Iowa slaughterhouse accused by animal-rights group.
law for the humane treatment of animals during the
One expert in slaughtering practices who says she has
visited 30 kosher slaughtering plants said that from
what she can tell from the video, the practices at
t's not every day that people affiliated with a stri-
griprocessors are poor. "I've never seen trachea
dent animal-rights group talk turkey with those
removal before," said Temple Grandin, an associate
who oversee kosher slaughter.
professor of animal science at Colorado State
But that's exactly what happened this week, when an
unpaid adviser to People for the Ethical Treatment of
"Nobody else cuts out the trachea, and they're doing
Animals discussed allegations of improper slaughtering
it while the animal is still conscious," said Grandin,
practices at an Iowa kosher plant with the head of the
who was the expert PETA had wanted to have access to
Orthodox Union's kashrut division.
the plant. O.U. officials say the animal is unconscious
Late-afternoon Tuesday, Nov. 30, talks involving
after the throat is slit.
Aaron Gross, a doctoral student at Harvard, and Rabbi
Some Orthodox officials called PETA's campaign an
Menachem Genack were the latest development in a
on shechitah in general and part of a history of
story that has placed the slaughter practices at
Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville, Iowa, under question.
"Shechitah often comes under attack by ele-
They also came one day after the animal-rights
ments that are unsavory, and in general PETA is
group, known as PETA, filed a complaint with
not an organization that commands our great
the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The com-
respect," said Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for
plaint alleges that the plant is violating Jewish law
Agudath Israel of America in New York.
by not instantly killing the animals and, therefore, ALAN HITSKY
He and others noted that the Nazis publicized
is violating U.S. laws of slaughter, which allow for
photographs of Jews performing cruel slaughter
Jewish ritual slaughter.
griprocessors in Iowa is currently the only source of
practices as part of their campaign to inflame sen-
The telephone discussion between PETA and
fresh kosher meat in the Detroit area.
timent against Jews.
the Orthodox Union ended in an impasse, partic-
For several years, the Iowa plant and Cornbelt
"We'll put them on the wall with Hitler," said
Packing in Detroit were the two sources of fresh meat
Nathan Lewin, an Orthodox Jew and lawyer for
The controversy — which has alarmed some
approved by the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater
griprocessors, referring to PETA. He added,
Orthodox institutions — is being seen as the
PETA folks might not like eggs, but they
most widely publicized dispute over kosher
Michigan Avenue in Detroit, west of the old Michigan Central have eggs all over their face.
slaughter in the United States in a decade.
Station, was severely damaged in a fire. The plant is being
Lewin, citing a 1997 judgment in which ABC
At issue is an undercover video taken by PETA-
but no date has been set for reopening.
was ordered to pay $5.5 million to the supermar-
affiliated individuals over a seven-week period
Rabbi Joseph D. Krupnik, kashrut director for the Vaad, was
ket chain Food Lion following an investigative
between July and September that shows animals
too concerned by early reports on the PETA charges
piece that alleged food safety violations, suggested
being slaughtered at the Agriprocessors plant,
against Agriprocessors. "Bluntly, if it came from certain
that PETA could be subject to legal action.
which processes meat for the Rubashkin/Aaron's
PETA is known for its aggressive tactics in pro-
Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Windsor. "But I'm not
moting its animal-rights agenda. The group gen-
One of the plant's supervisors is the Orthodox
impressed with this source." He said whatever method the cat-
erated controversy last year when it compared the
Union, a major supervisor of kosher food in the
tle are killed, PETA "wouldn't be happy."
meat industry to the Holocaust.
United States. In the gory video, one slaughterer
A few minutes after talking to the Jewish News on
The billboards also included the line:
cuts a cow's throat, resulting in extensive bleeding,
"Drinking milk contributes to prostate cancer."
while another worker takes the trachea out. Other Wednesday, the rabbi called back to say that he had received
But in this case, PETA is presenting a more
clips show cows running around and looking alive several telephone calls about the situation and a New York
face. Those affiliated with PETA said
after the killing is presumably completed.
is not going after kosher slaughter, but
"This not how shechitah [kosher slaughter] is
just those practices under way at Agriprocessors.
supposed to be done," said Tal Ronen, a
Further, they say, PETA is sensitive to issues of
spokesman for the Norfolk, Va.-based PETA. "If
deciding how to handle the complaint.
it's done correctly, the animal is supposed to be dead in
"PETA has gone out of its way" to avoid anti-
Rabbi Genack said he had discussed the issue with
30 seconds to one minute."
Semitism, and agrees that shechitah, when properly
USDA officials, and is confident that government
Orthodox officials, while admitting the video isn't
practiced, is a "better procedure than general meat
guidelines are being followed satisfactorily.
pretty, don't agree, saying that reflexive movements by
industry practices," Gross said.
animals after they are slaughtered are not uncommon.
Gross, a doctoral student in religious studies at
lows the practices set out by its kosher supervisors.
"We thought it was in consonance with the
Harvard who describes himself as a liberal but active
"Agriprocessors does not control anything that hap-
Halachah [Jewish law]," the O.U.'s Rabbi Genack said
Jew — and a member of the Jewish Vegetarians of
pens in the kosher ritual processes. We adhere strictly
after viewing the video.
North America's advisory committee — became
to the instructions given to us by the rabbinic authori-
PETA first raised the issue with Agriprocessors last
involved in the issue after the exchange of letters with
ties and will continue to do so," the statement said.
June after being tipped off to allegations of improper
Lewin failed. II
'As we always have, we will also continue to follow
procedures inside the plant.
In an exchange of letters, PETA raised objections and
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
asked that an expert on slaughter be allowed to witness
the process. Agriprocessors responded through its attor-
ney, Nathan Lewin, who asked for more specifics.
PETA said it followed up with that request, but
Lewin said he never received the second letter. PETA
said that after they did not get a response from Lewin,
they pursued the undercover investigation.
PETA filed a complaint with the USDA, complain-
ing that government regulations were not being fol-
lowed at Agriprocessors. It sought suspension of the
plant's license and possible criminal proceedings.
PETAs letter to the USDA details what it calls viola-
tions of the 1902 Humane Methods of Livestock
Steven Cohen, a spokesman for the USDA, con-
firmed the government agency had received the PETA
letter but said it was waiting to review the video before
Detroit's Sole Source