December 21, 2004

Special JVNA Newsletter - Postville Slaughterhouse Case #7

Shalom everyone,

This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is the seventh follow-up to the JVNA 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. Please keep writing letters to editors.

This newsletter has the following items:

1. I Will Discuss the Postville Controversy on the Radio/Internet

2. Celebrity Bea Arthur Promotes Changes at Postville Slaughterhouse

3. Latest "Kosher Today" Statements

4. Statement Of Experts Re the Conditions Videotaped at the Postville Slaughterhouse

5. More Sample Letters

6. National Public Radio (NPR) Covers Postville Slaughterhouse Issue

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. I Will Discuss the Postville Controversy on the Radio/Internet

I am scheduled to be a guest on "In Tune With Nature," on WRFG 89.3 FM in Atlanta today (12/21/04) from 6:30 PM to about 6:50 PM EST. The program can be listened to online at:

The topic is Agriprocessors, Inc. and how their cruel treatment of animals relates to Judaism and Kosher law.

The broadcast will be live. However, they will not take any callers.

I plan to emphasize that the Postville controversy should be a wake up call to the many ways that animal-based diets and modern intensive livestock agriculture violate basic Jewish values and threaten human life, animals, and environmental sustainability.

Please tune in and please tell others about the program. Thanks.

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2. Celebrity Bea Arthur Promotes Changes at Postville Slaughterhouse

"Golden Girls" Bea Arthur asks for changes at kosher plant
By Associated Press
December 17, 2004

An animal rights organization is getting help from actress Bea Arthur in calling attention to what it says is the abuse of cattle at a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, alleges that Agriprocessors Inc. has violated state law that requires the use of humane methods of slaughter.

PETA recently filed a complaint with the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which helps oversee the plant, calling for the prosecution of Agriprocessors and the Orthodox Union, an international kosher certification agency.

In a letter to Orthodox Union leaders, Arthur, a Jew and longtime PETA supporter, expressed concern with the agency's reaction to allegations against Agriprocessors.

"The OU has defended the abuse at AgriProcessors, and I am concerned that it has not moved more quickly to publicly affirm that Judaism does not tolerate the kind of cruelty that PETA has documented," Arther said in the letter, which was provided to The Associated Press late Thursday.

Arthur encouraged the Orthodox Union to adopt the minimum guidelines developed by the Food Marketing Institute. Those standards provide for equipment, employee training and post-slaughter procedures to reduce the discomfort of animals who are killed without prior stunning, she said.

"Applying these standards in all kosher slaughterhouses will ensure that animals killed for food are given quick deaths, as provided for in Jewish law," Arthur said.

PETA's complaints of abuse came after a seven-week undercover investigation at the Postville plant, which is the world's largest glatt slaughterhouse. An undercover videotape showed animals attempting to stand and bellowing for up to three minutes after slaughter,

Agriprocessors, along with rabbinic leaders, scientists and kosher certification groups, have defended the plant's slaughtering techniques. They say it's natural for animals to experience involuntary reflexive movements after slaughter.

However, since PETA released the videotape, Agriprocessors has agreed to some changes, including a decision last week to let rabbis use an air bolt gun on animals that attempt to regain footing post slaughter.

PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said the star-power of Arthur, who starred in the popular television sitcom "The Golden Girls," brings attention to the situation at Agriprocessors.

"When Bea Arthur speaks, people do listen," he said.

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3. Latest "Kosher Today" Statements

As indicated before, Kosher Today is not a typical news source, but a publication that represents the views of the kosher food industry.

PETA Continues Campaign of Harassment Against Kosher Slaughter New York (

Jewish publications in many parts of the country were inundated last week with letters supporting the position of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in its campaign against Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa. [I think we may have had something to do with this -- please keep up the momentum.] Some of the publications told Kosher Today that many of the letters came from outside their areas, suggesting an orchestrated campaign by the radical animal rights organization. PETA has also threatened a lawsuit against Agriprocessors if it does not comply with its demands to change schechita practices. Meanwhile, in a sharply worded letter published in The Forward, Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa and Senior Member of the Court of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, demanded that PETA refrain from further use of my name as questioning the kashrut of the Agriprocessors plant. Rabbi Cohen was cited by the New York Times and others as questioning the schechita at Agri seen on the video. Rabbi Cohen noted: I fully endorse the statement by my O. U. colleagues, Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb and Rabbi Menachem Genack, the rabbinic administrator of the kashrut division, which declares the schechita of the Agriprocessors plant 100% kosher. I am indeed pleased to note that all rabbis involved reaffirm their commitment to prevent inhumane treatment of animals and congratulate the O. U. together with the Agriprocessors's executives for making further efforts and introducing changes that will stop the procedure that might have caused unnecessary suffering to the animals. [It would be nice if they looked into the realities at factory farms and how they violate Jewish teachings. It is up to us to use the Postville contriversy as an opportunity to raise these issues.] Rabbi Cohen’s letter comes after an unprecedented joint statement by 12 certifying agencies and rabbis of schechita defending schechita practices at Agriprocessors. It also follows the visit by Iowa Agriculture Secretary Patty Judge last week, after which she said: “What I saw today ... was humane. It was quick and there was absolutely no problem with the way they were handled.” [But was what she observed anything like what was going on for years before it was revealed by PETA’s videotapes]. In various correspondence with Jewish organizations, PETA has yet to address its characterization of animal slaughter as a Holocaust or to retract its letter to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat protesting his use of a donkey in a suicide bombing in Israel.

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4. Statement Of Experts Re the Conditions Videotaped at the Postville Slaughterhouse

Message forwarded from PETA:

AgriProcessors Investigation--Rubashkin v. The Experts

Sholom Rubashkin (president of the plant): "What you see on the video is not out of the ordinary... Nothing wrong was, or is being done. There is nothing to admit."

However, 100 percent (literally every single one) of animal welfare experts and veterinarians who have been asked for comment has condemned AgriProcessors for its horrific abuse of animals, as have a growing number of Rabbis, including the entire Conservative Movement (representing one-third of American Jews).

Examples follow (complete statements are at:

Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement (message sent to every Conservative Rabbi, representing one-third of Jewish Americans): "[T]he scenes recorded are not what shehitah should be, nor does it correspond to the Jewish way of treating 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."

Dr. Bernard Rollin, Ph.D., Colorado State University, farmed animal expert: "What was depicted on this videotape is one of the most atrocious incidents I have ever witnessed. This plant has shown itself unworthy of even minimal trust, and should be closed down."

Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM, former USDA slaughter inspector (including kosher): "The footage captured by PETA represents the most egregious violation of the USDA Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) I have ever witnessed."

Dr. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., kosher slaughter expert, USDA slaughter consultant: "I thought it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen. I couldn't believe it. I've been in at least 30 other kosher slaughter plants, and I had never ever seen that kind of procedure done before."

Dr. Chaim Milikowsky, Talmud Scholar, Bar Ilan University, Israel: "It very well may be that any plant performing such types of shechita is guilty of hillul hashem--the desecration of God's name--for to insist that God cares only about his ritual law and not about his moral law is to desecrate His Name."

Rabbi David Rosen, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland: "I’ve been in many slaughterhouses in my time, and I’ve never seen anything like that."

Holly Cheever, DVM, large animal veterinarian: "...the cattle depicted in this distressing film footage...unequivocally and unarguably indicate that the cattle were conscious and suffering an agonal and inhumane death."

Gary Dahl, Representative, USDA slaughterhouse inspector of 21 years: "...the suffering of these animals was obvious, as was their consciousness after they had their tracheas removed."

Shimon Cohen, Shechita UK (UK based kosher slaughter group): "I don’t know what that is, but it’s not shechita."

Rabbi Ezra Raful, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate: "You see there, it looks like he ripped out the trachea and esophagus. We do not allow the animal to be touched after the shehita until the main part of the bleeding stops ..."

Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz, Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Task Force on Kashrut: "The suffering of these animals during slaughter is sickening. Death is neither quick nor merciful. If this is kosher, then we have a big problem."

Patty Judge, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture: "It's disturbing. Certainly it's nothing I would condone, or any of my meat inspectors or veterinarians would condone."

Rabbi Avrom Pollak, Ph.D., President of Star-K (kosher certification): "None of the practices seen on the video apply in any places Star-K is associated with."

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation: "The abuses in this ostensibly "kosher" slaughterhouse are sickening..."

Dr. Brenda Forsythe, M.S., Ph.D., D.V.M., Expert, Large Animal Behavior: "In my expert opinion, turning frightened animals upside down for the convenience of the slaughterer, cutting body parts out of conscious animals, dumping struggling dying animals out of chutes onto a blood soaked kill floor, using electric cattle prods on immobilized animals, and suspending heavy animals by a single limb prior to unconsciousness all result in unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress and are violations of humane slaughtering practices."

Rabbi Joel Rembaum, Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles: "...according to [the] Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) standards, even with the new policies [enforced] by the OU at the Postville plant, the meat that comes from there is not kosher." [He did indicate that some kashrut groups, including the OU do regard it as kosher.]

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President, The Orthodox Union: Has said that he found the procedure seen in our investigation footage "especially inhumane" and "generally unacceptable."

What about the statements from the Orthodox Union and other kosher certifiers that back AgriProcessors? Although AgriProcessors and its attorney, Nathan Lewin, continue to contend that animals who stand up minutes after their throats have been slit, as many of them did in our investigation, are not conscious, none of the kosher certification agencies have backed this notion. Read closely, the kosher agency and Orthodox Union statements are statements in support of kosher slaughter, not what was happening at AgriProcessors. Our reply to these statements is available here:

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5. More Sample Letters

Causing pain, suffering

Letters to the Editor:

We all remember where we were when we learned that John Kennedy was killed, as well as when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. I can also vividly recall where I was sitting when my grandmother told me how cruelly Gentiles slaughtered animals.

Like most kids, I simply adored my grandma. She had been fiercely independent until failing health caused her to move in with our family.

In spite of everyone’s efforts to make her feel wanted, I know that she felt out of place, and tried not to make waves. So it is with great awe, thinking back over 50 years ago when she finally answered my question of why she kept kosher (which must’ve been a major effort to do in my immediate family’s non-kosher kitchen).

She described for me in great detail how much suffering was involved for the animals -- unless they were slaughtered humanely, viz. by kosher methods.

What truly astonishes me to this day is how grandma Esther, who had witnessed such terrible suffering of her family and friends at the hands of the Cossacks (she escaped from Russia so the torturers were not the Nazis) still had such compassion for the animals.

I love to think that this conversation was one of the major influences in my life that caused me to become vegetarian some 20 years later. Not that grandma was -- but that her being able to include animals in her circle of compassion instilled in me that animals are worthy of our moral consideration.

I believe that she smiles down from heaven that her youngest granddaughter is an animal rights activist. And, I know that she would turn over in her grave, had she known about the gratuitous suffering inflicted on animals at a kosher slaughterhouse.

When People For The Ethical Treatment (PETA) went undercover at this kosher slaughterhouse, they did not uncover compassion. Far from it. And to have fellow Jews defending these atrocities saddens me beyond words.

It must be made known that this slaughterhouse is not worse than other Slaughterhouses [please see statements by veterinarians and others above.]; they are all institutions of torture and suffering. What is truly sad though is that we Jews, who have seen so much suffering, could also be the cause of such pain and suffering.

L'Chayim: To Life. To ours. To yours. To theirs.

Going veg is the best thing that we can do on this planet to teach compassion to our children.

Jayn Brotman

Dear Mr. Chaim Abrams,

I am writing to you as an Orthodox Jew, whose family is Lubavitch. I have heard that Agriprocessers are planning an expansion of its slaughthouse. For the following reasons, it is crucial that your factory build strictly according to the plans outlined in

1. There are enormous numbers of Americans, both Jews and non-Jews, who eat meat but are deeply troubled that the animals are roughly dealt with on their way to slaughter, and how they are turned upside down during the slaughter. If the animal was humanely treated on its way to and during its shechita, this could be advertised on the label of your meat. For example, something like: "Our animals were humanely handled according to Temple Grandin's modern designs for humane slaughterhouses, according to animal behavioral studies. For further information, see" This would surely cause Agriprocessor's image to soar, along with its profits.

2. Temple Grandin's designs result in fewer injuries along the way, hence monetary savings for Agriprocessors.

3. Although the Torah allows us to eat meat and to use animals for important medical studies, it is strictly forbidden to cause avoidable suffering. Upsetting Hashem by causing such mass avoidable suffering is not good for the Jews.

4. We are the Chosen People, and as such, you have the opportunity to make Agriprocessors a kiddush Hashem for the Jewish People by modelling what a humane slaughtering set-up looks like to the rest of the world. Please take the bad press you have been getting lately with courage to make complete compassionate and holy changes.

I would be very grateful if you could send to me the email addresses of every person who is involved with the decision-making for the design of the new plant. Thank you in advance.

Sincerely, Tova S___

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6. National Public Radio (NPR) Covers Postville Slaughterhouse Issue

Nation PETA Footage Puts Kosher Slaughterhouse on Defensive
Listen at
All Things Considered, December 20, 2004

* A grisly videotape recorded inside a kosher slaughterhouse depicts what the animal rights group PETA calls shocking images of animal cruelty. But people in Iowa and kosher authorities are expressing support for the owners of the slaughterhouse. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

Forwarded message from Laura Slitt:

Dear Friends and Activists, Perhaps we are at the cutting edge of penetrating mainstream media with animal issues. At 4:50 pm this evening, my neighbor called me from his cell phone to encourage me to turn on NPR, as there was a report that he thought would please me. A reporter whose name is Glen Allen, from NPR in the mid-west, was airing a report on the PETA investigation at the "kosher" slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. There were comments from Bruce Friedrich and Temple Grandin as well as defensive comments from Agriprocessors and others who attacked the messenger, all too common after these issues surface. All in all, it was a fair and balanced piece after which I called Mr. Allen at NPR at 202-513-2000 in DC, asked for his extension, and was able to leave him a message thanking him for the piece, encouraging FAR MORE coverage about under reported animal issues. I hope everyone takes a moment to acknowledge NPR for airing the information that talked about heinous animal cruelty.

Laura Slitt

All Things Considered takes comments at:

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