusers at Postville Slaughterhouse

Keeping the Momentum Going/Letter From Rina

More Sample Letters (Including Five That appeared in the Jerusalem Post and Seven That Appeared in the Jewish Press)

Responding To Recent Published Articles

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, information re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsements by JVNA, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.



1. Great Article by World Renowned Shechita Expert Temple Grandin

Kosher slaughter done rightJerusalem Post 12/16/04
By Temple Grandin

When operating new equipment that no longer caused the animal suffering, I felt the sacredness of the ancient ritual

I have worked in the beef industry for 30 years designing equipment to improve animal welfare. In North America half of the non-kosher cattle are handled in equipment I designed. I have also designed equipment for holding cattle and calves for shechitah. I have found that the ancient method of kosher slaughter can be the most humane, or terribly cruel, depending on the shochet's skill and the methods used.

The laws of kashrut dictate that the cattle be slaughtered with a sharp knife, causing almost instantaneous death with no pain. Unfortunately, these laws do not directly address modern restraining methods that they could hardly have envisioned.

The result is that some kosher slaughterhouses employ a shackle-and-hoist system in which a chain is wrapped around the animal's back leg, and shechitah is performed while the poor beast is suspended by one back leg. The terrified bellows of cattle can often be heard from outside the slaughterhouse.

In the US, this method is used only for religious slaughter, since all other cattle are rendered unconscious with a bolt stunner before hoisting.

In the US, many people mistakenly thought that the shackling and hoisting of live cattle was part of kosher slaughter. But during the mid-Eighties and early Nineties, I was hired by two companies to tear out these cruel machines and replace them with equipment that would hold cattle in a comfortable standing position for shechitah.

Where the shackle-and-hoist method was used, I had no way to study the animal's experience of shechitah since so much stress was caused by the restraining methods. For several weeks, I had the opportunity to operate the hydraulic controls on the new kosher restraint boxes.

When operating the restraining box that no longer caused suffering, I felt the sacredness of the ancient ritual. I wrote about it in detail in my book, Thinking in Pictures.

"As each animal entered, I concentrated on moving the apparatus slowly and gently so as not to scare him. I watched his reactions so that I applied only enough pressure to hold him snugly. Excessive pressure would cause discomfort. If his ears were laid back against his head or he struggled, I knew I had squeezed him too hard. Animals are very sensitive to hydraulic equipment. They feel the smallest movement of the control levers.

"Through the machine I reached out and held the animal. When I held his head in the yoke, I imagined placing my hands on his forehead and under his chin and gently easing him into position. Body boundaries seemed to disappear, and I had no awareness of pushing the levers. The rear pusher gate and head yoke became an extension of my hand."

NOW THAT I was able to hold the animal gently, it was possible to observe its reaction to shechitah. When shechitah was performed on each steer, I was amazed that the animal did not move. To find out if shechitah was really painless, I started holding the head of each animal with less and less pressure to see if it would move during shechitah. Even big bulls stayed still when the head holder was so loose they could have easily pulled their heads out.

I also observed that some shochets were better than others in their ability to cause rapid unconsciousness. All of the cuts were correct from a religious standpoint, but some shochets were more biologically effective. A swift cut was more effective than a slower one. In the hands of the best shochets, the animal does not make a sound or flinch, and drops unconscious in eight to 10 seconds.

My experiences in seeing how humane shechitah can be could not have prepared me for the video taken at the kosher meat plant AgriProcessors, which recently became the center of considerable controversy. The video showed cattle that were clearly conscious after their throats had been cut and their trachea had been ripped out and was hanging from their necks.
I have been in over 30 kosher plants, and I had never seen such a dreadful procedure. Obviously, yanking on the trachea would cause great pain and may have delayed the onset of unconsciousness.

AgriProcessors is not the only place that needs to improve its procedures.

Many plants that export beef from South America to Israel are dragging live cattle around with chains attached to the animal's rear leg. In the South American procedure, still used in 80% of the kosher plants there, live cattle are hoisted up, laid back down on their back, then held down by four or five people for shechitah.

These plants should replace the dragging of cattle with restraining pens. A pen that holds the animal standing is the most comfortable for the animal. Pens that rotate cattle onto their backs like the one at the AgriProcessors are much better than dragging and hoisting, but are probably more stressful than upright restraints.

In well-designed upright or rotating restraining pens, 95% or more of the cattle should remain calm and not bellow. In the worst shackle-and-hoist systems, more than half the cattle will bellow, a sure sign of pain and stress.

Ethical kosher slaughter also makes good business sense. Calm cattle bleed better, leading to greater efficiency and higher quality meat. Shackle-and-hoist, in addition to being cruel, is dangerous for people. Struggling animals have caused so many injuries that insurance companies have forced some plants to abandon this method. The reduction in insurance premiums alone can, in some cases, pay for new, more ethical, restraining equipment.
In a recent response to the AgriProcessors video, the Orthodox Union reiterated that "Judaism abjures cruelty to animals" and announced that "the trachea will no longer be removed following shechitah, and any animals that appear to have survived the procedure will be promptly stunned or shot [and their meat declared unkosher]."

I know that shechitah, done right, is the most humane slaughtering method. But it is very disturbing that the cruel AgriProcessors procedure was stopped only after being revealed by a pirate video, and that cases of incompetent shechitah are still being defended as aberrations. Meanwhile, in other plants, inhumane shackle-and-hoist methods are still receiving the kosher stamp of approval. This is a shame, not just for the animals but for a religious system that represents one of the great ethical advances in human history and which demonstrates the sacredness of all life.

The writer, the author of Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports from My Life with Autism, is an associate professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.

This article can also be read at

Copyright 1995-2004 The Jerusalem Post -

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2. My Letter To The Editor Re The Temple Grandin Article/Suggestions Welcome

December 16, 2004

Dear Editor:

Kol hakavod for including Temple Grandin’s wonderful article on proper shechita (“Kosher Slaughter Done Right,” December 16 issue). She has been highly respected internationally for many years for her expertise on all aspects of slaughter and her creative approaches to minimizing the pain of animals during the slaughtering process. I hope that her wise counsel will be widely heeded. However, even if shechita is carried out perfectly, can we ignore the severe cruelty that animals are subjected to daily on factory farms, and the other ways that the production and consumption of animal products violate basic Jewish teachings?

Since nutritionists have concluded that one can be properly nourished on a diet free of animal products, a fundamental question to be addressed is: since Judaism mandates that we should diligently guard our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people, and animal-based diets and agriculture have negative effects in each of these areas, shouldn’t Jews (and others) seriously consider a switch toward meatless diets?

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz

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3. My Letter to the Jewish Media/Suggestions Welcome

Dear Editor:

I believe that the horrific scenes of the mistreatment of animals at the Postville glatt kosher slaughterhouse ( and the efforts of some Orthodox groups to defend the facility’s procedures raise questions that go to the heart and soul of Judaism: If these procedures are acceptable, are we carrying out our mandate to be “rachmanim b’nei rachmanim” (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors)? Are we properly carrying out the requirement to imitate G-d, Whose “tender mercies are over all his creatures” (Psalms 145:9)? If, as is recited at synagogue services every Sabbath and Yom tov morning, “the soul of every living creature shall bless G-d’s Name,” can we expect these cruelly treated animals to join in the praise? If, “the righteous person considers the life of his or her animal” (Proverbs 12:10), how will be judged, based on our treatment of animals?

More generally, even if shechita acts are carried out perfectly and pain during slaughter is minimized, can we ignore the many violations of Jewish teachings on compassion to animals that occur daily to billions of animals daily in the United States and worldwide?

Finally, the most important question: since Judaism mandates that we should diligently guard our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people, and animal-based diets and agriculture have negative effects in each of these areas, shouldn’t Jews (and others) seriously consider a switch toward meatless diets?

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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4. My Opinion Article Draft/Suggestions Welcome


I believe that the horrific scenes of the mistreatment of animals at the Postville glatt kosher slaughterhouse ( and the efforts of some Orthodox groups to defend the facility’s procedures raise questions that go to the heart and soul of Judaism: If these procedures are acceptable, are we carrying out our mandate to be “rachmanim b’nei rachmanim” (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors)? Are we not failing to properly imitate G-d, Whose “tender mercies are over all his creatures” (Psalms 145:9)? If, as is recited at synagogue services every Sabbath and Yom tov morning, “the soul of every living creature shall bless G-d’s Name,” can we expect these cruelly treated animals to join in the praise? If, “the righteous person considers the life of his or her animal” (Proverbs 12:10), how will be judged, based on our treatment of animals?

More generally, even if shechita acts are carried out perfectly and pain during slaughter is minimized, can we ignore the many violations of Jewish teachings on compassion to animals that occur daily to billions of animals daily in the United States and worldwide?

Finally, can we ignore the many ways that animal-based diets and agriculture severely violate Jewish values:

* While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.

* While Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord's" (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God's partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes substantially to soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, global climate change, and other environmental damages.

* While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, or use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, animal agriculture requires the wasteful use of land, water, fuel, grain, and other resources.

* While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, an estimated twenty million human beings worldwide die each year because of hunger and its effects, over 70% of the grain grown in the U.S. is fed to animals destined for slaughter. It takes up to sixteen pounds of grain to produce just one pound of feedlot-raosed beef.

* While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that often lead to instability and war.

Clearly, Jewish values and meat consumption are in serious conflict. Jews should seriously consider shifting toward plant-based diets and promoting a switch toward vegetarianism as moral and ecological imperatives. Besides having great benefits for animals, such actions would greatly benefit the health of the Jewish people and others, move our precious, but imperiled planet to a more sustainable path, and show the relevance of Jewish teachings to the problems confronting the world today.

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5. Statement By a Conservative Rabbi on Postville
Rabbi Joel Rembaum
Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles

When Kosher Is Not

Haverim, shalom.

There are two principles that stand at the foundation of kosher
1. removal of blood from the animal as quickly as possible;
2. minimizing the pain and suffering that the animal experiences.
Done properly, kosher slaughtering, shehitah, accomplishes both of these

The observant Jewish community was shocked last month by the revelation of videotapes shot by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) inside a kosher slaughtering plant in Postville, Iowa. The tapes, selections of which I have viewed, depict animals writhing and squirming for more than a few seconds after shehitah, and, in some instances, actually getting up and walking around and then continuing to flail about for more than a minute. The animals appear to be in agony, and were this to be the case, the meat from such animals would have to be declared unkosher.

The Orthodox Union (OU) kashrut authorities who supervise the plant have stated that such random movement is not evidence of the animals suffering and that the loss of blood to the brain resulting from the shehitah renders the animals insensate. They also state that the USDA supervisors at the plant affirm that the animals do not suffer. They report that the meat prepared at the plant is kosher because the principle of tza'ar ba'alei hayyim, causing pain to a living being, has not been violated. Nevertheless, to add an additional level of
caution and to quell the uproar that the tapes have generated, the OU has mandated that any animals that experience abnormal post-shehitah movement will be stunned or shot to ensure that the animal is in a state of total unconsciousness. Such animals would then be used for non-kosher meat. Also, removal of the trachea immediately after shehitah to enhance blood flow, which has been the practice at the plant, will be discontinued. It should be noted that the plant in question uses a pen in which the animal is turned upside down immediately prior to slaughtering, a procedure deemed acceptable by the OU. (The OU opinions cited above can be found at

In September, 2000, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), the Conservative Movement's most authoritative legal decision-making body, ruled that to avoid tza'ar ba'alei hayyim only pens that keep the animal upright may be used in shehitah. Laboratory tests have determined that the blood of animals killed in the upside down position show a 300% elevation in stress related chemicals. The published CJLS opinion, written by Rabbis Elliot Dorff and Joel Roth and approved by a vote of 21-0, reads: "To be clear, then, in this ruling we intend not only to ban shackling and hoisting animals, but also those pens that turn the animals upside down before slaughtering them. Only moving and killing the animals in an upright pen satisfies the requirements of Jewish law forbidding cruel treatment of animals." (See: Responsa 1991-2000, The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement, Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, eds.; p. 96.) In fact, in Many facilities in which kosher slaughtering is done, such upright pens that are also PETA approved are in use. The upshot of this last piece of information is that, according to CJLS standards, even with the new policies in force by the OU at the Postville plant, the meat that comes from there is not kosher.

Here are my recommendations to TBA members as to how to resolve this
1. Given the nature of Jewish law, specially in the area of Kashrut, it is not unusual that there are differing points of view. This is clearly the case with regard to the pens used at the Postville plant. The CJLS considers such pens to be unacceptable because they cause undue pain and suffering to the animal; the OU considers them to be acceptable because they do not cause undo pain and suffering. Therefore,
2. TBA members should not use the Aaron's Best/Rubashkin meats that are produced in that plant.
3. Those who do use such meat would not be "treifing up" their kitchens because they do have a legitimate halakhic authority (the OU) backing them up.
4. I will speak with our caterers and ascertain that Aaron's Best/Rubashkin meats are not served at the synagogue.

I hope you find this approach helpful. I look forward to hearing from
you on this matter.

Rabbi Joel Rembaum

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6. Corrections

a. In the last special JVNA newsletter, the (corrected) statement below omitted the first “only.”
"Yosef Hakohen, a long time friend and JVNA advisor, pointed out that it is not proper for an interfaith group to only criticize a Jewish facility and that the letter should not have only discussed abuses at the Postville kosher slaughterhouse since there are also serious abuses at non-kosher slaughterhouses."

b. Previous JVNA newsletters have included statements from “Kosher Today.” I neglected to point out that this publication is not a normal media source, but an industry run and operated publication. In fact, they even note that they don't publish unless they have enough advertisers (almost all kosher companies).

7. Humane Society of the US Calls For Persecution for Alleged Abuses at Kosher Slaughterhouse

December 8, 2004

In response to a recent investigation of a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, The Humane Society of the United States has sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman not only pointing out alleged violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, but also urging the agency to take "the strongest possible action to prosecute those responsible for the abuses shown in that video and to ensure that they end immediately, and are not replicated elsewhere."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) taped the undercover video at AgriProcessors, Inc. from July through September; it is available for viewing via the organization's web site. Following its investigation, PETA filed a complaint with the U.S. Agriculture Department, calling for the prosecution of the slaughterhouse for alleged violations of the HMSA.

The video is excruciating to watch. Drawn from PETA's three-month investigation, the nearly 40-minute video shows a number of cows being restrained, one at a time, in a squeeze chute. This is a common farming device designed to hold an animal in place with adjustable metal plates that press in, or "squeeze," the animal's sides, while the head is secured from the front end. Typically, a squeeze chute is used when farmers need to vaccinate an animal or monitor its health. When the procedure is done, the front opens up and the animal walks right out.

The chute seen in this video is different. It is a special, drum-like device that turns the cow upside down, his head held firmly in place so that the shochet, a person educated in kosher slaughter, can cut the animal's throat cleanly. The cows seen at AgriProcessors are placed in the chute one at a time; another worker promptly hoses off the animal's exposed throat, and the shochet cuts the neck with a long, sharp knife, immediately sending a jetstream of blood gushing from the cow's throat. A third worker then pulls out the cow's trachea and esophagus, and the giant drum spins again to unceremoniously dump the animal onto a blood-covered floor.

"In the video we see cattle having their tracheas ripped out, being turned upright, and being dumped from a height onto the floor within ten or 15 seconds of sticking. Both the removal of the trachea and the turning—which will cause the sides of the neck wound to contact each other—will cause extreme pain. This treatment of conscious cattle is shocking, categorically inhumane, and clearly contrary to the HMSA," wrote Michael Appleby, vice president of The HSUS's Farm Animals and Sustainable Agriculture section, to Secretary Veneman. The same letter was sent to Agriculture Secretary Designate Gov. Michael Johanns of Nebraska; Dr. Bonnie Buntain, chief veterinary public health officer with the USDA; and Michael Thomas, an AgriProcessors, Inc. spokesman.

"Furthermore," Appleby wrote, "the inversion is itself grossly inhumane – as can be seen in the video from the struggling and bellowing of the cattle – and inverted animals struggling to right themselves will aspirate blood after the neck is cut. It is our understanding that inversion forms no part of the requirements of any religious faith – and upright restraint alternatives are readily available. It is urgent that the practice of inverting animals for slaughter should be terminated as quickly as possible."

Once dumped from the machine, the animal is not dead. Nor even unconscious.

Almost every one of the cows, each with open, flapping wounds, thrashes about on the bloody cement floor, obviously trying to lift his or her head—a clear sign of consciousness. Some manage to stand up. At least one staggers through a small opening in the back of the slaughter area. Eventually, the animals fall again, and a worker loops a chain around one of their hind legs and hoists them up and away to the next part of processing.

Kosher slaughter is a process in which animals become unconscious by anemia of the brain, the result of severing the animal's carotid arteries. It differs from conventional slaughter practices because the animals are not stunned before their necks are cut. Kosher slaughter is used to process animals in accordance with the Jewish faith, and has been deemed humane by the HMSA. In fact, kosher slaughter has often been touted as more humane than typical slaughtering methods because of a rapid, arguably painless death.

"The animals in this video are not given near enough time to bleed out," says Dr. Jennifer Lanier of The HSUS. "Animals should be given approximately a minute to ensure anemia, but these cattle were subjected to other, painful procedures within ten or 15 seconds. Intense pain can prolong consciousness in farm animals. The only possible reason for taking shortcuts is speed—they want to clear out the chute for the next animal."

But as noted in the letter to Secretary Veneman, the problems at AgriProcessors go beyond alleged animal cruelty.

"It is also important to point out that there are major problems for both food safety and worker safety in these practices," Appleby wrote. "Cattle are dumped onto a floor awash with manure and blood, with the open neck wound directly in contact with these contaminants. Workers are required to handle these conscious animals, often still kicking, for shackling and hoisting. These working conditions are also inexcusably unhygienic, and dehumanizing in being conducive to cultivating cruelty to animals."

Incidentally, the Environmental Protection Agency is also suing AgriProcessors for repeatedly discharging more wastewater than permitted and for failing to file proper paperwork.

Copyright © 2004 The Humane Society of the United States. All rights reserved.

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8. Keeping the Momentum Going/Letter From Rina

Dear Rabbi Rank, [He is the president of the Conservative Rabbls’ rabbinical assembly (RA) and his message re Postville was in the previous special JVNA newsletter,]

Thank you so much for your quick response! In fact, I have sent out your very eloquent statement far and wide and will continue to do so. I am well aware that the OU and other Orthodox organizations would very much like this issue to die down and be swept under the carpet. I suspect they fear that further publicizing this issue will trigger a wave of anti-Semitism. I think just the opposite would happen. I think we would stand out as a group who is attempting to "check" itself and become more humane and evolved.

I should probably mention that I, personally, am a vegetarian and have been for the past 20 years. But most of the people I know are not. Many people (even non-Jews) buy kosher meat because they feel it is more humane and cleaner. I think it is our obligation to begin to really assess and upgrade our practices internally so that we can be a model of compassion for others.

Now that the PETA footage has surfaced it is imperative that we react. In fact, NOT reacting could set off a campaign of rage and anti-Semitism.

Let us keep this issue - an issue that concerns the very fabric of the Jewish Neshama [soul] - alive and help it gain momentum.

Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do on this issue.

Yours sincerely,
Rina Deych

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9. More Sample Letters (Including Five That appeared in the Jerusalem Post and Seven That Appeared in the Jewish Press)

LETTER: AgriProcessors Inc. violates Jewish law

[These are presented to give you a sampling of opinions in response to the Postville scandal. From what I have seen, the vast majority of letters have expressed outrage and/or strongly supported changes at the Postville slaughterhouse. Some have discussed the need to switch toward vegetarian diets.]

Dear Editor:
In response to your news article about the animal rights activists in Postville, as a person of Jewish faith, I am writing to express the disbelief and outrage I felt after viewing the footage captured by a PETA investigator inside AgriProcessors Inc.

The AgriProcessors slaughterhouse is the largest producer of glatt kosher meat in the world, so its managers and employees should be striving to strictly uphold the humane slaughter methods prescribed in both Jewish and federal law. The undercover video shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

Kosher slaughter is supposed to be fast and painless, rendering the animals insensible with a quick cut to the neck. The footage, available on PETA's Web site, shows animals being dumped into a pool of blood after their necks are cut and then standing, thrashing around, and slamming into walls.

AgriProcessors Inc. is an embarrassment to the Jewish people and an abomination under Jewish law. And while I am heartened that the Orthodox Union has urged AgriProcessors, Inc. to change some of its crueler practices, I hope the authorities are working quickly to shut this ghastly slaughterhouse down.

Stephen GoldsmithSalt Lake City
Copyright © 2004, Iowa State Daily
Concerning "Rabbis unite against wider anti-'shehita' campaign" by Mati Wagner, December 12th, 2004.

The only way to prevent further inroads by PETA is to be extremely scrupulous about adhering to kashrut standards and the intent of these laws. Judaism teaches compassion. No profit motive should let us lose sight of that.

It is not the practice that needs to be protected, but the principle. The most humane way of eating is what's important.

PETA is incontrovertibly right about one thing. The MOST compassionate and humane way to eat is to only consume plant-based foods. Not only is it the best for the animals, it is best for our health and for the health of the planet.

Maida Waldner Genser
Tamarac, FL, USA
Dear Rabbi,

I was raised in a Jewish home and many aunts and uncles were "kosher."

Had I learned then what I know now about the meat centered diet and how horrific it is for our health, for the earth, how it takes precious grain and water to use for cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, whatever humans choose to reduce to body parts for their plates, and first and foremost, the most egregious and needless agony ALL animals suffer in confinement, transport, being led to slaughter, during the entire process, and slowly(fast to you, slow to them)bleeding to death, I would have become vegan much sooner. After spending three years viewing tapes of animal suffering, seeing the degradation animal agriculture is resulting in, seeing the sheer, unfathomable violence workers use to vent their own frustration, I know it is a sin to eat animals and to remain silent about the most heinous of all human practices, the slaughter of helpless beings. I strongly believe the true spirit of Jewish law commands mercy and kindness to innocent, helpless animals. Since there is absolutely NO need for anything that comes from animals in the human diet, and in 2004, degenerative diseases in adults and children have caused a health and health care crisis, eating animals , in my opinion, can never be considered a proper practice and is opposite to Tsa'Ar Ba'Alei Chayim.

I have heard every justification, every personal self-centered argument, every rationalization from Rabbi's and other leaders in religious groups. It is most troubling that the bloodshed and violence, might makes right attitudes we see rampant in the world, and all other abuses of power can be traced to our license to do with animals what we can, not what is right. Co-existing with nature and respecting diversity, along with a reverence for ALL living beings and the ecological balance, while feeding humanity as Genesis 1:29 offers, would have far better outcomes than what we are experiencing in todays world, a giant slaughterhouse.

The brave people who expose these atrocities are to be commended, and the Rabbi's who defend the tapes or the needless slaughter of animals to satisfy taste and habit, should be ashamed. We are teaching children to be predators, carnivores, mean, cruel and numb to the most unspeakable agony we would never wish upon ourselves.

I hope this situation in Iowa is the beginning of a new paradigm to shift to reducing or eliminating animal "products," from the diet, before there is no life left on earth because the water, air, land, forests are destroyed, and competition for food brings far more human violence. The diseases looming from animals passed to humans should be a wake-up call that plagues are not just for Pharoah's.

If my father, Aaron, were alive, and I showed him the Iowa tapes, and he read Rabbi's defended them, he would drive to the Orthodox Union with me and express his outrage, as I will do as soon as time allows.

Laura Beth Slitt
Below are five letters in today's Jerusalem Post regarding PETA's investigation of a kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa.

...shirk their duty

Sir, - One would hope that the united rabbis would be most concerned about animal torture, but Mati Wagner's "Rabbis unite to stave off feared wider anti-'shehita' campaign" (December 12) shows this is not the case.

Where is their compassion for these living beings who have done nothing to harm anyone?
These animals are being tortured to death. The rabbis need to examine their souls and widen their circle of compassion.

Mounds, Oklahoma

Sir, - I urge those rabbis who feel they need to present a united front against PETA to reconsider. What concerns that organization is only the cruelty at the slaughterhouse and not the fact that it is a kosher slaughterhouse.

To me only the unfortunate discrepancy between the intent and practice of shehita is of concern.
The only way to treat animals with compassion in the 21st century is to shun the industrialized factory-like farms that breed, raise, and kill the animals in unspeakable conditions.
If most consumers saw what went on inside feedlots and slaughterhouses most people would choose a vegan diet. Until that day it is incumbent upon Jews to work toward more humane conditions for animals raised for food.

We ought to be applauding PETA's spotlight on the problem, not fearing it. It points us toward the work we have to do. It gives us direction for tikkun olam (mending the world).

Fairfax, California
Sir, - I suggest very respectfully that the rabbis consider the many violations of Jewish teachings related to animal-based diets and agriculture. When Judaism mandates that we treat animals with compassion, can we ignore the cruel treatment of animals on factory farms?
When Judaism stresses we must diligently protect our health, can we ignore that animal-based diets are major contributors to heart disease, cancer, and other killer diseases?
When Judaism mandates that we be partners with God in protecting the environment, can we ignore the significant contribution of animal-centered agriculture to many environmental threats?

For the sake of our health, the sustainability of our imperiled planet, Jewish values - and the animals themselves - it is essential that we consider shifting toward plant-based diets.

President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America
Staten Island
The writer is author of Judaism and Vegetarianism.
Sir, - When I was 12 my rabbi, the late Abraham E. Halpern, taught me that to be a good Jew one must first be a good human being.

-I look forward to shehita being modernized so that, every step of the way, every Jew who still eats meat can say to him or herself that none of the Almighty's creatures suffered before or during the killing.

-The slaughterers will sleep better, too.

San Francisco
...PETA comments

Sir, - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals agrees that shehita is generally kinder than standard slaughter methods but, as PETA's documentation shows, shehita is clearly not performed properly at AgriProcessors.

As Temple Grandin, an associate professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, said: "The problem is not kosher slaughter, but a badly managed plant. I've observed 30 different kosher plants in the United States, Canada and Europe, and never seen anything like it in any kosher or nonkosher plant.

"What I saw in the video was unbelievable."

PETA is only asking the Orthodox Union and AgriProcessors to do the barest of bare minimums to ensure that animals are respected, as Jewish law and basic compassion for animals requires.
AgriProcessors needs to stop dragging terrified animals, with their throats slit open, across the floor while they are still conscious.

Visit to watch the video and read other expert testimony.

Campaign Coordinator
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Norfolk, Virginia

Seven Letters in the Jewish Press

PETA Editorials Hit A Nerve

Orthodox And Horrified

I am an Orthodox Jew who is horrified by the reporting of what goes on at the AgriProcessors meat processing plant (PETA Is At It Again,"editorial, Dec. 3). Though I am well aware that PETA has a double agenda of promoting vegetarianism as well as stopping the inhumane treatment of animals - and I only identify with the second (though my daughter is a vegetarian) - I wholeheartedly support PETA's campaign against inhumane killing of animals masquerading as the most kosher type of shechita.

Dr. Chaim Milikowsky
Ramat Gan, Israel
[Chair of Talmud Department at Bar Ilan University]

Jews Must Exemplify Humaneness

My grandfather was a kosher butcher who loved animals (and, interestingly, became a vegetarian in the last year of his life).

Through the years I have seen disturbing footage taken in kosher slaughterhouses, but when I've tried to tell rabbis and other Orthodox people, they dismiss it and refuse to watch, stating "Oh, but that is not done anymore."

Many Jews are afraid to speak up for fear of being labeled "self-hating." If a non-Jew says something, he risks being called an anti-Semite. Aren’t we, as Jews, supposed to be more compassionate and evolved? Aren’t we supposed to exemplify gentleness and humaneness toward our fellow creatures - human and non-human?

Rina Deych
Brooklyn, NY

Avoiding Needless Suffering

Jewish law instructs us to feed our animals first at meals. It is not that the animals are necessarily hungrier than we are; but, while in our care, it is our duty to alleviate anxiety and unnecessary distress, to demonstrate the principle of tzaar baalei chayim - not causing needless
suffering to living beings.

David Perle
(Via E-Mail)
Our `Ludicrous Suggestion`

Your editorial suggesting that PETA should be sued for exposing cruelty at a kosher slaughterhouse is ludicrous. Do you find cruelty acceptable as long as it is done in the name of Judaism?

As a Jew, I'm ashamed that such sickening animal abuse is done in the name of Judaism. As a human being, I'm ashamed that any member of my species could take part in such reprehensible behavior.

I applaud the compassionate people at PETA for their chutzpah and willingness to speak up for those who cannot. Shame on you for condoning these atrocities.

Stewart David
(Via E-Mail)

What Halacha Says

In your Dec. 10 editorial "The PETA Controversy Continues," you wrote:
"Under the humane slaughter laws, rendering an animal insensitive prior to the throat cut is required except when Jewish ritual slaughter is involved, which requires the simultaneous severance of the carotid arteries by the sharpest knives of a fully conscious animal."

From our holy seforim it is obvious that not a single sage takes the position that cutting the carotid arteries in a cow is obligatory. While it's true that Rabbi Yehuda, in the first Mishna of the second perek of Chulin, holds that one must cut the carotid arteries, the sages, who are
the majority, take issue with him. Also, the Talmud (Chulin 28 b) makes it very clear that even Rabbi Yehuda is only talking about the carotid arteries of a chicken, not a cow.

Furthermore, the Levush, in Yoreh Deah, Siman 22, writes explicitly that cutting the carotid arteries in a chicken is not betoras shechita, meaning that their cutting is not required to validate the shechita ritual. The true reason for the cutting of the carotid arteries is to
insure the release of the animal's blood, which is a separate concern, wholly unrelated to the actual shechita process.

As far as shechita is concerned, we have a tradition, halacha l'Moshe miSinai, that the kanah and veshet, the food and windpipe, must be severed, and that's all.

Trying to fend off the likes of PETA does not give one license to misrepresent what halacha actually says.

Yossie Newfield
Brooklyn, NY
Veggie Diet Looking Better

Israel has more religious vegetarians per capita than any other country except India because Judaism has always taught kindness to animals. For all of us who think cruelty to animals is wrong, a vegetarian diet suddenly looks like the right choice.

Dorit Rogan
Evanston, IL
Five Requirements

True: PETA`s extremist declarations do not help its cause.

False: Your insinuation that the animal slaughtered in PETA`s clandestine video was killed properly. Please, watch the video snippets again, refresh your memory regarding the Law, and then honestly tell me, tell all of us, if you think the slaughter conformed to halacha.

There are five halachic requirements that the shochet is obliged to ensure in the performance of shechita (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De`ah 23):

a) There should be no interruption of the incision (shehiya);

b) there should be no pressing of the chalaf (sharp knife used by the shochet) against the neck (derasa) - this would exclude use of a guillotine;

c) the chalaf should not be covered by the hide of cattle, wool of sheep or feathers of birds (chalada), and therefore the chalaf has to be ofadequate length;

d) the incision must be at the appropriate site to sever the major structures and vessels at the neck (hagrama) - the frontal structures at the neck including the trachea, esophagus, the carotid arteries and jugular veins are severed in a rapid and uninterrupted action causing an instant drop in blood pressure in the brain, resulting in the immediate and irreversible cessation of consciousness and sensibility to pain;

e) there must be no tearing of the vessels before or during the shechita process (ikkur). The ability to be honest enough with oneself to admit that one did something wrong and that one is to be held responsible for it is a prerequisite for a Jew`s relationship with Hashem (Seforno on
Bereshis 3:12).

Although the wild accusations of the activists reveal their irrationality and destroy their credibility, we must show more courage than deflecting the real issue onto PETA.

Jonathan Wildman
Pittsburgh, PA

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10. Responding To Recent Published Articles

Please respond to the following articles using material in this and previous newsletters. Thanks.

* Please limit your letters to 200 words or less and respond to
this alert within 48 hours.
* Be sure to include the titles and dates of the pieces, and your
name, address, and phone numbers for letter verification.

Once again, we thank Liz Abbott of PETA for compiling this information.

"The Assault On Shechita"
By Nathan Lewin
The Jewish Press (New York)
December 15, 2004
Send e-mails to .
"Video viewed as an unkind cut on kosher meats controversy"
By Molly Shaffer
The Jewish Advocate (New England - Boston)
December 10-16, 2004 issue
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"Reforms promised at glatt kosher slaughterhouse"
The Jewish Chronicle (Pittsburgh)
December 8, 2004
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"Dispute Over Kosher Meat Plant Raises Alarms"
The Jewish Journal (Boston)
December 3-16, 2004 issue
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"Kosher slaughterhouse vows to clean up practices"
The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California
December 10, 2004
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"Tour of kosher plant reveals company's view of events"
The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
December 14, 2004
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"Ag secretary changes opinion after touring kosher plant"
The Mason City Globe Gazette
December 12, 2004
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"Judge changes opinion after touring Postville plant"
The Rochester Agri News
December 14, 2004
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"Judge changes opinion on alleged abuse at kosher plant"
The Des Moines Register
December 13, 2004
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Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has. --Margaret Mead

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