Kol HaPosel, b’Mumo Posel

PETA’s own response to Rabbi Shafran is no better. “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.” In other words, no one is willing to say that an animal getting up after shechita is a good thing. What a surprise! Meanwhile, dozens of experts have pointed out that every other animal on the video was trembling in the typical manner (described by Dr. Rosen) of an unconscious animal whose spinal cord is firing off signals.

“One-fourth [of the animals] were clearly and inarguably (according to scientists) still conscious,” they say. This implies that scientists verified that one-fourth of the animals were still conscious, which is anything but true. Their cameraman was hanging around for seven weeks (by their own count) and witnessed (only?) 278 slaughters, and was able to present footage of only one “inarguably” conscious animal after all that time.

“where pain is concerned, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” This is a profoundly distorted statement. Do rats have similar pain receptors? Absolutely. Do their brains perceive injury like a boy does? Of course not. In fact, it is well known that even a human baby does not perceive pain like a human adult — if it were otherwise, the pain of teething would have driven all of us insane. This hardly justifies hurting a baby or an animal unnecessarily; Judaism taught us otherwise, thousands of years ago. But no one (except PETA) would compare killing chickens for food to the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

“PETA has never been duplicitous.” Again, the video has the sounds of cows mooing at a time when the only animal shown on the video has already been slaughtered. This leads the viewer to believe that it is the slaughtered cow mooing in pain, whereas in fact the slaughtered cow, with a severed windpipe, cannot possibly be making that sound. Is further comment really necessary?

An unnamed (but entirely reliable) source at the OU said that they always disapproved of the neck pull, because if the shochet is not absolutely certain that he went through both simanim (the throat & windpipe) in their entirety, this could raise a question of Kashrus if someone else finishes the job. At Rubashkin, as is clear even on the video, the shochet stands there long enough to confirm visually that both simanim are severed — rendering the question moot. In the overwhelming majority of these cases, when both simanim are severed, the carotid arteries are severed as well. But this was never what the OU preferred.

They always preferred that there be a second inspection to verify that the carotid arteries were severed, as a better method (than the throat pull) of ensuring rapid blood loss. After all of this happened, the OU and Rubashkin agreed that from here on in, the severing of the carotid arteries would be verified. The throat pull has been stopped.

As I pointed out much earlier, others feel there is a real problem with the throat pull — because there is a chance that the animal could still feel it. Either way, however, the practice has been stopped, and the wild video from PETA has made that one contribution to the possible reduction of pain to animals. That is indeed a positive development, but one that could have come about with far less publicity and fanfare. But now, PETA will be able to raise millions of dollars because they spent seven weeks waiting for one shechita to go wrong.

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9 Responses

  1. Shmarya says:

    1. “When, however, the head of an inverted animal (as done at Rubashkin) is released, the head swings down towards the back of the animal, putting further distance between the sections of the carotid arteries – so re-occlusion is impossible.”

    That is false. All scientists I’ve interviewed, and several rabbis including Rabbi Belsky, have noted that occulsion happens in upside-down shechita. In fact, both Dr. Grandin and Rabbi Belsky attributed some of the conscious animals on the PETA video to occulusion.

    But that does not matter. Standing shechita is very different from upside-down shechita, Because the animal is always agitated upside-down, its bleed-out rate is slower. Further, if the head does flop backward when the animal is upside-down, brain anemia is DELAYED, not hastened.

    Your father may be a noted neurologist. You clearly are not.

    2. “Regarding every other animal on the video, Dr. Rosen describes exactly what we saw: “after about 30 seconds, strong muscular spasms frequently cause the limbs to thrash violently.” He then explains, ‘These movements are in no respect at all a conscious reaction to pain; they are reflexes due to hypoxia of the spinal cord causing abnormal efferent signals to the muscles… This phase can last for up to four minutes.’”

    You are misusing Dr. Rosen. As of today, NO scientist – including Dr. Rosen – has said that the animals on the PETA video were reflex motions. In fact, all leading scientists (and several leading rabbis) have stated clearly that those animals were conscious and their movements purposeful.

    3. “ASI Food Safety Consultants, of St. Louis, did an unannounced “Humane Slaughter Audit” of the plant back in February.” a) According to the animal welfare and food science professionals I’ve spoken with, ASI is not considered to be expert in this area. b) The audit was not unannounced, it was scheduled. c) Rubashkin wrote that anyone ewho wanted a copy of the audit could get one from his spokesperson or himself. He then refused to give a copy to me, to PETA, and to several others.

    4. The spokeswoman for Iowa’s Agriculture Secretary was quite clear: Secretary Judge did not change her mind. She spoke only about the three animals she saw killed on a guided tour arranged and led by Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin. She again noted that it was the USDA’s jurisdiction to deal with legal violations, if any. She did NOT change her opinion of the slaughter she saw on the PETA video.

    You Agudah-nicks should be ashamed of yourselves.

  2. M. Hillson says:

    Shmarya closes every one of his comments:

    You Agudah-nicks should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Regardless of who’s right on the issue, it seems that Shmarya has an axe to grind –
    the axe of hatred of “Ultra-Otrthodox” Jews.

    Shame on Shmarya for his hatred of fellow Jews.

  3. Yaakov Menken says:

    Shmarya really doesn’t seem to be anti-Agudah, so much as anti-Lubavitch (consider a blog called failedmessiah.com, with a picture of the Rebbe, a hint). If he were to critique the Messianic movement within Lubavitch he would probably find me in agreement more often than not, but not when he takes it out on Sholom Rubashkin merely because his family has been Lubavitcher Chassidim for generations.

    1. In this context, I hope people will understand that I intend to be neither snide nor to belittle Shmarya when I point out that he hasn’t yet so much as understood the proper spelling of “occlusion.” It’s merely indicative of how little actual knowledge he is presenting. In upside-down shechita, with everything gaping wide open, occlusion (blockage) is absolutely impossible — as you see on the video, in which the blood literally spurts out of the stumps of the carotid arteries onto the shochet’s coat.

    The only thing that could possibly be blocked, hanging back, is the vertebral arteries. As Dr. Rosen points out, the fact that the vertebral arteries are unblocked when standing is not a problem, because the blood first comes up to the brain via a common channel, and then chooses the path of least resistance — and thus goes out the carotid stumps rather than travelling down the vertebral arteries (this is why blocking the carotid arteries, as could happen when the animal is standing, could conceivably prolong death). But the head swinging back and possibly compressing the vertebral arteries would only further reduce blood travelling to the brain.

    An agitated animal will have more adrenaline in the system, which increases the pulse, increases the blood pressure, and diverts blood to priority areas (which is basically irrelevant, because the brain consistently receives about 20-25% of blood supply at all times). Shmarya, you don’t need to go to med school to figure out that this means faster bleeding.

    Ordinarily, of course, the head down would mean more blood travelling to the brain. Indeed it is all rushing to the brain — where it exits the stump of the carotid arteries and deposits itself all over the shochet’s coat, hastening the animal’s speedy and painless death.

    2. Can you see when a baby has an ear infection? Probably not, but any experienced mother can identify the signs. You certainly don’t need an expert scientist to identify the typical signs of a successfully slaughtered animal, which any slaughterer (kosher or not) has seen multiple times every work day. Every “expert” who has visited the plant has been impressed with the humane-ness of the operation — some, like Patty Judge, replacing her initial, uninformed criticism with praise. There’s a reason why every reputed Kashrus agency with supervision of slaughtering, such as the CRC, the Star-K and others, recognized that only one animal on the video was conscious.

    3. ASI has been in the food supervision / auditing business for 70 years, spanning three generations in the same family. They now provide “computerized e-mail reports, instant on-line audit results, [and] in-plant microbiological testing and training.” They know exactly what they are doing.

    4. I’m sure Patty Judge was very, very clear. It’s sheer coincidence that the DesMoines Register got it so wrong. Maybe they were paid off by Rubashkin, right?

    Shmarya, you obviously have far more free time on your hands than I do, and have devoted your entire blog to this issue. We have other topics to cover, and I’m sure the readers can distinguish, as I said, the meat from the chaff.

  4. Shmarya says:

    I find your comment that I “take on Sholom Rubashkin merely because his family has been Lubavitcher Chassidim for generations” to a) Ungrounded in fact and b) To be another example of the depths to which you will descend to defend the indefensible.

    I take on Rubashkin because I have seen shechita done correctly. What took place at Rubashkin was horrific.

    Now, for your other points:

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry. Did I make a typo? Well, I suppose that means that my facts are wrong. If I could only type more effectively …

    2. Your science is incorrect. This is because you do not understand the facomia pen and how shechita using it works. The FACT is that EVERY scientist that has commented on the PETA video to date supports PETA’s contentions.

    3. “An agitated animal will have more adrenaline in the system, which increases the pulse, increases the blood pressure, and diverts blood to priority areas (which is basically irrelevant, because the brain consistently receives about 20-25% of blood supply at all times). Shmarya, you don’t need to go to med school to figure out that this means faster bleeding.”

    Dr. Grandin and other experts, along with Rabbi Belsky disagree with you.

    4. “The only thing that could possibly be blocked, hanging back, is the vertebral arteries.”

    Nope. You are wrong. The head itself retains blood longer and the animal therefore is conscious longer. That is one reason why Israeli rabbis cited times of 20 to 30 seconds for unconsciousness, while Dr. Rosen and Shechita UK, etc., cited much faster times. Israel does upside-down shechita. The UK does standing.

    5. Again, as I documented earlier, Patty Judge’s office was absolutely clear – she did NOT change her mind. Further, her job is primarily one of an Ag booster, not a regulator. Ag is Iowa’s #1 business. Yet her reaction on seeing the PETA video was loud and clear – the shechita was NOT humane. To argue as you and R. Shafran, etc., do, that because she saw three animals properly shechted in a controlled slaughter while on a personal guided tour of AgriProcessors led by Sholom M. Rubashkin is foolish.

    6. ASI only recently began doing Animal Welfare Audits. Every source I’ve spoken to in the Food Science community made it clear that ASI is not highly regarded in this area. Further, their audit was of a short duration and was not unannounced. That is one reason why Albertson’s and Safeway are now DEMANDING that Rubashkin submit to unannounced surprise audits on an ongoing basis from a company of their – not Rubashkin’s – choosing.

    7. As for my readers distinguishing “the meat from the chaff,” I’m sure they are able to apply their skills of discernment to Torah.org and Agudath Israel as well.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    Temple Grandin is indeed an expert at the humane care of animals. See her comments at http://www.grandin.com/ritual/qa.cattle.insensibility.html . She specifically does not make Shmarya’s assertion that upright shechita leads to faster death. Regarding “The rotating box at Agriprocessors”, she says that it “is probably more stressful than the best upright box, but it is much better than shackling and hoisting” — hardly an indictment. Her concern with the rotating box is limited to this as one of the possible “restraining methods that the method used to hold the animal in position;” nowhere in her discussion of the time to unconsciousness or the handling methods does she so much as hint that either method results in faster loss.

    She — like the experts I consulted originally — states that the throat pull should not be done seconds after shechita. She says “Most cattle will become unconscious and insensible within 5 to 10 seconds after a biologically effective cut. However, sensibility can last for over a minute in a small percentage of cattle.” This completely reconciles Dr. Rosen with the Israeli rabbinate, with no reference to the animal’s position.

    ASI performs animal welfare audits week-in, week-out, and has been doing so for years. Strange that ASI would only “recently” start Animal Welfare Audits, yet manage to jump to the top of the heap so quickly on a Google search.

    Strange that you would mention Safeway, since they were a recent target of a PETA boycott. Now that they’ve been forced to modify their policies to be animal-friendly (unlike any other grocery chain), they are marketing themselves as animal-friendly… and trying to mollify PETA at every turn, given that PETA still has http://www.shameway.com on-line.

    Give it up, Shmarya, you’re just digging deeper.

  6. Shmarya says:

    1. I interviewed Dr. Grandin twice. I stand by what I wrote, including the FACT that Rabbi Belsky also believes that bleed-out is faster standing.

    2. Dr. Grandin was horrified by what she saw on the PETA video and has been very clear about that.

    3. She rates shackling and hoisting as 1 (on a scale of 1 to 10 with being the best and 1 the worst), PROPERLY DONE upside-down shechita in a PROPERLY MAINTAINED and OPERATED Facomia pen as a 4 or 5 and standing in a properly operated ASPC pen as a 10.

    4. As for ASI, all I can tell you is what I told you before: They are not taken seriously in the Food Science community or the Animal Welfare community and their audit at Rubashkin was not unannounced and was of a very limited scope.

    5. You have not shown anything that I have written to be false.

  7. Shmarya says:

    Dr. Grandin writing in the Jerusalem Post on shechita in a standing ASPC pen and shechita at Rubashkin:

    … NOW THAT I was able to hold the animal gently, it was possible to observe its reaction to shehita. When shehita was performed on each steer, I was amazed that the animal did not move. To find out if shehita was really painless, I started holding the head of each animal with less and less pressure to see if it would move during shehita. Even big bulls stayed still when the head holder was so loose they could have easily pulled their heads out.

    I also observed that some shohets were better than others in their ability to cause rapid unconsciousness. All of the cuts were correct from a religious standpoint, but some shohets were more biologically effective. A swift cut was more effective than a slower one. In the hands of the best shohets, the animal does not make a sound or flinch, and drops unconscious in eight to 10 seconds.

    My experiences in seeing how humane shehita can be could not have prepared me for the video taken at the kosher meat plant AgriProcessors, which recently became the center of considerable controversy. The video showed cattle that were clearly conscious after their throats had been cut and their trachea had been ripped out and was hanging from their necks.

    I have been in over 30 kosher plants, and I had never seen such a dreadful procedure. Obviously, yanking on the trachea would cause great pain and may have delayed the onset of unconsciousness.

  8. Yaakov Menken says:

    Please don’t forget that I wrote in my first post on this topic that “a more significant error is shown when someone approaches the animal immediately after the shochet (kosher slaughterer) steps back, and uses a hook to pull out the trachea. While this helps the animal bleed out faster, it is inappropriate because the cow could still be conscious for a few seconds. That practice needs to be changed immediately.”

    It is to that, and that alone, that Prof. Grandin refers. And that procedure has already been abolished. So outside of PETA fundraising, I don’t see the purpose of ongoing bashing of Rubashkin.

  9. Shmarya says:

    Dr. Grandin was referring to more than that. She also spoke specifically about animal handling before shechita, the incorrect operation of the Focomia pen, the fact that the animals were conscious after being dumped on the floor, and more.

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