Glatt or Glut? - Part II

I do believe that some activists are sincerely and passionately concerned about the state of the world, and are doing what they can to change things. And the fact is that regardless of what we think of PETA and their tactics or agenda, something does appear to be amiss in Postville, USA.

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Ellen W. Horowitz

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[Part one of this article can be read at http://www.israelnn.com/article.php3?id=4517.]

"The voice is the voice of Yaacov, and the hands are the hands of Esau." (Genesis 27:22)

Twenty-one years ago, when we were newly religious and living in Boston, my husband was explaining the reasons for our then-strictly vegetarian diet to the rabbi who managed the butcher shop and who was also the neighborhood shochet. There was no argument. The rabbi simply smiled and said, "Good. In this way, you'll never eat treif meat."

It was an honest answer from a very honorable man, who wasn't interested in making a buck off of us. He's also a very gentle and patient person, and if you saw him, you'd be apt to say, "Funny, he doesn't look like a butcher, but he must be a good one."

I have a friend who was born and raised in Iowa. Her father was an Orthodox rabbi there and he foresaw the problems with the kosher meatpacking-houses years ago. He was concerned about the fact that the shochet got paid per kill and would be under pressure to meet his enormous quota. The rabbi said that the combination of kashrut and big business was always problematic, and that mistakes were bound to be made. He curtailed his meat intake because he believed that self-control and refinement of the spirit was something a Jew should strive for.

Today, I keep a dairy kitchen, but I admit to carnivorous cravings, and I've been known to indulge in meat in a very big way at simchas. In PETA's book, does that make me a hypocrite, a barbarian, or both? I prefer to think that it makes me human.

My guts tell me that some of the angels at PETA also have those cravings, but I believe they sublimate their bloodlust into some rather ruthless campaigns and activities. Perhaps they should chill out and have a steak.

I think other members of the organization have a real taste for the grotesque, and a very warped agenda. I mean, why would an animal rights organization address a man who trained terrorists, by having them bite into live chickens and rabbits and tear them apart, as "Your Excellency"? I kid you not. PETA's letter to Yasser Arafat is online, but far be it from me to provide you with the URL.

I do believe that some activists are sincerely and passionately concerned about the state of the world, and are doing what they can to change things. And the fact is that regardless of what we think of PETA and their tactics or agenda, something does appear to be amiss in Postville, USA.

Please don't write to me about the involuntary post-shechita muscular and limb movements in animals, as I have no doubt that this phenomenon exists. However, the video seems to depict something very different. I live on a moshav that raises both dairy and beef cattle, and I can tell you that these animals are extremely heavy. For a cow to be dumped on a concrete floor and then be able to raise itself to its feet after it's dead, and to walk around for a significant period of time sounds, well... almost Arafatian (remember how long he lived after he "died"?).

It was a mistake - and a terrible one, at that. It probably happens more than it should in a factory that slaughters 18,000 animals in a seven-week period. I imagine that the USDA allows for a certain percentage of mishaps in an operation of this kind. I bet the percentages of accidents and abuses are far higher in non-kosher slaughterhouses.

But what I can't understand is why the company management and kashrut boards don't admit that they are dealing with a huge volume of production and that, under the circumstances, these accidents will sometimes occur? Why don't they announce to the public that they will review their procedures and take immediate measures to rectify and minimize the problems?

Even if they lose a figurative (financial?) arm and leg over this, at least they will have behaved with integrity and caused a kiddush Hashem rather than the opposite.

This issue won't walk away by itself (like that cow did). It may disappear for a while, but it's sure to resurface in an even more menacing form. Sure, it's an embarrassment and a shame that a questionable organization like PETA uncovered those questionable activities. But if we Jews were doing all G-d had intended for us to do in the name of humanity, then organizations like PETA would be under our supervision (with an OU hechsher), and the relationship between animals and man would be put in a proper perspective. Then, we would be the ones uncovering the abuses - and making sure they were corrected.

But now, we find ourselves in a most uncomfortable situation. Do we apologize? Do we thank PETA, kick them in the ass, or do both? Where are the voices of integrity and wisdom? Where are America's rabbinical leaders? From what I understand, the laws of shechita are fairly cut and dried - treif or kosher. So why the controversy? C'mon rabbis, where are your voices?

I would hate to think that the delay or inability to come up with a unified and appropriate response, and a creative solution, would have anything to do with pride, politics or financial loss.

We've glatt a problem. It seems the hands of Esau may have overpowered the voice of Yaacov.

[Part 2 of 2]


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