December 14, 2004

Special JVNA Newsletter - Postville Slaughterhouse Case #4


Shalom everyone,

This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is a fourth 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. Bottom Line Concerns
2. What We Should Be Doing
3. JVNA Recent Press Release
4. Statement by the President of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinic Group
5. Corrections
6. Jerusalem Post Article
7. Kosher Today Reports Defend Postville Procedures
8. NY Times News Item 12/9/04
9. Statement From an Orthodox Rabbi to His Congregation Re Kosher Status of Postville Slaughterhouse Meat.
10. Article Claims Charges Against AgriProcessors Refuted
11. Baltimore Jewish Times Article
12. PETA’s Responses to Claims of Refutations
13. Another Sample Letter and a Letter Requesting Permission
14. Letter to Editor of the JVNA Newsletter from Yosef Hakohen
15. Publications With Recent Articles Re the Postville Controversy
16. Key People and Groups to Contact

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. Bottom Line Concerns

JVNA objectives re the Postville controversy have been given in the two previous JVNA special newsletters on the topic. They can be summed us as (1) make people aware of and defend Jewish teachings on compassion to animals, kosher slaughter, and related issues, (2) support changes that will end the mistreatment of animals at the Postville slaughterhouse, while stressing that procedures at that plant were not typical shechita practices, and (3) urge that the Jewish community see the Postville horrors as a wake up call to the need for Jews and others to work to end all abuses of animals in slaughterhouses and factory farms and to end 9or at least reduce) the violations of Jewish mandates that are involved in the production and consumption of meat and other animals products.

The statement below by JVNA founder and first president Jonathan Wolf is a very good statement of our position and concerns: "JVNA believes that properly carried out ritual slaughter is a ‘humane’ method of slaughter, which aims to minimize animal pain, and that Jews who continue to eat meat should eat kosher, organic, humane-certified meat. JVNA has also consistently opposed efforts to single out shechita for criticism. However, JVNA believes that the graphic depictions of the horrifying mistreatment of the animals at the slaughterhouse should cause the entire Jewish community to examine the ways animals are currently being raised, treated, prepared, and slaughtered, to see if the laws and principles of the Torah are actually being properly practiced. And we hope that closer study of the values in Jewish tradition-- concern for the pain of fellow creatures, maintaining health, protecting G-d's world, conserving resources, feeding the hungry -- will ultimately lead Jews and others to adopt a diet that is more humane, healthier, more environmentally sustainable, and more capable of feeding hungry people -- vegetarianism."

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2. What We Should Be Doing

a. Please check your local publications and write letters to editors. Please be respectful and give praise for positive developments before making your case. It is generally best to keep your letters short, less than 200 words, although I do not always meet this goal. Please also send letters to the publications listed later that have recently had articles on the slaughterhouse issue.

b. Here is a letter that I recently sent out (another sample letter is below):

December 12, 2004

Dear Editor:

The Orthodox Union is to be commended for initiating an end to the horrible treatment of animals at the Postville, Iowa slaughterhouse that were revealed on the PETA videotapes. But what about the many other 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, where they are raised in cramped, confined spaces without sunlight, fresh air, or opportunities to fulfil their natural instincts? When Judaism stresses that we must diligently protect our health, can we ignore that animal-based diets are major contributors to the epidemic of heart disease, many forms of cancer, and other killer diseases and ailments afflicting the Jewish community and others? When Judaism mandates that we be partners with God in protecting the environment, can we ignore the significant contributions of animal-centered agriculture to air, water, and land pollution, species extinction, deforestation, global climate change, water shortages, and many other environmental threats?

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

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz

[Please use this letter, the recent JVNA press release below, and other information in this and other JVNSA newsletters as background information for your letters. Thanks.]

c. Please write to leaders of the Orthodox Union (OU), the USDA, and others involved in the Postville scandal. Contact information is given below. Thanks.

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3. JVNA Recent Press Release


December 10. 2004
For Immediate Release
Contact person: Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) (; Phone (718) 761-5876; Fax: (718) 982-3631; web site:


The Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) stated today that it is essential that the widespread publicity over the cruel abuse of animals at the kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa lead to much needed changes throughout the entire industry and a reevaluation by Jews of their dietary habits.

JVNA commends the Orthodox Union (OU) for its initial steps toward ending the abuses of animals revealed by videos at the Postville slaughterhouse, but it is urging the Jewish community to recognize that the horrors at the facility are part of a much wider pattern of animal abuse in today's meat industry

"We should consider the current controversy as a wake up call to end the many violations of Jewish teachings associated with the production and consumption of animal products," asserted Richard Schwartz, President of the JVNA. "We can no longer ignore the suffering and abuse that many farmed animals experience for their entire lives on factory farms, It was the Jews who invented the concept of kindness to animals and formulated an entire code of laws forbidding cruelty to other living creatures. Many Torah verses stress compassion to animals.

JVNA is beginning a campaign to respectfully urge Jews to apply Jewish values to the foods that we eat. The group argues that the harsh realities of animal-based diets and agriculture contradict fundamental Jewish teachings and laws. These include mandates to take care of our health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people. Also, the group asserts, rabbis (and other religious leaders) should make their congregations and students aware of the many benefits of a shift toward plant-based diets. These include:

· reducing the epidemic of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases currently afflicting the Jewish community and other communities;

· reducing current environmental threats, including global climate change; species extinction; pollution of land, air, and water; destruction of tropical rain forests, coral reefs, and other valuable habitats; and shortages of water and other resources;

· demonstrating the relevance of Judaism to some of the most critical issues of our time, helping to revitalize our ancient faith;

"There is an epidemic of diseases and ailments in the Jewish community and other communities and the natural world is imperiled as perhaps never before by many environmental threats," asserted Schwartz, "and our rabbis would do a tremendous kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) by helping to put the many benefits of plant-based diets on the Jewish agenda."

JVNA is offering rabbis and other congregational and educational leaders extensive background information on the many connections between Judaism and vegetarianism. The nonprofit organization will send a complimentary copy of "Judaism and Vegetarianism" by Richard Schwartz and an associated CD to any Jewish leader who wishes to use them as background educational material for possible vegetarian activities. Much additional information can be found at the group’s web site (; mail@JewishVeg,com).

The group is eager to engage with rabbis and other Jewish leaders in a respectful public or private discussion of the issue, "Should Jews Be Vegetarians Today?" Noam Mohr, a JVNA Coordinator, stated, "Many Jews are surprised to learn how strongly vegetarianism is in the spirit of Judaism."

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4. Statement by the President of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinic Group

[Please send letters to Rabbi Rank at .]

The disturbing video that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) produced of incidents during shehitah (Jewish ritual animal slaughter) at the AgriProcessors' plant in Postville, Iowa should be regarded as a welcome, though unfortunate service to the Jewish community.

It is a service precisely because the scenes recorded are not what shehitah should be, nor does it correspond to the Jewish way of treating animals, even at the time of their slaughter. The uproar within the Jewish community over the videos is proof that those who observe kashrut are serious about the humane treatment of animals. When a company purporting to be kosher violates the prohibition against tza'ar ba'alei hayyim, causing pain to one of God's living creatures, that company must answer to the Jewish community, and ultimately, to God.

There are a variety of means used to prepare an animal for shehitah, and our Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) has criticized a number of them. In 2000, the CJLS unanimously approved a teshuvah (response to a question of Jewish law), written by Rabbis Elliot N. Dorff and Joel Roth, in which the shackling and hoisting of animals in preparation for shehitah was ruled a violation of tza'ar ba'alei hayyim. The teshuvah encourages all kosher processing plants to abandon that procedure and upgrade to more humane pens to secure an animal for slaughter. Such humane pens do not include the Facomia Pen or the Weinberg Pen, both of which are inconsistent with our understanding of what it means to humanely treat an animal.

The AgriProcessor plant of Postville, Iowa uses the Facomia pen and the PETA video captures exactly what the teshuvah of 2000 indicates, that this pen violates the prohibition against tza'ar ba'alei hayyim.

The Rabbinical Assembly applauds the Orthodox Union (OU) for its quick response to the video and its allegations. According to Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the OU, a review of shehitah procedures at AgriProcessors is now taking place and an OU supervisor has been placed on duty to assure that procedures assuring kashrut and the humane treatment of animals are followed. We hope that with this review, the OU will demand that the facilities it supervises install pens that meet modern scientific animal welfare/humane handling requirements such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) pen which we regard as a humane animal securing device, but not excluding other equally humane technological options.

Those who are charged with supervising the production of kosher meat are engaged in a sacred task. We are certain that they agree with us that the humane treatment of the animal is key to the Jewish approach toward life.

In keeping with our CJLS teshuvah of 2000, we urge all those involved in shehitah to invest in and install those technologies that assure that the animal's life is terminated speedily and with the humanity that Jewish law demands.

Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank
President, The Rabbinical Assembly

Response from Rina Deych, a JVNA Newsletter reader:
Dear Rabbi Rank,

I was raised in an orthodox Jewish home in Boro Park, Brooklyn. My grandfather was a kosher butcher who loved animals and rescued many dogs, cats, and birds. He was also a humanitarian and a true Tzadik who helped everyone and even gave free meat to people who could not afford it. At the age of 8 I was just beginning to get curious about where meat came from. My grandfather assured me that the holy books promote compassion and respect for the animals. He assured me that the cows were free to graze the fields and the chickens to spread their wings on the Sabbath (which we now know doesn't happen in factory farms) and that the animals are killed by the swiftest cut from the sharpest blade to minimize pain and distress and cause the quickest death.

After the seeing the PETA footage (the short version - a five minutes I could barely get through) I was sickened and horrified. I began to write everyone from the Board of Rabbis to the USDA to the Humane Society.

Today I was fortunate enough to come across your statement that was sent out to Rabbi Weintraub's congregation denouncing the horrific practices at AgriProcessors and I must say I feel rejuvenated! I would like to commend you for caring and for taking a stand against this horrific situation.I urge you to (please) send your statement to the NY Times. Even though AgriProcessors is claiming they will make revisions, we must NOT let this issue rest. This is a good time to bring this issue out into the open so that maybe Jews and non-Jews alike can begin to re-examine how we treat food animals. Continuing the discussion would raise consciousness and hopefully put pressure on slaughterhouses to adopt more humane, compassionate methods.

In addition to the humane issue, there is also the issue of sanitation. The animals, after having their throats slit, were thrown out of the drums with their tracheas dangling onto a filthy blood and feces-covered concrete floor, contaminating the meat directly through the open wounds. Thank you in advance for anything else you do to keep this issue in the press.

Rina Deych

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5. Corrections
a. The paragraph below in the last special JVNA newsletter omitted the word "not.":
“Once the Postville situation is resolved, it is essential that people NOT think that everything is now fine and they can continue their consumption of animal products with a clear conscience.”
b. The statement, “One person in the right makes a majority of one,” is from Thoreau, NOT Emerson, as originally indicated.

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6. Jerusalem Post Article
Dec. 12, 2004
Rabbis unite against wider anti-'shehita' campaign

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7. Kosher Today Reports Defend Postville Procedures

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8. NY Times News Item 12/9/04


Owners of the world's biggest kosher slaughterhouse say they will make changes to their slaughtering process after being accused of inhumane treatment. The owners, Agriprocessors Inc., of Postville, agreed to the changes after consulting with federal regulators and the Orthodox Union, the group that certifies the company's products as kosher, officials said. The changes include giving rabbis who perform the slaughtering ritual a stun gun to knock steers unconscious if they thrash about after their throats have been slit, a company spokesman said. In such cases, the animal will be removed from the processing line as not kosher, he said. Last week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made public a videotape showing steers walking or bellowing up to three minutes after their throats were slit. (AP)

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11. Baltimore Jewish Times Article

PETA, Kosher Groups Dispute Rolls On
Joel N. Shurkin, Staff Reporter

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12. PETA’s Responses To Claims of Refutations

Response to AgriProcessors’ claim of a reversal on the part of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel

The only actual change in position that Rubashkin attributes to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is the retraction of the idea that a cow takes 30 to 60 seconds to lose consciousness, which we thought was just a miscommunication, since it’s the only place we’ve seen anyone say that it takes more than 20 seconds.

Looked at more closely, the Rabbinate’s statement sinks AgriProcessors more deeply into the hole that it keeps digging for itself: Raful said, "2-3 seconds following schechita ... the animal is absolutely dead" if it is done properly.

The cattle killed at AgriProcessors are clearly very much alive and in agony, for two to three minutes after their throats are slit. So, according to Rabbi Raful, shechitah is not being done properly at AgriProcessors.

Thus far, AgriProcessors has relied on a PR person and rabbis on its own payroll to defend the plant. It has not found a single veterinarian, unbiased kosher slaughter expert, or any other sort of expert_not one_to defend the processes at AgriProcessors.

"Statement of Rabbis and Certifying Agencies on Recent Publicity on Kosher Slaughter":
PETA’s Response

It would have been interesting to watch as this statement was put together.

It is Nixonian doublespeak. Read closely -- there is no defense of AgriProcessors and only a general defense of shechitah -- there is literally not one thing that PETA disagrees with. The general impression offered, however, is that AgriProcessors is doing no wrong, and that is indefensible.

Following are some examples:

"After the animal has been rendered insensible, it is entirely possible that it may still display certain reflexive actions, including those shown in images portrayed in the video. These reflexive actions should not be mistaken for signs of consciousness or pain ..."

There is no question that this can happen, but it will never involve blinking, head righting, reaction to stimuli, or attempting to stand. Fully one-quarter of the animals in our sample, over seven weeks, were still conscious -- these are not just the animals who showed mechanical kicking; these are animals who are unquestionably conscious.

This has not been denied by the OU and cannot be denied tenably because it is physiologically true. Neither the OU nor Rubashkin can find a single veterinarian or other expert to defend the plant: The only defenders are on Rubashkin’s payroll and have no veterinary or physiological credentials.

"There may be exceptional circumstances when, due to the closing of jugular veins or a carotid artery after the shechita cut, or due to the non-complete severance of an artery or vein, the animal may rise up on its legs and walk around."

"Signs of life"? They are alive and fully conscious and in the same amount of physical agony that a human being would be in under the same circumstances. A steer, just like any mammal with the same pain mechanism as ours, feels having his throat cut open. Beyond that, this is a routine occurrence at AgriProcessors, going back at least nine years and probably longer.

"[E]ven such an event would not invalidate the shechita if the trachea and esophagus were severed in the shechita cut."

True, but at AgriProcessors, to quote the Chief Rabbinate of Israel: "[H]e did not cut one of the jugular veins, so blood is still flowing. That’s another reason for not accepting that shehita. It looks as though the animal wasn’t slaughtered properly." Our very contention is that so many animals are still conscious more than 30 seconds after shechitah because the shochets are not slaughtering them correctly. If they were, 25 percent of the animals would not still be conscious when they hit the concrete. It’s hard to imagine that these rabbis are going to suggest that properly performed shechitah allows a quarter of animals to continue to be conscious for more than 30 seconds.

"With the act of shechita, it is common to cut the carotid arteries, a practice designed to facilitate bleeding and accelerate unconsciousness. Excision of the trachea, however, is not common practice."

Rabbi Edelstein told me that he’d never seen anything like it. So did Drs. Grandin, Friedlander, and Cheever. So did everyone else we could find. Sholom Rubashkin, on the other hand, says it is "the Shechita process in its full glory." So it may be "not common," and it’s certainly "especially inhumane" (Rabbi Weinreb), but it also happened to every single animal at AgriProcessors for years and years -- hundreds of thousands of animals had their tracheas and esophagi ripped out while they were still fully conscious, all on the OU’s watch.

"We reaffirm our commitment to the Jewish mandate of avoiding ‘tzaar baalei chayim,’ unnecessary pain to any creature. We reiterate that the shechita process embodies this very mandate. We rededicate ourselves to the ongoing responsibility of ensuring strict compliance with all religious and federal laws governing kosher slaughter."

This is a little hard to take when coupled with the defense of the meat from AgriProcessors as kosher and the early defense of this plant (the claim that animals who are walking are not conscious) by Rabbis Belsky, Kohn, and Genack.

"Message From Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU Executive Vice President, and Rabbi Menachem Genack, OU Kashrut Rabbinic Administrator":
PETA’s Response

The Good

If the OU, as it says, "will strive to the best of our ability to see to it that animals are treated humanely and to see that, at all the plants we supervise, any halachically unnecessary practices which may be seen to be objectionable, are ceased," then it will agree to make the changes that we’re requesting, which are the barest of bare minimums, where humane treatment is concerned, and will mean the following:

1) Electric prods will be prohibited.
2) All shochets will be trained in humane handling, in order to create a calmer atmosphere for the animals. The cacophonic din in this place is unacceptable and terrifying.
3) The OU should explicitly recognize and train shochets (slaughterers) in the physiological signs of consciousness in cattle -- blinking, bellowing, standing, rhythmic breathing, and attempting to right one’s head -- to ensure that no conscious animals are touched or moved until they are unconscious. Note that this means that animals must be kept in the restraint until they are unconscious.
4) Animals should not be turned upside-down before their throats are slit -- Rabbi Weinreb has stated to The New York Times that the OU prefers the ASPCA kosher slaughter pen. Based on the OU’s statement (prohibition of "any halachically unnecessary practices which may be seen to be objectionable"), the ASPCA pen must be required and the upside-down pen eliminated.
5) All equipment must be inspected to ensure that it is not harming animals (e.g., conveyor belts should not trap chickens and break their legs).
6) The horrific practices of the Rubashkin plant in Uruguay that supplies the Postville plant should be immediately subjected to identical requirements.
7) All OU-approved plants should be supplied with these precise regulations and all certifying rabbis trained in these strictures.
8) To ensure compliance, considering Mr. Rubashin’s intransigence, it is essential that Dr. Temple Grandin (or someone of her impeccable credentials) be granted access (paid by the OU or AgriProcessors) to the plant, for periodic unannounced audits.

Also, there is a discrepancy that must be addressed. The OU says, "[A]ny animals that appear to have survived the procedure will be promptly stunned or shot," and, "From now on, however, when this occurs at AgriProcessors, Inc., the animal will be promptly stunned or shot, so as not to prolong its suffering. Such animals will not be sold as kosher."

However, AgriProcessors’ PR person, Mike Thomas, told the AP and other media that "changes include giving rabbis who perform the kosher slaughtering ritual a stun gun to knock steers unconscious if they continue to thrash about after their throats have been slit." This is not possible, of course, as any USDA inspector or other expert can attest. If the animals are thrashing, they cannot be properly stunned -- both because the stun gun must be placed precisely on the central forehead and because anyone trying to get near a thrashing steer could be seriously injured. The only way to do this would be to keep the steers restrained until they are unconscious. If still conscious after 20 seconds, they must be, at that point, stunned with a captive-bolt gun, as legally required in the European Union and Australia. If the OU stands by its statement, this must be what was intended, and Mike Thomas must have been incorrect in his presentation to the media.

The Bad

The OU’s statement is rife with contradictions that are clear to anyone who takes a close look. This is not a case of "he said, she said." This is a case of making pronouncements that the OU cannot defend, perhaps imagining that most people will accept its statements without checking its claims.

1) In discussing the seven weeks that our investigator worked at AgriProcessors, the OU suggests that what we captured was "a tiny percentage."
In fact, we have made our entire video available to the USDA. Extrapolated as a representative sample, our video indicates that of 18,000 animals slaughtered, more than 4,000 were still conscious when they hit the concrete floor, more than 30 seconds after shechitah, and thousands struggled to stand. This is a routine and horrific problem, not an exception. Further, we have documented that this has been going on for a minimum of nine years, representing hundreds of thousands of cattle tortured in the plant.
2) The OU argues that AgriProcessors is not unique in having a failure rate in rendering animals insensible. This is a misleading statement: One animal who stands up 30 seconds after his throat has been slit, in any plant -- conventional or kosher -- would warrant shutting the line down to correct the problem. Although a first-stun success rate of 95 percent is considered acceptable in conventional plants, animals who are missed are required to be immediately stunned again. Drs. Grandin and Friedlander, both experts in kosher slaughter, say they’ve never seen anything like what’s happening at AgriProcessors.
3) The implication that the USDA "has found nothing amiss" is categorically false. The USDA dispatched five investigators, and its investigation is active. We are calling for Dr. Lawson’s censure and prosecution, in addition to that of AgriProcessors, precisely because he allowed this horrific cruelty to continue, and we feel that he has no place overseeing slaughter at all.
4) The OU states that "several rabbis, in Israel and Europe as well as in the United States, at first commented negatively on the kashrut of this shechita. Almost all of them, including the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, have now said that their initial statements were based on misinformation, and have retracted them." To our knowledge, not one of them has claimed "misinformation." None that we’re aware of has retracted. Certainly Rabbi Cohen and Shechita UK have not. The Jerusalem Post continues to report on the story but has not indicated any retraction from the Chief Rabbinate. Certainly the Rabbinate’s most recent statement that shechitah is supposed to render an animal unconscious in two seconds is not a retraction (quite the opposite, as discussed above). Rabbi Rosen, in Israel, also continues to stand by his statement. No one in the media has been able to find any retractions or claims of misinformation -- in fact, just the opposite.


The OU argued for days, in defiance of the physiological fact that a dead animal will not walk, that these walking cattle were dead. They had to know that they were not telling the truth, since these animals walk around, attempt to escape, and respond to stimuli. It is disturbing to see this pattern continued with the OU’s statements about the USDA, rabbis who are opposing the flagrant cruelty at AgriProcessors, and the extent of the cruelty at AgriProcessors.

All this notwithstanding, PETA’s concern is not that the OU present honest or accurate statements on its Web site to the media or the public -- that concern is for others to pursue; our concern is that animals stop being tortured. The OU cannot mollify people who oppose cruelty to animals, without explaining, explicitly, what steps are being taken to end the horrific cruelty to animals at AgriProcessors, and those steps will have to include the eight points that we mention above, which are the barest of bare minimums for an organization that presents kosher slaughter in such terms as "painless ritual fashion" and "instantaneous death with no pain to the animal" (The Kosher Advantage and The Kosher Primer, respectively).

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13. Another Sample Letter and a Letter Requesting Permission To Use JVNA Material to Compose a Letter

Maida’s letter

I am pleased to see that a number of rabbinical authorities in both Israel and the USA have reacted against the initial OU stance on questionable kosher processing at the largest Glatt kosher slaughterhouse in the world. AgriProcessors Inc. is based in Postville, Iowa and markets meat under the Rubashkin and Aaron's Best label. Their products are also found in America's biggest supermarket chains.

The OU originally denied allegations of animal abuse at the Postville plant. They have reversed their decision and now will enforce changes to make the slaughter as humane as possible, which is the intent of kashrut laws.

Jews who are concerned about conscious eating and want to do the least harm do have another option, one that is also better for their health and the health of the planet - go vegetarian. I strongly recommend that those who are interested read more about Jewish vegetarianism at or read books by Richard H. Schwartz, Roberta Kalechofsky, and Rabbi Dovid Sears. For an introduction to Jewish vegetarian cooking, I suggest books by Debra Wasserman, Roberta Kalechofsky, and Rose Friedman.

Submitted by Maida Waldner Genser, Tamarac, FL (formerly of Royal Oak, MI)

Dear Richard

I wanted to write a letter to "The Spark," the Jewish magazine of Iowa which is put out by the Lubavitch. I wanted to basically use mostly things from your web site, giving you full credit, to make my points about a vegetarian view of the Torah and vegetarianism for the Messianic age, which is what I am responding to in an article in the last issue of The Spark magazine.

I just feel that the this whole Postville thing--such a large industry devoted to the slaughter of animals for food--is not in tune with the intent of G-d. The Lubavitch have such pure ideals and view of life, but their continuance in this pre-messianic age to rationalize eating meat has got to go.

Anyway, would it be ok to take quotes from your web site to make my points and as I said I would give you credit and refer to your website?

Thank you so much for you have done and continue to do to promote Judaism and Vegetarianism.

Happy Chanukah

[Anyone should feel free (and is encouraged) to use material from the JVNA web site ( and my articles ( in preparing letters, articles, talking points, etc.]

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14. Letter to Editor of the JVNA Newsletter from Yosef Hakohen

One of the sample letters in the last issue of the special JVNA Newsletter on the slaughterhouse controversy was from Debra Berger, a representative of the Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature. Yosef Hakohen, a long time friend and JVNA advisor, pointed out that it is not proper for an interfaith group to 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. Debra very carefully considered Yosef’s valuable suggestions and changed her letter and eliminated indicating her affiliation with the Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature, before submitting it to the Atlanta Jewish Times. Debra’s revised letter is below, followed by some additional comments from Yosef:

Dear editor:
Thank you for your article in last week’s edition, "Is It Kosher?”, concerning the cruel slaughtering methods at a Kosher plant in Iowa.

The AgriProcessors case is only one example of the many cruelties suffered by animals destined to become dinner. The video footage of this plant (which you can view @ shows overt violations of Kashrut laws; the cows are clearly still alive and in and distress and pain, following Shechita. It is quite unbelievable that this meat can even be considered as Kosher. Why did it take PETA to expose this obvious violation?

What is not addressed in your article are the numerous violations of Tsa’ar Baa’lei Chayim ("you shall not cause suffering to a living being") that are common throughout the entire meat industry, Kosher and non-Kosher; separating calves from their mothers, branding; use of electric cattle prods; terrifying shipping conditions, and a general disregard for the welfare of animals. Not only do these animals suffer a horrible death, they spend their entire lives in terrible conditions that cause intense suffering. (Additionally, the ‘Factory Farming’ industry often shows disregard for the welfare of the human beings that it employs.)

Following a Kosher diet is about eating consciously. For each of us, eating consciously has a different meaning. Maybe your article will inspire people to find out more about the source of the food that they are eating, and make a choice that is consistent with their spiritual beliefs. The sources of information are numerous; a good place to start is with the writings of the highly respected Professor Richard Schwartz, head of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, at .

Finally, the attacks by Orthodox organizations on PETA are akin to shooting the messenger. There is nothing anti-Semitic about the desire to reduce suffering of animals. Indeed, it was the Jews who first practiced kindness to animals, and codified it in numerous Jewish laws. It is distressing that this issue must be brought up in the media, rather then being called to account by our own religious authorities.

Debra Berger

Comments from Yosef:

I and some of my Jewish friends who are concerned about the modern treatment of animals are also concerned why Peta chose to make this video "exclusively" about a kosher plant. Given that their own website admits that conditions are worse at many non-kosher plants which receive less regulation, Peta should have - at the very least - also included a non-kosher plant in this video.

Coming right after their "Holocaust on a Plate" exhibit which offended many Jews of diverse beliefs, Peta's decision to focus exclusively on a plant run by Jews gives the impression that Peta is once again insensitive and unfair to Jews. Yes, they were careful not to attack Judaism; nevertheless, there is concern among some Jews, including myself, that Peta chose to focus on the kosher plant in their video, because they know that anything involving the Jews gets much publicity in most of the western media. And since Peta loves to get publicity for the cause, they may have cynically decided to focus exclusively on a plant run by Orthodox Jews, rather than include a plant run by people who are not Jewish.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

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15. Publications With Recent Articles Re the Postville Controversy

The publications listed below printed articles about the latest developments of PETA's investigation into AgriProcessors, Inc. Please write letters using the material in this and previous JVNA newsletters. Thanks. Be sure to include the titles and dates of the pieces in your letters.
"Iowa: Slaughterhouse to Change Its Process"
The New York Times
December 9, 2004
Send e-mails to .
"The PETA Controversy Continues"
The Jewish Press
December 10, 2004
Send e-mails to
"The Kosher Way"
The Jerusalem Post
December 9, 2004
Send e-mails at .
You can also post letters at .
"O.U. Reverses Stance on Slaughterhouse"
By Gabriel Sanders
The Forward
December 10, 2004
Send e-mails to .
"Kosher meatpacker making changes after activists cry cruelty"
December 9, 2004
Send e-mails to .
"Disputed slaughter is kosher"
By Marilyn Karfeld
The Cleveland Jewish News
December 10, 2004
Send e-mails to .
"In One Fell Swoop: Controversial video leaves cows and humans reeling"
By Rachel Zuckerman
The Jewish Exponent (Philadelphia)
December 9, 2004
Send e-mails at .
"PETA, Kosher Groups Dispute Rolls On"
By Joel Shurkin
The Jewish Times (Baltimore)
December 10, 2004
Send e-mails at .
"The Kindest Cut"
By Rob Eshman
The Jewish Journal (Los Angeles)
December 10, 2004
Send e-mails to .
"Across the Country: Iowa"
The Myrtle Beach Sun-News
December 9, 2004
No hyperlink available.
Send e-mails to .

"Iowa ag secretary changes opinion after touring kosher plant"
The Omaha World-Herald
December 12, 2004
Send e-mails to .
"Judge changes opinion after touring kosher plant"
The Sioux City Journal
December 13, 2004 Send e-mails to .
"Rabbis unite against wider anti-'shehita' campaign"
By Mati Wagner
The Jerusalem Post
December 12, 2004 (requires free registration)
Send e-mails at .
"Judge: Slaughter quick, humane"
By Orlan Love
The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA)
December 13, 2004
Send e-mails to You can also post comments below the article.

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16. Key People and Groups to Contact
[Thanks to Rina Deych for sending me this information.]

Dr. Elsa A. Murano
Under Secretary for Food Safety
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. S.W., Rm. 227-E
Washington, DC 20250

The Honorable Ann Veneman
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

you can see a letter PETA wrote to them at:

it is also important to write to the Orthodox Union (the organization that certifies food as kosher):
Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Executive Vice President
The Orthodox Union
11 Broadway, 14th Fl.
New York, NY 10004

Please copy letter to:
Rabbi Menachem Genack
Rabbinic Administrator
Kashrut Division
Orthodox Union
11 Broadway, 14th Fl.
New York, NY 10004

And to the following:
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Edelstein
Kashrus Administrator
K'hal Adath Jeshurun

85-93 Bennet Ave.
New York, NY 10033

Rabbi Chaim Kohn
Rabbinic Administrator
K'hal Adath Jeshurun
85 Bennett Ave.
New York, NY 10033

I have been informed that the AVAR (Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights) after hounding from PETA and others will be distributing a newsletter encouraging the 475 vets in their organization to write to the USDA.

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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