December 27, 2004

Special JVNA Newsletter - Postville Slaughterhouse Case #8

Shalom everyone,

This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is the eighth 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 see item #1 below).

This newsletter has the following items:

1. Postville-related Blog

2. My Postville-related article is now on the Internet

3. Article by Agudath Israel Spokesperson/My Comments Interspersed

4. PETA’s Response to the Above Agudath Israel Article

5. Articles by Agriprocessors Lawyer Challenges PETA/My Comments Interspersed

6. More Letters to the Editor in the Jerusalem Post

7. Postville Issue Discussed on National Public Radio

8. Example of Responses To Videotapes of Postville Procedures

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. Postville-related Blog

Much valuable material and interesting commentary re the Postville glatt kosher slaughterhouse controversy can be found at I do not know the source of the material and I do not endorse all the material at the site, but I have found important documents and significant commentary there. As indicated above, for additional information, please do an Internet search for recent articles and/or check web sites of the OU, PETA, and other involved groups.

I also have posted some messages there.

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2. My Postville-related article is now on the Internet at (a few headlines down).


This article, which also appeared in previous JVNA newsletters, attempts to use the Postville slaughterhouse situation as a means of showing that animal-based diets and modern intensive “livestock” agriculture violate at least six basic Jewish mandates.

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3. Article by Agudath Israel Spokesperson/My Comments Interspersed

Now that the blood has settled, a clearer perspective might be had about the recent brouhaha over shechita, or Jewish ritual slaughter, at a meat-processing plant in Iowa.
Rabbi Avi Shafran

[*** My respectful comments are interspersed below. I am aware of the many positive activities that the Agudath Israel (and the OU) carry out for the benefit of klal Yisrael (the Jewish people), but I feel that Rabbi Shafran’s thoughtful article deserves a response. My comments will be in brackets and preceded with ***]

Yes, the beginning of that sentence was meant to jar. Blood and attendant unpleasantness are part and parcel of the process of turning livestock into meat, and most people are content to interact only with the final product.

[*** A point that is generally overlooked is that the blood and unpleasantness produce a product that is not needed for proper nutrition, and, indeed, has very negative effects on human health and that of our imperiled planet.]

Some, though, choose not to do even that. They include people who are repulsed by the thought of eating what was once alive, and others who feel that meat consumption is a wasteful use of natural resources. Yet others shun meat for health or religious reasons.

[*** Yes, as the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) have often pointed out, the production and consumption of meat and other animal products violate at least six basic Jewish mandates. So, it is not surprising that some Jews have decided to be vegetarians.]

And then there are the folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, who object to all killing of animals because, as Ingrid Newkirk, the group’s co-founder and president, famously put it, “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” – because of their belief, in other words, that animals are no different from humans.

[*** The complete statement is that when it comes to feeling pain, “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Since Rabbi Shafran’s columns often properly point out distortions in media coverage, I think that it is important to give the context for quotations that he gives.]

The Jewish religious tradition forbids causing animals unnecessary pain.

[*** Absolutely, as JVNA often points out. But, why then do Jewish leaders fail to speak out against the many abuses of animals on factory farms? For example, the killing almost immediately after birth of 250 million male chicks in the U.S. alone at egg-laying hatcheries because they can’t lay eggs and they are not of the breed (broilers) that have been genetically programmed to provide much meat; taking calves from their mothers after one day to raise them as veal; the force feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras; raising hens in spaces so small that they can’t raise even one wing, and then debeaking them to prevent them from pecking other hens in their very crowded, unnatural conditions; and much more.]

And there are observant Jews who are vegetarians; our tradition even teaches that the first man and woman – indeed all of humanity until Noah – were divinely forbidden to eat meat. But the Jewish faith expressly permits the killing of animals for human needs, including food. Which animals may be eaten and how to dispatch them are topics dealt with at considerable length in Jewish legal literature.

[*** Today, with our knowledge of scientific nutrition and with nutritional experts indicating that one can be properly nourished and even healthier without animal products in the diet, where is the “human need” met by slaughtering animals for food?]

Indeed, the “PETA Principle,” the moral equating of animals and humans, is an affront to the very essence of Jewish belief, which exalts the human being, alone among G-d’s creations, as, among other things, the possessor of free will, a being capable of choosing to do good or bad. That distinction is introduced in Genesis, where the first man is commanded to “rule over” the animal world.

[*** Yes, but “dominion” is interpreted by our sages as “responsible stewardship or guardianship,” and that humans are uniquely created in G-d’s image should obligate us to imitate G-d’s attributes of mercy and justice, not to unnecessarily slaughter 50 billion animals annually worldwide to produce products that are having such negative effects.]

The notion that humans are mere animals can lead to ethical obscenities, like PETA’s appeal to the director of the federal penitentiary where Timothy McVeigh was awaiting execution, that the mass murderer not be served meat so that he “not be allowed to take even one more life.” Or the group’s lodging of a protest with Yasir Arafat over a terrorist attack because the donkey carrying the explosives detonated in the attack was killed. Or its “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign, comparing the killing of chickens and cows to the murder of Jewish men, women and children. Or solemn declarations like Ms. Newkirk’s that “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.”

[*** JVNA disagrees with many of PETA’s positions and actions and we have urged changes. We should strive to end the mistreatment of animals, not because of PETA, but because of basic Jewish teachings. We should not use the beliefs and actions of our critics to excuse us from doing what Jewish values demand.]
[*** Also, PETA, to its credit, has asserted on its web site and in public statements that shechita is a superior method of slaughter when it is properly carried out. They have focussed on the Postville plant and they gave the operators a chance to improve conditions, before secretly videotaping at the Postville slaughterhouse.]

And so when PETA launched a media blitz several weeks ago, sending scores of journalists and others copies of surreptitiously filmed and carefully edited videotapes of animals being slaughtered at the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa – the largest producer of “glatt” – or highest-standard – kosher meat in the nation – the immediate reaction on the part of some Jewish organizations and many of those in the kosher food industry was understandably negative.

The video, to be sure, was disturbing. Although the PETA “mole” who secretly recorded the film likely witnessed thousands of unremarkable slaughters during his months on the job, the edited film showed a number of animals that seemed conscious after the act of shechita. In one case, an animal even righted itself and took several steps before collapsing.

Every method of animal slaughter yields a small percentage of such unfortunate results, when some degree of consciousness persists longer than it should. What PETA claims, though, is that what was depicted on its edited video of operations at the Iowa plant represents fully a quarter of the animals slaughtered over the seven-week period during which the video was made.

There is reason to be skeptical about this claim. A subsequent visit to the plant by Dr. I.M. Levinger, a veterinary surgeon and physiologist, yielded his testimony that, of the as many as 150 animals he saw slaughtered over the course of his two-day visit, only a single cow exhibited any conscious activity after shechita.

[*** This shows that the slaughterhouse operators have the ability to carry out the slaughtering process in a much more effective method than was revealed on the videotapes. An important word in the above paragraph is “subsequent,” a word that sharply reduces the importance of the observations.]

What is more, USDA inspectors are typically present on the killing floor during animal slaughter, to ensure that the process complies with federal standards. The inspectors present at the Postville plant during the period PETA compiled the images in its video presumably saw the entire picture, and never complained about any inordinately high number of post-slaughter displays of consciousness. A high-level USDA official, for that matter, visited the plant after PETA released its video to personally observe the allegedly inhumane practices and take appropriate action; what he saw apparently persuaded him that there was no need to shut down the plant or alter its basic practices.

[*** One would think that inspectors would be around during the slaughtering process, but several sources indicate that this is not generally true. They are generally further down the production line, checking for diseases. Even the OU has indicated that conditions at the plant will be changed. And long time animal welfare experts, including Temple Grandin, and experienced veterinarians and some rabbis have indicated their horror at what the video revealed and expressed their strong belief that conditions be changed.]

Likewise, top officials from the kashrut organizations that certify AgriProcessors’ meat visited the plant to monitor the shechita process and found that signs of post-slaughter consciousness were extremely rare. Indeed, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, Patty Judge, who had initially expressed her deep chagrin after watching PETA’s video – even calling for a federal investigation – concluded, after a personal visit to the plant, that the shechita there “…was humane… and there was absolutely no problem with the way they [the animals] were handled.”

[*** Can planned inspections after the PETA videos were distributed be used to show that the conditions before the appearance of the videos were acceptable?]

Those personal observations confirm what scientific theory would have predicted: that the incidence of displays of post-slaughter consciousness is more rare in cases of shechita than when non-kosher methods of slaughter are employed. That is because, as Dr. S.D. Rosen, MA, MD, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London, noted earlier this year in a monograph in the Veterinary Record, studies have shown that after the cutting of the trachea, esophagus and carotid arteries – the shechita process in essence – an animal’s consciousness is lost within approximately two seconds, and irreversibly.

[*** Yes, as the JVNA has argued when opposing efforts to single out shechita for criticism, shechita when properly carried out is a superior method of slaughter. Also, in the study cited, the method of slaughter involved a different type of holding pen]

The evidence would appear to suggest, therefore, that PETA is grossly exaggerating the frequency of post-shechita signs of consciousness at the Iowa plant. Perhaps it should not be surprising that PETA’s 25% figure differs so dramatically from what others have seen. Because, while the group’s concern that animals not be caused unnecessary pain is commendable, PETA also has an ultimate, and openly declared, goal: to stop people from eating meat. And so, if a bit of dissembling is necessary to move in that direction, well… wouldn’t you stretch the truth to save Jews from Nazis?

[*** PETA has not tried to stop people from eating meat; they have tried to convince people that it would be better for them, for our threatened environment, for the conservation of resources, for a more humane, less violent world, and, yes, for animals, if they shifted to well-balanced, nutritious diets free of animal products. Since the production and consumption of animal products violate so many Jewish teachings, the wonder is that it is a secular group, and not Agudath Israel, the OU, and most other Jewish groups that is doing this.]

Precision, though, is not the only thing PETA seems prepared to sacrifice in order to achieve its goal. Our nation’s commitment to religious liberty, in PETA’s eyes, is eminently expendable as well.

[*** Can any proof be produced to show that PETA has ever attacked the concept of shechita, called for the consumption of meat to be outlawed, or, in any other way, tried to curtail religious liberty?]

Even though the Iowa plant has discontinued a bleeding-facilitating arterial cut that PETA deemed a “dismemberment” of live animals, the animal rights group is now demanding, among other things, that U.S. government regulations regarding animal slaughter be changed in fundamental ways and that the type of restraining pen required by some decisors of Jewish law be outlawed.

These are not minor points; they touch, and not gently, upon the issue of
rabbinic authority and religious autonomy. And that game is zero-sum: What constitutes proper animal-slaughter methods for observant American Jews will necessarily be determined in the future either by rabbis or by advocates for animal-rights.

[*** Once again, PETA is not calling for the abolition of shechita. Quite the contrary – in the Postville case they are defending it at a time when some have caused shechita to be associated with horrible mistreatment of animals.]

Shechita was attacked and outlawed by the Nazis when they came to power in. Germany. Today, animal rights activists have succeeded in banning it in several European and Scandinavian countries. If PETA’s misleading campaign is not seen for the partisan salvo it is, our own country may be next.

[*** Once again, PETA has defended shechita and publicly called it a superior method. But, if the horrible scenes revealed on the PETA videotapes become associated with shechita, this has the potential of harming shechita, Judaism, and possibly Jews. As one JVNA member stated, “By continuing to defend what happened in the Postville meat-processing plant in Iowa, you are doing more damage to our image than anything PETA might inadvertently do.”]


[Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.]

Am Echad Resources material may be reproduced without charge, provided Am Echad Resources is duly credited.

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4. PETA’s Reply to Rabbi Shafran’s Article (Above)

[JVNA has been critical of PETA’s statements and activities, most recently for their very ill-considered “Holocaust On Your Plate” exhibition, and we will again if necessary. But, PETA has acted responsibly and sensitively in the Postville controversy, focusing on the Postville facility, and reaffirming their belief that shechita, when properly carried out is a superior method of slaughter. I plan to discuss PETA more in my year end statement due out later this week.]

In his recent article titled "The PETA Principle," Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, offers his thoughts on PETA's campaign for improved animal welfare standards at AgriProcessors. We appreciate Rabbi Shafran's clear concern for animal welfare, and would like to address the issues he raises.

In the wake of the slaughterhouse scandal, AgriProcessors has not been able to find a single scientist, animal welfare expert, or veterinarian who is willing to defend the shoddy slaughter practices we documented.

PETA, on the other hand, has received an outpouring of support from leaders in the veterinary, animal welfare, and even meat industries, as well as in the Jewish community, who were shocked by the brazenly cruel treatment of animals that has, for years, been the norm at

Dr. Temple Grandin, consultant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Meat Institute, did not mince words after viewing the tapes, stating, "I thought it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen." Dr. Lester Friedlander, a former USDA kosher slaughter inspector, echoed these sentiments, writing, "The footage captured by PETA represents the most egregious violation of the USDA Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) I have ever witnessed."

Our investigator witnessed the slaughter of 278 cattle; one-fourth were clearly and unarguably (according to scientists) still conscious after they were dumped onto the concrete floor, roughly a minute after shechita. Because of a Clinton-era USDA program, no USDA inspectors are assigned to the kill floor, and indeed, there were none there during the five hours that our investigator was there, on six occasions over about seven weeks.

The fact that three weeks later AgriProcessors killed animals properly for Dr. Levinger is encouraging, but this only further validates our position, proving that AgriProcessors could have slaughtered animals humanely all along but choose not to-this is why their actions were illegal.

AgriProcessors recent willingness to invite government inspectors to its plant is like a serial killer calling the police over to his house to watch him not kill people: "See, I'm not killing anyone." Criminals may sometimes act in accordance with the law, but that does not exonerate
them for their crimes.

The humane community is not asking much AgriProcessors; we're asking only that they adopt the widely-accepted regulatory standards for religious slaughter developed by the Food Marketing Institute. These guidelines, which can be read at or, will ensure that AgriProcessors' handling and slaughter practices are in keeping with Judaism's long-standing tradition of kindness to animals.

Striking animals in the face with electric prods, ripping their tracheas and esophagi out while they're fully conscious, slaughtering them in a haphazard way-these things were happening at AgriProcessors, in what can only be seen as a complete denial of Judaism's firm commitment to compassion. All Jews will surely agree that the standards that PETA, along with the Rabbinic Assembly of the Conservative movement and a swelling number of Jews from across the spectrum of Judaism, recommends will ensure that kosher slaughter is consistently quick and humane, as provided for in the Torah.

It is simply true, physiologically, that "where pain is concerned, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." This does not mean moral equivalency; it simply states that God designed us out of the same stuff (flesh, blood, bone) and with the same capacity to feel pain: No scientist will deny this, because it's true. And watching as they struggle to stand and flee while their windpipes hang from their bloody throats, one cannot deny that the animals at AgriProcessors felt immeasurable agony and fear as they fought against death.

Indeed, our respect for the uniquely human ability to make complex moral calculations is central to our mission. As human beings, as stated in the Torah, we have an obligation to make compassionate choices when confronted with the suffering of others. We both agree with and embrace this understanding as central to our mission. As Rabbi Shafran notes, for many, this calculation leads them to vegetarianism. For all, however, it should lead to profound moral outrage at the horrific and consistent cruelty to animals perpetrated by AgriProcessors for so many years.

In closing, please consider that PETA supplied our video and all relevant documentation and factual support to three government agencies.

Any exaggeration on our part would be criminal in nature and would subject us to forfeiture of our nonprofit status and thus would, most likely, lead to our demise. As the world's largest animal rights organization, with more than 800,000 members and supporters and 25-year history, this is not something we would ever do-both because dishonesty is the opposite of what we stand for and because our mission would be irreparably damaged.

After reviewing the video documentation and reading additional expert and rabbinical testimony at, readers will surely agree with Rabbi Barry Schwartz of the Central Conference of American Rabbis' Task Force on Kashrut, who said, "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."

For information on Judaism and vegetarianism, please visit the Web site run by the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, at .

Benjamin Goldsmith is a campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Comments by JVNA reader, Maida:

Here was my comment to the Aish Hatorah web site (URL at the top of the article above):

As far as I can tell PETA's primary concern is the most humane conditions for animals, which should also be the primary concern of shechita. Jews have often been their own worst enemies and I think this is the case here. By continuing to defend what happened in the Postville meat-processing plant in Iowa, you are doing more damage to our image than anything PETA might inadvertently do. I am sure that PETA has absolutely no interest in provoking anti-Semitism. They only want to have Jews react to flaws in what is supposed to be a better system.

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5. Articles by Agriprocessors Lawyer Challenges PETA/My Comments Interspersed

Some Questions For PETA
Nathan Lewin

[*** As in the above article by Rabbi Shafran, my respectful comments are interspersed below, preceded by ***.]

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently released a video bearing the incendiary title “PETA Undercover: Terrified Cows Stagger to Their Feet After Workers Rip Out Their Throats.” Visitors to the PETA Web site are told to watch the video and see “AgriProcessors workers ignore the suffering of cows that are still sensible to pain after having their throats slit by the ritual slaughterer. The animals stagger and slip in blood while their tracheas dangle from their necks. Watch now.”

The attack on shechita, kosher ritual slaughter, follows the line almost in precise words that has been taken for centuries by anti-Semites, culminating in Hitler’s laws enacted in April 1933 to protect Germany’s animals against the savagery of the Jewish ritual. (Der Stuermer’s 1938 description of “How Jews Torture Animals” described two German boys watching the animal after shechita “struggle to get up and then collapse” and, after a second cut by the Jew, “the blood spurts, and again the animal struggles to get up.”)

[*** There are certainly major differences here. First, PETA gave AgriProcessors, the slaughterhouse operators, a chance to correct things before they sent a volunteer to videotape conditions at the slaughterhouse. Second, PETA is focussing on the one plant and is seeking improvements that will reduce the suffering of animals. Third, PETA has made it clear through its web site and public statements that it regards shechita as a superior form of slaughter, when it is properly done. JVNA has been critical of some of PETA’s beliefs and actions, and plans to continue to do so, but the use of misleading statements about PETA does not do credit to shechita and other Jewish teachings.]

No matter that mounds of scientific evidence establish that an animal that loses blood to the brain loses any sense of pain. No matter that the shechita cut results in anemia of the brain within 2 seconds. No matter that the U.S. Congress held extensive hearings in 1957 and concluded that the Jewish ritual method of slaughter is at least as humane as any other method that modern science has devised. PETA’s “food specialists” and Ph.Ds know the cow that has its throat slit “suffers” and is “still sensible.”

[Mr. Lewin’s statements in this paragraph ignore the statements of many animal welfare experts, including the world renowned Temple Grandin, experienced veterinarians, and some rabbis.]

PETA made no such claim when it sent two accusatory letters to AgriProcessors last year, in June and November. I replied to PETA’s first letter that had said it would keep “entirely confidential” its allegation that “Jewish law is being violated” if AgriProcessors would agree to hire Dr. Temple Grandin, which PETA on its Web site calls “the country’s leading slaughter expert,” to institute “humane improvements.” (I noted that this sounded like extortion.) I asked PETA to provide “detailed descriptions of specific conduct to support your conclusions.”

Did PETA claim then that terrified cows were staggering to their feet after workers ripped out their throats? No way. Here is the substance of PETA’s list:

1. Repair your unloading ramps.

2. Restrict the use of electric

3. Ensure that no more than 5 percent of cows

4. Ensure that each chicken is held one at a time, by one
person, for slaughter.

5. Provide fresh, clean water for all
animals at unloading.

6. Ensure that all animals are calm at all
stages of processing.

7. Engage in self-audits on a regular

[*** These seven points seem to show that PETA was concerned with minimizing the suffering of animals.]

PETA added in the letter that listed its seven demands (none of which involved violations of Jewish law) that it “would prefer it if AgriProcessors stopped killing animals.” But it did not dare repeat the old anti-Semitic canard that cows with their throats slit by the ritual slaughterer were staggering or struggling.

[*** Jewish law is violated if animals suffer unnecessarily, and this is what PETA’s seven steps are aimed at preventing.]

Only after its investigator took “undercover” videos that would rouse emotions in people who have never seen a slaughtering plant in operation did PETA turn from complaining about “unloading ramps” to its publicized allegation that the throat slitting and what followed was brutal and contrary to Jewish law.

[*** It is not just their allegations, but, as indicated above, the considered opinions of experts on animal treatment and slaughter procedures, and a number of rabbis. Many of their statements, and much more re the Postville situation can be found at]

Every respected Orthodox authority on Jewish law has concluded that what was shown on the video was not contrary to Jewish law and that the shechita was 100 percent kosher. Some Orthodox rabbis urged that in order to avoid a public misperception of cruelty, one step in the process — a second cut and removal of the trachea — not be done.

[*** Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland feels that Jewish law was violated. And the Orthodox rabbis of the OU have requested changes in the procedures at the Postville slaughterhouse.]

It is legitimate, however, to ask PETA a few questions:

* How do you know that the animal that has its throat cut and loses blood flow to the brain is “still sensible?”

[*** Again, PETA’s view is backed up by many experts on animal welfare and veterinary science.]

Three Cambridge University professors (Wood, Barcroft and Newman) authored a report in 1924 on the “Jewish Method of Slaughtering Animals for Food.” They said of the post-shechita movements shown on the video: “Such movements are quite unconnected with sensation. Nevertheless they may appear so purposeful as to convince the lay observer that sensation continues and that the movements are evidence of pain or consciousness.”

Professor William Bayliss of University College in London said in a 1930 study that convulsions “may come on at a stage long after consciousness has ceased” and they “may include raising of the head.”

[*** These studies are many decades old, and they refer to different slaughtering procedures.]

Do you have comparable “undercover” video of a non-kosher slaughtering plant or of another kosher plant?

[*** They do at their web site. Over many years, PETA has taken on a wide variety of animal abuses.]

What transpires in any slaughtering plant is gruesome to watch. Animals are being put to death in order to be eaten.

[*** Why carry out this gruesome process and kill animals to create a product that is not needed for proper nutrition and, indeed, is harmful to human health and environmental sustainability.]

Before condemning any one plant, one in fairness must see what goes on in others. The process in non-kosher plants is less bloody because throat slitting is not the means of killing the animal, but other steps are probably as painful to watch and possibly more painful to the animal.

[*** Is this going to be our defense – that others are just as bad, or worse, especially when some veteran experts indicate that they have never seen such horrendous conditions?]

* Why are you less concerned about the treatment of live animals than about the final minutes of life of animals that are legitimately put to death for human consumption?

I wrote in my letter to PETA that “long before the rest of the world showed any ‘common decency’ to animals or had the slightest concern for the treatment of animals, the laws of the Torah and rabbinic teachings commanded the Jewish people to treat all living creatures humanely. Secular society — including your organization — has still not caught up with the precepts of Jewish law in this regard.”

[*** JVNA agrees re Judaism’s powerful teachings on compassion to animals. But, in view of these teachings, why is Mr. Lewin and many other Jewish leaders ignoring the many abuses on factory farms to 50 billion farmed animas worldwide every year?]

* Why is PETA not concerned, as the Torah is, about animals being overworked?

[*** They are concerned about all types of mistreatment of animals. Because of modern technology, far fewer animals are overworked today than in the past.]

PETA doesn’t demand a Sabbath for living animals or condemn pairing weak and strong animals or muzzling them in the presence of food. The morality of Torah law apparently is not a model for headline-hungry hypocrites who take cheap shots at targets they think cannot fight back.

[*** Again, in view of powerful Jewish teachings on compassion to animals, why isn’t the Jewish community actively involved in ending the horrors occurring daily due to modern, intensive “livestock” agriculture?]

* Why has PETA not taken on horse racing or dog racing, or rodeos or hunting, where live animals are abused for the sport of humans?

[*** They have, and much more.]

Observant Jews are more inviting targets, particularly since they are ready to confess sins even where there are none.

Nathan Lewin, a constitutional lawyer who has represented many Orthodox clients, is counsel for AgriProcessors in Postville, Iowa.

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6. More Letters to the Editor in the Jerusalem Post

Letters to the Editor


No mitzvah, this

Sir, - Saul Singer did a marvelous job of describing the irony of large animals being tortured at a (glatt!) kosher slaughterhouse in the US ("Cutting-edge kashrut," UpFront, December 17).
Judaism negates a mitzvah that comes as the result of a transgression. Surely, any mitzvah that results from kosher slaughter is nullified if the animal experiences agony in the process, the more so if that suffering is driven by monetary concerns.

MARK FEFFER [Mark is a JVNA advisor.]
Sir, - Most animals raised in modern-day agriculture suffer immensely even before slaughter. They are subjected to de-beaking, castration and dehorning, all without painkillers, and spend their stress-filled lives in barren warehouses, never setting foot outside.

Radnor, Pennsylvania
Sir, - Kudos for the articles on ethical shehita by Temple Grandin ("Kosher slaughter done right," Upfront, December 17) and Saul Singer. It would be a long-overdue step for the rabbinical establishment to declare treif all food that follows suffering by living creatures.
Gastonomic "delights" such as pate de fois gras or veal, achieved through unspeakably cruel methods, or meat produced by subjecting helpless creatures to inhumane conditions during raising or slaughtering, have no place on a kosher table.

Sir, - When I ask: "Is it kosher?" (meaning vegan, sustainably produced and fairly traded) I couldn't be more serious.

For me, a diet that does the least unavoidable harm and the most possible good is daily balm to a conscience that almost always has something weighing upon it.

SYD BAUMEL [Syd is also a JVNA advisor who recently made a generous donation to JVNA.]
...Grandin's labor of love

Sir, - Familiar with Temple Grandin's work in autism, which has helped thousands - parents, children, researchers, and simple therapists like myself - I wrote an article about her for Mishpacha magazine. Grandin herself is autistic and a walking resource on the subject.

She asked me, an Orthodox Jew, to approach the OU in America about the disturbing practices during shehita in South America. No one returned my calls.

I asked a rabbi who knew the OU's head to show him my article on Grandin's method of handling animals during shehita. The response came back: "She's a meshuggene."
The accusation that Grandin has a vested interest is falacious. Yes, she designs very expensive equipment. But her goal is more than monetary; it is to change the way people mistreat animals. It is a labor of love.

The issue is not PETA vs. the rabbis. Grandin is a leading researcher in animal science as it relates to slaughter - Jewish, Muslim, and secular.

While highly articulate, she is not capable of understanding concepts as abstract as anti-Semitism. To suggest even a hint of it is ludicrous.

Read Labeled Autistic or Thinking in Pictures and you will clearly see her views on shehita and those who perform it.

New York
Sir, - The letter by Benjamin Goldsmith, PETA campaign coordinator (December 15), failed to reveal the real agenda of the animal rights movement. [letters]

The video scenes illegally obtained by a PETA representative at AgriProcessors may not have looked pretty to the untrained eye - but all leading rabbis in the US and Israel have subsequently ruled that the shehita was kosher, and that the animals' actions were reflexive, not conscious.

Shehita remains the most humane form of slaughter, a fact protected by US law. A veterinarian and four inspectors of the United States Department of Agriculture observe the kosher slaughter at AgriProcessors at all times, as do nine rabbis.

PETA is against all animal slaughter, which it has grotesquely equated with the Holocaust. It is hardly qualified to tell a 3,000-year-old religion what is humane.

Editor, 'Kosher Today'
New York
This article [letters] can also be read at

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7. Postville Issue Discussed on National Public Radio

Forwarded message from Karen Dawn
DawnWatch: Excellent NPR coverage of PETA's horrifying undercover kosher slaughterhouse footage 12/20/04

On Monday, December 20, the National Public Radio show "All Things Considered" gave strong even-handed coverage to the story regarding PETA's undercover footage taken at the AgriProcessors plant, which the story described "the world's largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse," and "the only one in the US certified by Israeli rabbinic authorities."

You can hear the whole five minute story on line at:

I will summarize it, briefly, below:

The reporter, Greg Allen, describes what one can see on the PETA tape: "A shochet, a ritual slaughterer, uses a sharp knife to cut a steer's throat, and as the blood begins to flow, a second man steps forward and pulls out the animal's trachea. In case after case, the animal struggles to its feet while its windpipe dangles from its open throat."

Arguments on both sides as to whether the practices involve horrendous cruelty or just involuntary post-conscious movements are presented. The story mentions that the footage has been posted to PETA's website. It is PETA's website that has the story front and central; unfortunately that is not noted but hopefully listeners will go to PETA's main site and find their way easily to the footage. Nobody seeing it, who is not strongly invested in believing there to be no cruelty, could watch the footage and interpret the bellowing and staggering, sometimes for minutes, of cows who have risen to their feet, as involuntary movement.

Temple Grandin, who is described as "a veterinarian at Colorado State University," and an "expert on humane slaughtering processes" is not a PETA person. She is a meat-eater who helps design slaughterhouses with the intention of making them more humane. We hear her say:
"My reaction was I just about fell off my chair when I saw this procedure of yanking out the trachea."

Greg Allen reports:
"Grandin, an expert on humane slaughtering practices, has worked closely with dozens of kosher slaughterhouses. Kosher slaughter, she says, can be extremely humane if done well. One sign, Grandin says, that AgriProcessors was not doing things correctly was how many animals tried to get up after having their throats cut. PETA says one-quarter of the 276 animals the group documented showed signs of consciousness after being released from the holding chamber. AgriProcessors disputes that, however, along with most of PETA's other charges. Spokesman Mike Thomas says plant workers don't deliberately remove the animals' tracheas. He says it's sometimes done accidentally. And despite evidence on the tape, Thomas says the vast majority of animals die within seconds."

(Note: "Despite evidence on the tape.")

The story includes strong quotes from PETA's Bruce Friedrich:
"Many of the animals actually struggle and stand for up to three minutes after their throats have been slit open, which are unarguably, according to physiologists, signs of consciousness. What is happening on that slaughter plant line is clear and absolute cruelty to animals."

And to the suggestion that anti Semitism is motivating the campaign, Friedrich responds:
"We've been pretty flummoxed by the fact that anyone would defend the egregious cruelty to animals that is happening in this plant. Judaism actually has more vegetarians than any other faith, except Hinduism, and that's because of the fine Jewish tradition of compassion for animals."

You might like to listen on line, at the link above, to the whole piece. Most importantly, please let "All Things Considered" know its attention to this matter is appreciated. Positive feedback will encourage similar stories in the future. All Things Considered takes comments at:

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at

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8. Example of Responses To Videotapes of Postville Procedures

Below is just one of many letters that I have received expressing outrage at scenes on the videotape. I believe that it indicates why it is so important that it be made clear that the procedures at Postville are not typical of shechita and that they will very soon be changed, and that proper regulations and inspection procedures will also soon be established to insure that shechita is properly carried out.
Dear Richard,

After viewing footage of so-called kosher slaughter, I am horrified beyond description. To call such brutality acceptable is beyond justification.

Such cruelty must not exist in a civilized society, and especially must not be condoned by a religious community who theoretically stands for ethical and humane behavior. What I saw is not humane and not ethical. It is barbarism of the worst kind, and your tacit approval of it is totally unacceptable.

I would appreciate your comments to my concerns.

Lu Haner
9 Sherman Rd.
Millis, MA 02054

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