Saturday, December 9, 2006

Is kosher meat more humane than other meat?

I was asked by a co-worker is kosher meat was humanely slaughtered meat and I promised I would investigate and report back. I'll warn you ahead of time, this one might get a bit gross. My co-worker told me that she thinks that when something is labeled kosher that it means that the animal was humanely killed. I didn't know anything about this so I did some internet research.

Personally I don't think it is possible to "humanely" slaughter an animal. Think about it. How humane would you find it if someone slit your throat? or your pet's throat? I never find killing to be humane. But, is it MORE humane than other slaughterhouse methods? The answer is unclear. It depends on which slaughterhouse (more about that later) and whether you care about how humanely the animal is raised.

Kosher Slaughterhouse procedure vs other slaughterhouse procedure - According to Judaism 101, "Ritual slaughter is known as shechitah, and the person who performs the slaughter is called a shochet, both from the Hebrew root Shin-Chet-Tav, meaning to destroy or kill. The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. This method is painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds, and is widely recognized as the most humane method of slaughter possible". In a traditional slaughterhouse cows "are shot in the head with a bolt gun, hung up by their legs, and taken onto the killing floor, where their throats are cut and they are skinned. Some cows remain fully conscious throughout the entire process" (link).

Jewish Beliefs on Compassion - "Whether we look at modern Jewish social justice work or ancient rabbinic rulings, Jews have always insisted on the importance of having compassion for animals and reducing unnecessary animal suffering—tsa'ar ba'alei chayim in Hebrew" (link).

Is it really more humane?

Unfortunatly, PETA has undercover video which shows that not all kosher slaughterhouses are as humane as they claim. "PETA’s undercover investigator videotaped workers at the plant who were ripping the tracheas and esophagi out of the throats of fully conscious cows and improperly slaughtering them with the result that many were still attempting to stand three minutes after their throats were slit." (link, and Washington Post article). The USDA did find that Agriprocessors violated the humane kosher laws, and even worse that USDA Inspectors took gifts as bribes to keep quiet.

Even if Kosher meat is more humanely killed, the meat generally comes from the same inhumane factory farms as all other meat. "Cattle raised for kosher meat are castrated, their horns are ripped from their heads, and third-degree burns (branding) are inflicted on them—all without any painkillers" - (link). Since it is important to Jews to have compassion for animals and reduce animal suffering, I cannot see any alternatives other than to stop eating meat (cows, chickens, pigs, and all other animals).

And if you have managed to read this far, I encourage you to check out for more information about how eating meat fits in with the commandments of the Torah.

Hopefully, since I am not Jewish, I didn't manage to incorrectly use terms or say something offensive. If I did, I apologize.

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