Earlier this week Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz wrote an article for his Huff post blog in which he argues for a mandate to stun all animals immediately after kosher slaughter. I do agree that post shechita (kosher slaughter) stunning is something that should be better incorporated into Jewish slaughter practices and also agree that it is halachikly (legally) permissible. Although, things certainly get quite complicated and controversial when discussing immediate post shechita stunning. Leaving the halachik conversation aside and also leaving aside the fact that post shechita stunning (though not immediate) is sometimes used in kosher slaughter of cattle in the US, I very much worry that creating such a mandate would actually inadvertently cause as many or even more welfare issues as it solves. But what I found disturbing enough to write this piece in response to his article was not so much Rabbi Yanklowitz’s call for stunning but rather the many unsubstantiated and verbose claims he made about the effects of shechita. Espousing these statements while pushing for a universal mandate, a step that the rabbinic authorities are unwilling to take, will not only serve to further miseducate an already confused public it will also push the Rabbinic leadership further away from what could be helpful stunning practices.
I only eat heritage poultry. Unfortunately this makes it real hard to keep kosher because there is no commercial kosher heritage chicken or turkey available anywhere on earth so I have to kill and process everything I want to eat. About a year ago I wrote a post about the sheer exhaustion that processing my own meat was causing me and that despite the fact that at first it was empowering at this point it's just become exhausting. Not much has changed in the way of commercial birds since I wrote Ethical Convenience but I’ve been determined to find a more convenient way to eat poultry ethically ever since. I spent nearly a year planning and all my hard work came to fruition with a successful shechita run in August. I killed and processed 30 birds in less than a quarter of the time it took me to do only 15 birds in the past. I even felt happy and energized afterwards. What I learned not only helped spare me energy but can also make producing local kosher poultry, a dream of many that still lies unfulfilled in the U.S., a reality.
Every year on the day before Yom Kippur scores of Jews, most of them charedim (ultra-orthodox), all over the world perform the ritual of kapparot. This rite symbolically provides atonement and traditionally consists of taking a chicken and waving it over one's head three times while reciting the appropriate text. After which the chicken is shechted and the meat donated to the poor. This Jewish custom dates back to the Middle Ages and has always been surrounded by much controversy. In the past the main controversy surrounding it was the halachic (legal) legitimacy of the practice within Judaism. While that argument still stands, today the greater tension revolves around the animal welfare issues surrounding kapparot. This controversy plays out yearly on the week before Yom Kippur as protests break out on the streets as well as in social media and Jewish Magazines demanding an end to the medieval practice. But are these protests based on legitimate concerns or are people simply upset because the oft-maligned charedim are killing animals for food in the open instead of keeping it hidden like everybody is used to? So let’s look at the main animal welfare concerns surrounding kapparot and see what we come up with.
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of performing a shechita presentation for the excellent Ramah of the Rockies Summer camp for a thirds straight year. The kids that attend are always full of questions and so curious to understand where meat comes from. While most people do all they can to shield themselves and their kids from facing these questions I’ve found that children actually cope much more skillfully with animal slaughter than many of the adults I meet. But my short presentations can only do so much, to truly change the way society relates to animals we must begin exposing our children to the realities of meat production much sooner and more regularly.
It's been years since I first watched the famous undercover Peta video portraying a botched "kosher" slaughter at the Rubashkin's agriprocessors facility. The clip depicts workers not only being cruel and sloppy in their treatment of animals but also shows them conducting a halachikly forbidden act called na'a'nua. Na'a'nua is preformed by violently tugging on the trachea of an animal in order to pull free adhesion in the lung so that they will not be found during a later inspection. This practice makes properly checking the lungs impossible and is strictly forbidden under Jewish law and doing such painful thing to a live and conscious animal makes this act of kosher fraud all the more heinous and despicable.
About the blog:
Welcome to The Kosher Omnivore's Quest! My old blog on kosher slaughter, kosher meat, and animal welfare. For new content check out my new website, The Kosher Cut™. There you'll find: blog posts about shechita and related topics, educational slaughter presentations, kosher slaughter training, and a selection of high quality professional kosher slaughter equipment.