Beans, not burgers

By Simon Rocker
January 7, 2013

Should the 21st century ideal of kashrut include giving up eating meat altogether? A recent article in the JC has reignited the debate between veggies and fleishniks.

In a letter in this week’s JC, Masorti’s Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, puts the meat-free case.

“I care deeply about kashrut. I appreciate the importance of shechitah as truly intended — the way to respect animals and cause them the minimum of suffering at their death. Were the right to practise shechitah again in jeopardy in the UK, I would of course join the community in defending it.

“At the same time I am a non-meat-eater by strong and increasing conviction. Kosher slaughter does not on its own address all the issues involved in the production of meat. Key among these is the principle of tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, avoiding animal suffering, which most rabbinic authorities regard as a Torah-based injunction. There are also wider ecological and economic concerns in regarding meat as a staple food.

“Vegetarians have no less responsibility in ensuring that dairy products and eggs are sourced in ways which do not entail cruelty. We are all answerable as consumers for the conditions in which those who produce our food work. My true ideal is therefore to keep kashrut within the wider Jewish ethical values of avoiding animal suffering, minimising waste, trading justly, respecting the world as God’s creation and working to mitigate poverty and hunger.”

But for a carnivore's view, see Geoffrey Alderman’s comment piece.



Thu, 03/20/2014 - 17:09

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for convenience (since it's very difficult to find on their own website ), here are extracts from Shechita UK's 2009 "A Guide to Shechita" (see "© Copyright 2009 Shechita UK. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or for any purpose without the express permission of Shechita UK.")
What is Shechita?
There is no ritual involved in shechita.
Shechita is … a most humane method …
Shechita is performed by a highly trained shochet. The procedure consists of a rapid and expert transverse incision with an instrument of surgical sharpness (a chalaf), which severs the major structures and vessels at the neck.
This causes an instant drop in blood pressure in the brain and immediately results in the irreversible cessation of consciousness.

Thus, shechita renders the animal insensible to pain, dispatches and exsanguinates in a swift action, and fulfils all the requirements of humaneness and compassion.

Its practice causes no suffering to the animal.

Can anyone perform shechita?
Only a Jew specially trained for shechita - a shochet - can perform shechita. He is required to study for a number of years and is examined, in theory and practice, in the laws of shechita, animal anatomy and pathology. He serves an apprenticeship with an experienced shochet before becoming fully qualified.
Animal Welfare in Jewish law
Jewish law requires that animals be treated with consideration, kindness and respect.
The Bible (Torah) is the first systematic legislation prohibiting cruelty to animals and mandating their humane treatment. These laws are binding on Jews today.
For example:
• It is prohibited to cause pain to animals – Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim - (Talmud B.M.32a)
• A person is required to feed his animals before himself (Deuteronomy XI:15)
• It is prohibited to sever a limb from a live animal and eat it (Genesis IX:4)
• One is obligated to relieve an animal's suffering (Deuteronomy XXII:4)
• An animal threshing corn must not be muzzled (Deuteronomy XXV:4)
• An ox and donkey must not be harnessed together (Deuteronomy XXII:10)

From these biblical injunctions flow numerous laws for animal care and relief of animal suffering. Blood sports have always been forbidden to Jews.
What is so wrong with pre-stunning?
“Pre-stunning” refers to the methods of attempting to render an animal or bird unconscious prior to slaughter. It is a term which covers many methods used by non-Jewish slaughtermen to subdue an animal and speed-up production in abattoirs.

The main methods used in the general slaughtering industry for cattle and sheep are:
captive bolt gun: a steel bolt is shot into the skull at the front of the animal's brain.
electric shock: electrodes are clamped to the animal’s head/heart and the animal is electrocuted.
(… The above pre-stunning methods injure the animal, making it treifa in Jewish law, i.e non-kosher and thus prohibited.)

The main methods used in the general slaughtering industry for poultry are:
• Inverting the bird so that its head immerses in an electrified water tank

“Stunning”, according to the civil Regulations, is … to “render the animal or bird unconscious until death”. But many animals and birds are nevertheless inhumanely killed by each of these officially approved methods …
With these methods, during the delay between the pre-stun and sticking or cutting, the animal can regain consciousness.

It has been reported by inspectors that one in five birds is not properly stunned on the conveyor-line before processing along to the rotating-knife machines for beheading.

Since “pre-stunning” has always been a production method for improving handling speeds rather than the humaneness of the slaughter process, animal welfare groups can only attempt to minimise the delays between pre-stunning and slaughter, and the varying effects differing methods have upon each bird and animal.

The stun caused by shechita is irreversible and there is no delay. Shechita therefore, is both humane and efficient – producing a proper painless and effective stun (i.e instant insensibility), followed without delay by immediate slaughter.


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 08:51

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"pre-stunning" refers to the act of stunning being before ("pre-") the act of killing

in shechita, the act of stunning is the same as the act of killing

pre-stunning has the obvious disadvantage that it may wear off, so that the animal is again conscious when it is killed

the anti-shechita lobby is to be congratulated on finding such a positive word as "pre-stunning" to describe what is actually a delay

pre-stunning of poultry is automated (and is witnessed by the following birds), and often does not work

pre-stunning of cattle and sheep often does not work, and is sometimes repeated, to the pain and distress of the animal

it is uncertain whether pre-stunning prevents pain, or merely paralyses the animal (so that we cannot see the pain)

pre-stunning's chief advantage is that it is cheaper

here are more extracts from "A Guide to Shechita" …

Why is the Shechita procedure better than pre-stunning?
There is no conclusive evidence that these pre-stunning methods all render an animal insensible to pain. There is evidence that they are only paralysed, and thus prevented from displaying their pain.

Furthermore when the captive bolt or electrical shock methods fail, as they do in a significant percentage of cases, it causes considerable additional suffering and distress to the animal.

In such cases, the conscious animal is in acute pain as the captive bolt gun is reloaded and fired, or the electrical tongs reapplied to re-stun the animal.

Poultry pre-stunning methods are automated, with birds treated after being hung upside-down from leg-shackles. Nothing is done for the twenty percent of birds ineffectively stunned by electric shock.
As for gas pre-stunning, this method is not a measured anaesthetic carefully delivered to each bird but a mass-production technique which results in symptoms of anoxia and asphyxiation. As poor and distressing a method as it is for poultry, it is totally impractical for cattle and sheep.

Shechita avoids all these problems of cruel and ineffective pre-stunning, since there are no mechanical or electrical appliances to malfunction or be misapplied. Shechita produces an effective and irreversible stun as well as being a humane and efficient slaughter method for each individual bird and animal.

With non-Shechita pre-stunning methods employed at abattoirs, speed of production is a significant and sought-after aspect. Thus live and conscious birds are hung upside-down from leg shackles at the beginning of a conveyor system which takes them through a gassing room or electrified bath and on to a beheading machine.

The government has reported (DEFRA September 2006) that “Pre-stun shocks cause the bird pain. In most cases, pre-stun shocks are due to the drooping of the wings such that the wing tips contact the electrified water before the head has been stunned. The pain caused by the pre-stun shock may result in the bird reacting and “flying the stunner” (flapping so violently whilst shackled that the bird lifts its head out of the path of the water-bath stunner, receiving no effective stun)”.

Because the birds twist and turn from their shackles many not only avoid the pre-stun but also the knives, and move onward to be scalded alive before de-feathering.

With shechita none of these anomalies can occur.

Cattle and sheep which are pre-stunned for non-Shechita slaughter are similarly handled upside-down, but are first held long enough for one hind-leg to be caught, chained and then hoisted into the air to swing freely before “sticking” – actually being slaughtered either by cutting into the thorax and up through the aorta or across the throat.

In contrast, Shechita requires that:
• Each bird is gently held for presentation to the shochet in its calmest position – supine – and therefore motionless so that it is carefully and accurately incised.
• Each cow or sheep is held firmly and calmly for slaughter and is only hoisted and inverted for bleed-out after death and not before

Is there any scientific evidence to show that shechita is humane?
There is a significant body of scientific opinion which concludes that shechita causes no suffering, pain or distress for the animal.

Dr Temple Grandin, Associate Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, conducted a series of experiments in 1994. Dr Grandin set out to determine whether cattle feel the shechita incision.
In one case, the device used to restrain an animal's head during shechita was deliberately applied so lightly that during the incision it could pull its head away from the chalaf. None of the ten animals in the experiment reacted or attempted to pull their heads away leading Dr Grandin to conclude: "it appears the animal is not aware that its throat has been cut."

A similar experiment had been conducted two years earlier on twenty bulls by Dr Flemming Bager, Head of the Danish Veterinary Laboratory.
The research indicated that they too did not react to the shechita incision: "the bulls were held in a comfortable head restraint with all body restraints released. They stood still during the cut and did not resist the head restraint".

Professor Harold Burrow, one time Professor of Veterinary Medicine, Royal Veterinary College, London, has stated:
“Having witnessed the Jewish method carried out on many thousands of animals, I am unable to persuade myself that there is any cruelty attached to it. As a lover of animals, an owner of cattle and a veterinary Surgeon I would raise no objection to any animal bred, reared or owned by me being subjected to this method of slaughter”.
Dr Stuart Rosen MA, MD, FRCP, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London, in a recent paper, “Physiological Insights Into Shechita”, published in The Veterinary Record (June 12, 2004 Vol. 154) discusses the behavioural responses of animals to shechita and the neurophysiological studies relevant to the assessment of pain, and concludes that: “shechita is a painless and humane method of animal slaughter”.


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