20 October 2004

Kosher Killing

One of my readers took my advice and read Mylan Engel's essay "The Immorality of Eating Meat," a link to which appears on the left. The reader said that kosher killing is morally superior to other sorts of killing. I forwarded the reader's letter to Mylan, who responded this morning as follows:
Dear Keith:

One of your readers, J. Wetstein PE, insists that my claims about "kosher slaughter" are inaccurate. S/he goes on to claim that you won't find a more humane treatment of animals for meat production than with kosher standards, but s/he offers no evidence in support of this claim. It sounds like a religious conviction rather than a well-founded, evidence-based empirical claim. So, let's look at the facts. According to "Kashrut" (Jewish dietary laws), the animal must be fully conscious when slaughtered. 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 supposedly painless and is supposed to cause unconsciousness within two seconds and is therefore thought to be the most humane method of slaughter.

In theory, that may be correct, but in practice, kosher slaughter, at least in the U.S., makes for a horrific death for the animals so slaughtered. Moreover, even if kosher slaughter were more humane than other forms of slaughter, that would have no impact on the handling and transportation of the animals on their way to the slaughterhouse. These animals are prodded with electric cattle prods and beaten with metal poles to drive them onto the trucks. They are then shipped long distances without food or water and without adequate protection from the elements. In winter, some animals literally freeze to the sides of these trucks. When they arrive at the slaughterhouse, they are again prodded with electric prods and metal pipes to force them up the shoot to the slaughterer who awaits them. None of this constitutes what I would call "humane treatment." But now let's turn to kosher slaughter as it is actually practiced in the U.S. John Robbins has aptly described how the implementation of kosher slaughter laws in the U.S. is actually a perversion of the original intent of those laws. I have linked to an excerpt from his book below. Once you read Robbins's accurate description (I have seen detailed video footage documenting everything Robbins claims), you'll see that there is no plausible way of viewing kosher slaughter, at least in the U.S., as a humane way of killing animals. Even Orthodox rabbis in Sweden are starting to acknowledge this fact and have come to allow animals to be stunned before killing. Not so here in the U.S. Read Robbins's account, and you'll see why kosher slaughter is not humane in practice.

Best, Mylan

p.s. I obtained this Robbins excerpt from meat.org's web site [www.meat.org] which contains a great deal of information about animal slaughter, including some streaming video of pig and chicken slaughter. After viewing this footage, your readers can decide for themselves whether the slaughtering techniques used in the U.S. today are humane.
Please read Mylan's essay.

No comments: