OKS Kashrut

Orthodox Kashrut Supervision Services


… Cut Once!

Back when the PETA video was first released, the response from the Kashruth organizations was unified and clear: PETA is anti-carnivore and therefore anything they say against Kashruth should be dismissed. Instead of addressing the issues that were shown in the video point-by-point, the issues we have already discussed were completely bypassed. The OU chose to acknowledge only one issue and that was the issue of a second individual using a meat hook and yanking parts of the innards immediately after the slaughter by the Shochet was done.

“Nothing in any such post-shechita “second cut” or excision in any way undermines the validity of the shechita itself or the kosher status of the slaughtered animal’s meat.”

Statement of Rabbis and Certifying Agencies on Recent Publicity on Kosher Slaughter (December 8, 2004)

“The second cut into the carotid arteries … need not be done by a “shochet” (as explained in Yoreh Deah, Siman 22).”

– Rabbi Menachem Genack (Daf Hakashrus, January 2005)

The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah (22) discusses certain practices that needs to be done if one will cook an animal or bird whole. For birds, one is required to cut the carotid artery during Shechita or to follow a number of other less preferable practices to ensure that one is not in violation of eating blood (YD 22:1).   For cattle, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 22:2) states that “since it is uncommon to cook cattle whole, there is no need to pierce the carotid artery.” However, if one is planning to roast it whole, one must pierce the carotid artery. What seemed like a big controversy is now resolved, the practice of cutting the carotid artery, while not necessary in all circumstances, is permitted.

Not so fast. The issues displayed in this single act are much more than the piercing of the carotid artery after the initial Shechita and the white-washing of the issues only highlights the deep rooted problems with the state of Kashruth today. The second cut issues can be broken down into the following questions:

  1. With what is the post-shechita cutting being done?
  2. Who is doing the post-shechita cutting of the arteries?
  3. Can a knife be used to cut a second animal before the first animal has been determined to be Kosher?
  4. Can someone who is not careful or required to eat kosher be part of the Shechita process?
  5. What is the status of an animal that has been slaughtered properly and then left alone with a non-Jew?

To be perfectly clear, the only person who is permitted to have any interaction with the recently slaughtered animal until it completely stops moving is the Shochet. He is permitted to pierce the arteries with a non-metal tool. He is required to place his bare hand inside the throat to feel that the cut was smooth. He is forbidden from leaving the animal alone with any one (Jew or non-Jew) who is not strict about eating Kosher until the internal examination has been done and the animal is marked as Kosher or not Kosher. And any metal tool that cut into an animal that is determined to be not Kosher must undergo a Koshering process itself before it can be used again.

Unlike the OU, I have no intention of making general comments without full backing from traditional rabbinic sources. My only aim is to educate all those who care about eating Kosher about the cover up that has been sanctioned. The very essence of Kashruth is built on trust and if we cannot trust our Kashruth organizations to come clean and admit fault when faced with clear video evidence of non Kosher being passed as Kosher, their symbols serve the opposite purpose than intended. The OU symbol, and those of the other organizations that have deceived the majority of American Orthodox Jewry, should be considered as no more a symbol of Kosher than a “K.” They misrepresent Shechitah and many other aspects of Kosher, and it cannot be allowed to continue.

A central issue in the Halachot (laws) pertaining to these matters is that any action that can be perceived as allowing two cuts is forbidden and we automatically consider the animal not Kosher to avoid misinterpretation.

The codified authorities do not seem confused by this. In Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 23:5) the Rama explains that if after the initial Shechita the animal’s life lingers (as is the case in nearly every animal shown in the PETA video) it is forbidden to cut the animal again to accelerate it’s death. Though not the topic of today’s post, it is impossible to look past the fact that the understanding that the animal could still be alive after Shechita flies in the face of the OU’s claim that the animal is rendered insensible almost instantaneously. In Israel and the UK it is forbidden to move or cut the animal for at least 30 seconds after Shechita to avoid any confusion. Regardless of the reason to cut a second time, the language is very clear across the Halachic authorities, it is forbidden to cut into the animal a second time while it still shows signs of life. Rabbi Yaakov Weil (the Mahariv, 15th century) as well as Rashi and many others explain that the language of the Biblical verses uses the word “VeShachat,” the slaughtering is mentioned in the singular to exclude the possibility of two cuts, whether by the same person or two different people. This is most clearly stated by the Daat Zekeinim on Leviticus 1:5, “‘He will slaughter’: the singular form is used because that is the method of slaughter.” He explains in full that all other verbs relating to the proceedings are in plural form.

Don’t be mistaken that the cutting that we are concerned with is not with a Shechita knife. In the laws of Shechita, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Shapira writes in his Darchei T’shuva (22:4),  that it is forbidden to use a nail or other metal object to do the post-Shechita piercing. All the sources are explicit in this matter: even if it would be very hard to confuse the action with a second Shechita it is still forbidden. Even if using a serrated knife (or in the case of the videos, a metal hook), even if being done by someone who isn’t Jewish (and therefore would not be confused with a Shochet, who must be), the rabbinic authorities echo over1 and over: doing a second cut into the animal renders it completely not Kosher. What the video shows and the rabbis have permitted cannot be waived away with the permission (no requirement) to pierce the carotid arteries with a non-metal device.

Rubashkin owned operations that produced two thirds of the meat marked as Kosher in America for many years. Every individual who only buys meat marked as Glatt Kosher was eating Treif (non-Kosher). Their pots and pans transfer the non-Kosher status to all other food cooked in them. Their knives transfer it to items that they cut. It cannot be overstated because even if the OU were to produce a source, whose works are unknown to me (and clearly unknown to the leading Rabbis in the UK and Israel), who is considered an accepted authority for the Ashkenazic rules of Shechita, who in no uncertain terms allows this practice, all the animals displayed in the video would still be considered not Kosher.  (We would also need to ignore the Halachic process that would never allow a community to suddenly adopt the ruling of a minority opinion as a standard practice.)

As we have stated above, if your knife was used to cut into meat that is not Kosher, it cannot then be used for Kosher. This the same with the knives and metal hooks used in the slaughterhouse when an animal is internally investigated and found to have internal issues that would render it not kosher. According to a statement, attributed to the OU’s Rabbi Seth Mandel, only 30% of the animals Shechted end up being marked as Kosher, the rest are sold as non-Kosher meat to other suppliers. At that rate all the cutting implements would be required to undergo a Koshering process between each use. However, the video shows that the post-slaughter implements are taken off the wall and simply replaced there. The need to make the knives Kosher is not under dispute and yet, knowing full-well that the knives were previously used to cut a non-Kosher animal, they are used on a potentially Kosher one without purification.  (The actual Shechita knives leave the room and while there is no reason to trust that any part of the operation was done correctly, we can pretend for our purposes that the Shechita knife was purified between uses.)

Furthermore, there is still the issues of who is doing the cutting and what they are cutting. Within seconds after the Shechita, the Shochet leaves the room on to the next animal. As with any industry with competitive pricing, the Shochet needs to be hasty to fulfill his share of the quota. The problem here is that there is no allowance to leave an animal that has not yet been checked with someone who isn’t careful about Kashruth (Jew or non-Jew). This is even more the case if we should have any suspicion that the person would put his hand inside the animal. And yet, in the video, it is clear that that is exactly what they are paid to do! The Rama (Yoreh Deah 39:17) states that even though we might be able to allow the simple act of leaving the animal with someone who isn’t Jewish, if it was done intentionally we have to consider the animal not Kosher. The commentaries of the Shach, Rabbi Akiva Eiger and others all declare that if it is done as a routine practice to leave the animal alone with someone not versed and obligated in the laws of Kosher, it is considered a willful desecration of the Shechita and the animal needs to be considered not Kosher. The Mizbeach HaOlah (17:12) commentary allows no room for misinterpretation as to the reason for this prohibition, “perhaps the non-Jew will reach into the animal and cause lung adhesions to be detached.” Perhaps?! As far as anyone can tell from the video, part of their instructions were to violently shake the animal via the trachea and esophagus – surely causing adhesions to be detached. Even the Shochet is instructed to be very gently with his post Shechita check. The Zivchei Zedek and the Tevuot Shor both make it clear that any action of pulling or shaking the trachea before careful internal examination causes the animal to be one hundred percent Treif.

Can any person, with an unbiased opinion and with an an understanding of what is required and what is forbidden in the laws of Shechita, see the PETA video and accept the animals as candidates to be marked as Glatt Kosher? Where can someone find the reasonable doubt of trust in the organizations that have signed a document permitting these practices, among them the OU, the RCA, the Star-K, and the CRC? As these organizations are identified as being willing to declare that which is not kosher to be kosher, what value do they have?

It is claimed that the custom of eating only Glatt Kosher meat was encouraged to curtail Shochtim passing not Kosher for Kosher because of the monetary loss incurred by not being able to sell it at the higher price of Kosher. Now the Kashruth agencies have created an essential monopoly on what meat the mass of Orthodoxy will consider Kosher. At the same time they have brought truth to the words of Rabbi Yosef Soleveichik (Of Blessed Memory), when asked about the (then new) trend of Glatt, he famously responded: “we can only hope that it is at all Kosher.”

  1. For full disclosure: The Shach quotes the Ran, who is the lone authority that allows cutting with a knife not fit for Shechita. He immediately dismisses the reasoning to allow such a thing as unfounded and no community accepts the Ran’s opinion as their custom, certainly not as a standard practice.
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