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  • Billye Thompson
    Videotapes Show Grisly Scenes at Kosher Slaughterhouse By Donald G. McNeil Jr. The New York Times November 30, 2004
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 1, 2004
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      "Videotapes Show Grisly Scenes at Kosher Slaughterhouse"

      By Donald G. McNeil Jr.

      The New York Times

      November 30, 2004
      http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/30/national/30cnd-kosh.html?
      oref=login (requires free registration)



      An animal-rights group released grisly undercover videotapes today
      showing cows in a major kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa staggering and
      bellowing in seeming agony long after their throats were cut.



      The plant, run by Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville, Iowa, is being
      denounced as inhumane by the group, People for the Ethical Treatment
      of Animals, and by several experts on animal science and kosher
      practice.



      But the plant's supervising rabbi said the tapes were "testimony
      that this is being done right." And representatives of the Orthodox
      Union, the leading organization that certifies kosher products, said
      that while the pictures were not pretty, they did not make the case
      that the slaughterhouse is violating kosher law.



      The plant is the country's largest producer of meat certified as
      glatt kosher, the highest standard for cleanliness under kosher law.
      (Glatt means smooth, or free of the lung blemishes that might
      indicate disease.) Employing 600 people and selling under the
      popular Aaron's Best brand, it is the only American plant allowed to
      export to Israel.



      On the 30-minute tape, each animal is placed in a rotating drum so
      it can be killed while upside down, as required by Orthodox rabbis
      in Israel. Immediately after the shochet, or ritual slaughterer, has
      slit the throat, another worker tears open each steer's neck with a
      hook and pulls out the trachea and esophagus. The drum rotates, and
      the steer is dumped on the floor. One after another, animals with
      dangling windpipes stand up or try to; in one case, death takes
      three minutes.



      In most kosher plants, animals are tightly penned while their
      throats are slashed, and the organs are not torn; tearing by the
      shochet is forbidden under Jewish law. In nonkosher plants, animals
      by law must be made unconscious before they are killed.



      Virtually all defenders of kosher slaughter, called shechita, insist
      that the prescribed rapid cut with a razor-sharp two-foot blade is
      humane because it causes instant and painless death. Jewish law also
      forbids killing injured or sick animals, so they may not be stunned
      first, either with clubs as in ancient times or with air hammers,
      pistols or electricity today.



      Federal law considers properly conducted religious slaughter to be
      humane, and so allows Jewish as well as Muslim slaughterhouses to
      forgo stunning. But federal rules outlaw leaving animals killed that
      way conscious "for an extended period of time."



      Rabbi Chaim Kohn, of the Agriprocessors plant, says the cows feel
      nothing, even as they struggle on the floor and slam their heads
      into walls. "Unconsciousness and the external behavior of the animal
      have nothing to do with shechita," he said. Because the throat-
      tearing happens after the shochet's cut, he said, it does not render
      the animal nonkosher.



      Other experts in kosher law were divided on the issue.



      Rabbis Menachem Genack and Yisroel Belsky, the chief experts for the
      Orthodox Union, which certifies over 600,000 products as kosher -
      including Aaron's Best meats - said the killings on the tape,
      while "gruesome," appeared kosher because the shochet checked to
      make sure he had severed both the trachea and esophagus.



      Scientific studies, Rabbi Belsky said, found that an animal whose
      brain had lost blood pressure when its throat was slit felt nothing
      and any motions it made were involuntary.



      "The perfect model is the headless chicken running around," said
      Rabbi Genack.



      Both rabbis said they were willing to revisit the plant and study
      whether tearing the throat or letting steers thrash on the ground
      violated Talmudic proscriptions against cruelty to animals.



      The union, they said, prefers a type of pen designed by the American
      Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in which steers
      are killed standing up with their weight supported. They were
      designed in the 1950's so American kosher plants could stop killing
      live animals suspended on chains, which was seen as both cruel and
      dangerous to the slaughterer.



      But a spokesman for Shechita UK, a British lobbying group that
      defends ritual slaughter against the protests of animal-rights
      activists, said after watching the tape with a rabbi and a British
      shochet that he "felt queasy," and added, "I don't know what that
      is, but it's not shechita."



      The spokesman, Shimon Cohen, said that in Britain an animal must be
      restrained for 30 seconds to bleed, and no second cut is allowed.
      Done correctly, he said, a shochet's cut must produce instantaneous
      unconsciousness, so Agriprocessors' meat could not be considered
      kosher.



      Asked how prominent authorities could disagree over such a
      fundamental issue, he replied: "Well, we don't have a pope. You do
      find rabbis who interpret things in different ways."



      Dr. Temple Grandin, a veterinarian at Colorado State University who
      designs humane slaughter plants, viewed the tape last week without
      knowing the location. She called it "an atrocious abomination,
      nothing like I've seen in 30 kosher plants I've visited here and in
      England, France, Ireland and Canada."



      She said the throat-tearing violated federal anti-cruelty
      law. "Nothing in the Humane Slaughter Act says you can start
      dismembering an animal while it's still conscious," she said.



      A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, which also certifies
      the plant, said it had not received the tapes yet and had no comment.



      Rabbi Kohn, of Agriprocessors, said the throat-tearing was done only
      to speed bleeding. Recent Federal rules for slaughterhouse
      inspectors do recognize "the ritual cut and any additional cut to
      facilitate bleeding" as different from skinning or butchering, which
      is forbidden "until the animal is insensible."



      The plant is at the center of a 2000 book, "Postville: A Clash of
      Cultures in Heartland America," by Stephen G. Bloom, which described
      the tensions in the tiny farming town between residents and Hasidic
      Jews from Brooklyn who took over its defunct slaughterhouse in 1987.



      People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, posted
      the tapes at GoVeg.com today and demanded that the plant be
      prosecuted for animal cruelty and decertified by kosher authorities.
      While the group advocates vegetarianism, it accepts that shechita
      can be relatively painless, said Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman.



      Mr. Friedrich said that after two fruitless years of pressing
      Agriprocessors to improve conditions, PETA sent a volunteer to the
      plant with a hidden camera for seven weeks last summer.



      The cameraman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had no
      trouble being hired (he was assigned to the sausage department) or
      filming during his lunch hours and on days he called in sick.



      "I'm glad I did it," said the young man, who became a vegetarian and
      volunteered for undercover work two years ago after seeing a PETA
      videotape. "I wish people who eat meat could stand where I did and
      see the things I saw."



      Meat from the Agriprocessors plant can end up in any market or
      restaurant. Because Jewish law requires that the sciatic nerves and
      certain fats be cut out, which tears up the meat until it can only
      be sold as hamburger, the hindquarters of virtually all kosher-
      killed steers are sold as conventional meat.
    • Billye Thompson
      What the investgator saw http://www.goveg.com/feat/agriprocessors/investigator.asp Eyewitness Testimony From PETA s Investigation Into AgriProcessors, Inc.,
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 1, 2004
      • 0 Attachment
        "What the investgator saw"

        http://www.goveg.com/feat/agriprocessors/investigator.asp

        Eyewitness Testimony From PETA's Investigation
        Into AgriProcessors, Inc., Kosher Slaughterhouse
        PETA's investigator witnessed egregiously cruel slaughter methods
        being used at an AgriProcessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville,
        Iowa. Cattle, chickens, and turkeys suffered through prolonged
        consciousness after having their throats cut and being dismembered
        while still fully conscious. Many instances of inhumane slaughter
        were captured on film. The following are excerpts from the
        investigator's notes:


        • The cow was loaded into a machine that resembles a large metal
        tube. His head stuck out of the front, then a metal bar clamped
        under his neck and forced his head upwards and back, cocked in an
        awkward and painful-looking position. The entire machine rotated,
        turning the cow upside-down. This process seemed to terrify him—his
        eyes were wide with fright—I imagine because he had never been in
        such a helpless position. The cow's exposed neck was scrubbed with a
        hose and brush, then a rabbi came out of a small room and slit the
        cow's throat. Another worker followed the rabbi and gouged a chunk
        of flesh out of the cow's neck and then pulled his trachea or
        esophagus (I'm not sure which one) outside of his throat so that it
        hung down. Then the machine reverted the cow into an upright
        position. The trap door on the side opened up and the cow was dumped
        onto the floor, where another worker attached a chain to the
        animal's ankle so that he could be hoisted into the air and sent
        down the line.

        • Many cows were still alive and conscious when they came out of the
        tube and were slammed onto the floor. Their heads often hit the
        concrete with a sickening crack. I watched as one cow landed on his
        feet and started scrambling around with a shocked look on his face.
        The workers simply jumped behind their barricade and waited for him
        to collapse.

        • A cow stood up after being dumped on the floor and went into the
        corner. They managed to kill one or two more cows while he lay there
        moving around trying to stand up. He continually moved his nearly
        severed head around … as his legs were also making an effort to
        stand.

        • Some birds fell after being placed into buckets—these birds
        flopped around on the ground violently, and once stopped, they were
        thrown into the garbage.

        • I took footage of chickens in trailers where the vents/fans were
        not running. It's August 11 and really hot. I also took footage of
        the dumping of chickens onto the conveyor system to be killed. I
        noticed that one chicken had her foot caught between the conveyor
        and the wall, and she was unable to pull her foot out.

        • The auger broke today. That's the machinery that brings the
        inedible parts out to the trailer to be dumped. The inedible matter
        went all over the basement. The maintenance man told me that the
        inedible matter was sent to be used in pet food and cosmetics.

        • The USDA inspector, Chad, told me that there is another kosher
        plant in Waterloo called Cason. They use a different method, one
        recommended by Temple Grandin, where the cows are lowered onto their
        stomachs instead of being turned upside-down in this horrible
        machine.

        • I filmed another chicken who was caught in the conveyor system of
        the poultry line. This time, the chicken's head and wing were caught
        between the retaining wall and the conveyor. I did my best to free
        her, but access to the conveyor itself was blocked.

        • The first time I saw a cow stagger to his feet and walk around
        with his trachea dangling outside of his body, I thought to myself,
        this can't be happening—but after several days I knew better.

        • The suffering and cruelty I witnessed didn't phase anyone on that
        killing floor.

        • I just wish that people who eat meat could stand where I did for a
        day and see cows whose eyes are wide with fright have their throats
        slit and tracheas gouged out.

        • There is no justification for the cruelty I documented in that
        slaughterhouse. The presence of the USDA didn't have any effect, nor
        did the presence of the rabbis. These animals were failed by both
        religion and regulations.





        --- In activistsagainstfactoryfarming@yahoogroups.com, "Billye
        Thompson" <billyethompson@c...> wrote:
        >
        > "Videotapes Show Grisly Scenes at Kosher Slaughterhouse"
        >
        > By Donald G. McNeil Jr.
        >
        > The New York Times
        >
        > November 30, 2004
        > http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/30/national/30cnd-kosh.html?
        > oref=login (requires free registration)
        >
        >
        >
        > An animal-rights group released grisly undercover videotapes today
        > showing cows in a major kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa staggering
        and
        > bellowing in seeming agony long after their throats were cut.
        >
        >
        >
        > The plant, run by Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville, Iowa, is being
        > denounced as inhumane by the group, People for the Ethical
        Treatment
        > of Animals, and by several experts on animal science and kosher
        > practice.
        >
        >
        >
        > But the plant's supervising rabbi said the tapes were "testimony
        > that this is being done right." And representatives of the
        Orthodox
        > Union, the leading organization that certifies kosher products,
        said
        > that while the pictures were not pretty, they did not make the
        case
        > that the slaughterhouse is violating kosher law.
        >
        >
        >
        > The plant is the country's largest producer of meat certified as
        > glatt kosher, the highest standard for cleanliness under kosher
        law.
        > (Glatt means smooth, or free of the lung blemishes that might
        > indicate disease.) Employing 600 people and selling under the
        > popular Aaron's Best brand, it is the only American plant allowed
        to
        > export to Israel.
        >
        >
        >
        > On the 30-minute tape, each animal is placed in a rotating drum so
        > it can be killed while upside down, as required by Orthodox rabbis
        > in Israel. Immediately after the shochet, or ritual slaughterer,
        has
        > slit the throat, another worker tears open each steer's neck with
        a
        > hook and pulls out the trachea and esophagus. The drum rotates,
        and
        > the steer is dumped on the floor. One after another, animals with
        > dangling windpipes stand up or try to; in one case, death takes
        > three minutes.
        >
        >
        >
        > In most kosher plants, animals are tightly penned while their
        > throats are slashed, and the organs are not torn; tearing by the
        > shochet is forbidden under Jewish law. In nonkosher plants,
        animals
        > by law must be made unconscious before they are killed.
        >
        >
        >
        > Virtually all defenders of kosher slaughter, called shechita,
        insist
        > that the prescribed rapid cut with a razor-sharp two-foot blade is
        > humane because it causes instant and painless death. Jewish law
        also
        > forbids killing injured or sick animals, so they may not be
        stunned
        > first, either with clubs as in ancient times or with air hammers,
        > pistols or electricity today.
        >
        >
        >
        > Federal law considers properly conducted religious slaughter to be
        > humane, and so allows Jewish as well as Muslim slaughterhouses to
        > forgo stunning. But federal rules outlaw leaving animals killed
        that
        > way conscious "for an extended period of time."
        >
        >
        >
        > Rabbi Chaim Kohn, of the Agriprocessors plant, says the cows feel
        > nothing, even as they struggle on the floor and slam their heads
        > into walls. "Unconsciousness and the external behavior of the
        animal
        > have nothing to do with shechita," he said. Because the throat-
        > tearing happens after the shochet's cut, he said, it does not
        render
        > the animal nonkosher.
        >
        >
        >
        > Other experts in kosher law were divided on the issue.
        >
        >
        >
        > Rabbis Menachem Genack and Yisroel Belsky, the chief experts for
        the
        > Orthodox Union, which certifies over 600,000 products as kosher -
        > including Aaron's Best meats - said the killings on the tape,
        > while "gruesome," appeared kosher because the shochet checked to
        > make sure he had severed both the trachea and esophagus.
        >
        >
        >
        > Scientific studies, Rabbi Belsky said, found that an animal whose
        > brain had lost blood pressure when its throat was slit felt
        nothing
        > and any motions it made were involuntary.
        >
        >
        >
        > "The perfect model is the headless chicken running around," said
        > Rabbi Genack.
        >
        >
        >
        > Both rabbis said they were willing to revisit the plant and study
        > whether tearing the throat or letting steers thrash on the ground
        > violated Talmudic proscriptions against cruelty to animals.
        >
        >
        >
        > The union, they said, prefers a type of pen designed by the
        American
        > Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in which steers
        > are killed standing up with their weight supported. They were
        > designed in the 1950's so American kosher plants could stop
        killing
        > live animals suspended on chains, which was seen as both cruel and
        > dangerous to the slaughterer.
        >
        >
        >
        > But a spokesman for Shechita UK, a British lobbying group that
        > defends ritual slaughter against the protests of animal-rights
        > activists, said after watching the tape with a rabbi and a British
        > shochet that he "felt queasy," and added, "I don't know what that
        > is, but it's not shechita."
        >
        >
        >
        > The spokesman, Shimon Cohen, said that in Britain an animal must
        be
        > restrained for 30 seconds to bleed, and no second cut is allowed.
        > Done correctly, he said, a shochet's cut must produce
        instantaneous
        > unconsciousness, so Agriprocessors' meat could not be considered
        > kosher.
        >
        >
        >
        > Asked how prominent authorities could disagree over such a
        > fundamental issue, he replied: "Well, we don't have a pope. You do
        > find rabbis who interpret things in different ways."
        >
        >
        >
        > Dr. Temple Grandin, a veterinarian at Colorado State University
        who
        > designs humane slaughter plants, viewed the tape last week without
        > knowing the location. She called it "an atrocious abomination,
        > nothing like I've seen in 30 kosher plants I've visited here and
        in
        > England, France, Ireland and Canada."
        >
        >
        >
        > She said the throat-tearing violated federal anti-cruelty
        > law. "Nothing in the Humane Slaughter Act says you can start
        > dismembering an animal while it's still conscious," she said.
        >
        >
        >
        > A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, which also
        certifies
        > the plant, said it had not received the tapes yet and had no
        comment.
        >
        >
        >
        > Rabbi Kohn, of Agriprocessors, said the throat-tearing was done
        only
        > to speed bleeding. Recent Federal rules for slaughterhouse
        > inspectors do recognize "the ritual cut and any additional cut to
        > facilitate bleeding" as different from skinning or butchering,
        which
        > is forbidden "until the animal is insensible."
        >
        >
        >
        > The plant is at the center of a 2000 book, "Postville: A Clash of
        > Cultures in Heartland America," by Stephen G. Bloom, which
        described
        > the tensions in the tiny farming town between residents and
        Hasidic
        > Jews from Brooklyn who took over its defunct slaughterhouse in
        1987.
        >
        >
        >
        > People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, posted
        > the tapes at GoVeg.com today and demanded that the plant be
        > prosecuted for animal cruelty and decertified by kosher
        authorities.
        > While the group advocates vegetarianism, it accepts that shechita
        > can be relatively painless, said Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman.
        >
        >
        >
        > Mr. Friedrich said that after two fruitless years of pressing
        > Agriprocessors to improve conditions, PETA sent a volunteer to the
        > plant with a hidden camera for seven weeks last summer.
        >
        >
        >
        > The cameraman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had no
        > trouble being hired (he was assigned to the sausage department) or
        > filming during his lunch hours and on days he called in sick.
        >
        >
        >
        > "I'm glad I did it," said the young man, who became a vegetarian
        and
        > volunteered for undercover work two years ago after seeing a PETA
        > videotape. "I wish people who eat meat could stand where I did and
        > see the things I saw."
        >
        >
        >
        > Meat from the Agriprocessors plant can end up in any market or
        > restaurant. Because Jewish law requires that the sciatic nerves
        and
        > certain fats be cut out, which tears up the meat until it can only
        > be sold as hamburger, the hindquarters of virtually all kosher-
        > killed steers are sold as conventional meat.
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