In my last post, I went into detail about how causing pain or stress to an animal, immediately prior to or during slaughter, renders the animal unfit for slaughter. If one were to slaughter the animal anyway, one need not look at the internal signs of Kashruth as the animal is automatically considered treif (not Kosher).
Putting that aside for the moment, there are more ways that an outside observer can detect an improper slaughter during the actual Shechita (slaughter). When watching the videos publicized by PETA containing practices that the OU repeatedly stated were within the boundaries of Halacha, it is important to remember that PETA had no intention of exposing issues of Halacha as they do not claim any expertise in Jewish law! The supervising agencies have taken on the awesome responsibility of providing Kosher meat to the public. Therefore, they have an obligation to provide sources for each step of the Shechita process shown in the video that might be interpreted as incorrect in the eyes of Jewish law. Instead of doing this, they have simply dismissed any concerns out of hand.
The rebuttal from the Kashruth organizations against the claims made by PETA years ago was focused on the issue of the “second cut,” which I will explain in detail in my next post. However, as I’ve already shown that many of the animals shown in the video marked as kosher are considered not Kosher before Shechita starts because of Tzaar Baalei Chaim (causing undo pain to animals). An additional number of them are considered not Kosher because the act of cutting was not done correctly. Look closely at the Shochet’s left hand in the video below.
In the video, those doing the Shechita are shown consistently abiding by the rules pertaining to the knife’s movement. To their credit, there is no pause in movement, no chopping action and if there was any tearing of the trachea or esophagus it could not be attributed to the way the knife is being handled. On the other hand, he’s wearing a glove. Rav Moshe Feinstein expressly forbid wearing a glove during two parts of Shechita. It is forbidden when checking the knife for nicks before and after and it is forbidden when using the fingers to check that the trachea and esophagus were correctly severed. (A full explanation can be heard here by Rabbi Eli Mansour: http://www.dailyhalacha.com/HalachaClips/1141.mp3.)
Aside from wearing the glove being problematic, where is the checking of the knife? The knife must be checked immediately before and after Shechita to see if the knife is proper (no grooves or nicks) before and to make sure the knife did not become imperfect during. If the knife becomes imperfect during the cutting, the animal is not kosher. If one slaughters 10 animals without checking the knife in between and the knife is found to be imperfect at the end, all 10 animals are considered not kosher! But how would anyone know? The Shochet leaves the animal immediately without checking and the animal is carried out of the room!
The issue of the Shochet wearing a glove is clearly visible and without question causes a problem for the animal to be considered Kosher.
The second issue shown repeatedly in the video is very clearly depicted below.
If is not immediately obvious what problem the above video shows, compare it with this other video of Shechita done for reporters and Rabbis on tour of Agriprocessors in 2008.
Aside from the amazing single-stroke action of the blade (compared with the multiple back and forth “sawing”) his other hand plays a crucial role.
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 20:4) relates the need to hold the trachea forward to ensure that the it is cut first. It is because of this that the animals shown in the PETA video are struggling well after the incision. If the rules of Shechita are done properly, and the carotid artery, jugular vein, trachea and esophagus are all cut in a single motion, the animal will feel almost no pain (according to Temple Grandin the animal has about the same reaction as to an ear piercing) and will be completely motionless in 10-30 seconds. The evidence from the videos is that either the knife was not checked or the knife did not cut the correct organs. Unless there is some other source that the OU is hiding from us, these animals cannot be considered Kosher. That the OU, the Star-K, the CRC (and others) all stood together to say the practices in the video were acceptable (without even listing all the issues) puts the entire establishment of organized Kashruth into an untrustworthy state.
Throughout history, it has been well established that different communities had differing ideas of what constitutes Kosher (famous examples include Chullin 110a regarding the udder of a cow and Chullin 116a regarding mixing chicken and milk), but in these cases, the key element is transparency. The ability to rely on a Kosher symbol is based on the principle of trust. Trust that the principles of Kosher by which you abide are being maintained. If an organization is going to mark something as Kosher for the entire community to eat and rely on a minority opinion that cannot be easily found, they need to disclose their questionable practices and their sources. If the heads of these Kashruth organizations won’t respond to direct inquiry about their acceptance of a problematic practice that has been viewed publicly, how do their symbols retain any meaning?