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New Revelations of Extreme Cruelty Behind Meat Supplied to Israel

April 2010  

"Kosher meat supplied to Israel continues to be produced using the most crude and abusive restraint practices in the industry," said Rabbi Adam Frank, representative of CHAI’s sister charity in Israel, Hakol Chai, commenting on revelations in a newly released undercover video. "Despite the public promise made two and a half years ago by the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, that such cruelly produced meat would not be allowed into Israel, eighty percent of kosher meat imported into Israel comes from South America, where animal handling systems are the most barbaric in the industry."

The video, provided to CHAI for distribution in Israel by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, shows an Israeli slaughtering crew at one of the largest kosher slaughter plants in South America suspending fully conscious cows upside down in the air by one chained leg, a practice called shackling and hoisting. The animal may hang upside down for minutes during the slaughtering process, muscles and tendons tearing.

 

The practice first began when the 1906 U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act required that, for sanitary reasons, an animal must be off the ground at the time of slaughter. Ironically, because of the cruelty of this method, the Jewish community initially expressed strong resistance to using it. The method is no longer used in U.S. or European non-kosher slaughterhouses, but continues in some kosher slaughterhouses, though not in Israel. In 2002, the Conservative branch of Judaism (through its Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards) ruled that shackling and hoisting should be stopped: "Now that kosher, humane slaughter using upright pens is both possible and widespread, we find shackling and hoisting to be a violation of Jewish laws forbidding cruelty to animals."

 

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and members of the department on kosher laws of Israel's Chief Rabbinate (the Orthodox Jewish religious governing body in Israel) have witnessed shackling and hoisting during supervisory visits to the South American slaughterhouses. Following this past January’s visit, Rabbi Metzger’s only comment was that the meat coming from them is certifiably kosher.

 

Photo: PETA – From the undercover video released in April 2010

 

At the time the cruelty was first exposed, in 2007, Rabbi Frank wrote to Chief Rabbis Metzger and Shlomo Amar on behalf of Hakol Chai urging reform. He also wrote an op-ed, which appeared in the Jerusalem Post. Though the letters went unanswered, the media reported that at a meeting between a delegation of the Chief Rabbinate, lead by Rabbi Metzger, and the Orthodox Union (America's largest agency for kosher supervision), the restraint methods were characterized as "extremely painful to view," and an admission was made that they should be eliminated. Rabbi Frank has once again written letters of appeal to the Chief Rabbis on behalf of Hakol Chai, reminding them of the commitment they made in 2007 but, so far, have failed to keep.

 

In the most humane restraint method, the standing pen, the cow is upright and calm throughout the process, but the Israeli Chief Rabbinate requires that the animal be inverted in order for the cut to be in a downward motion. Kosher meat consumed by strict Orthodox Jews outside of Israel is produced with the standing pen method, evidence that shackling and hoisting is an unnecessary restriction. The reason purportedly given by slaughterhouse owners for not converting to the more humane method is that they could kill over 100 animals an hour using the inhumane method, but only 55 per hour with the humane method.

 

When Rabbi Metzger expressed concern for improving the welfare of animals used to provide Israelis with kosher meat two years ago, he told the press of a more humane inversion method approved by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and used by U.S. and European kosher slaughter plants. This method employs a box-like holding pen that inverts the animal before slaughter. "The only step taken by Rabbi Metzger, however," said Rabbi Frank, "has been to meet with kosher meat importers in Israel – the very businesspeople who must pay for the change – to request a reform already made by other kosher slaughter producers around the world."

 

Rabbi Metzger places blame for the continued cruelty on the meat importers, yet it is his department that supervises and endorses the imported products. All slaughterers in South America are under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate and all kosher meat imported from South America into Israel must be approved by the Chief Rabbinate. "Hakol Chai respectfully calls on Rabbi Metzger to use his authority to implement reforms," said Rabbi Frank. "A sense of responsibility and moral outrage over the continuing abuse of animals require no less."

 

For further details about this issue, please see Kosher Slaughter: Should Shackling and Hoisting Be Permitted?

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

 

CHAI asks that you send a letter to Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, urging him to keep his promise to convert to a more humane method of restraining animals in kosher slaughterhouses.

 

Please also consider reducing or eliminating your consumption of meat to prevent animal suffering, preserve human health, and save the environment.

 

According to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), meat, not cars, is the number one cause of global warming. It is also a major source of land and water degradation. The UN's Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), made up of hundreds of climate change scientists worldwide, noted the importance of lifestyle changes in meeting the challenge of global warming.

 

"Please eat less meat," said IPCC representative, economist Rajendra Pachauri, adding that a meat-based diet also has negative consequences for human health.


 

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CHAI, POB 3341, Alexandria, VA 22302, USA, or
donate through our website.



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