New York – Animal rights activists are protesting shechita methods employed by South American kosher slaughterhouses, charging that animals are killed using an antiquated practice that leaves them suffering and in pain during their final moments.
An undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and two Israeli organizations, Anonymous for Animals Rights and Let Animals Live, documented the shechita process at the Frigochaco kosher slaughterhouse in Paraguay, which supplies 40 percent of the kosher beef consumed by Israelis.
Graphic video footage shows cows being subjected to the shackle and hoist method of slaughter, where the animal’s hind legs are chained before it is turned upside down for shechita, its head held in position by a sharp metal tool that resembles a trident.
Shackle and hoist is no longer performed at Israeli slaughterhouses and has been denounced by Israel’s Chief Rabbi a few years ago. Instead, animals are placed in rotating pens, considered to be a more humane method because it does not require cows to be held in an inverted position by leg chains.
While Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services procedures specify that all imported meats should be subject to the same strict criteria used in Israel, a spokesperson for the department admitted that Israel cannot enforce its standards on other countries. Instead, Veterinary Services is @working to promote slaughter in more humane ways.”
The undercover investigation captured video footage filmed at slaughterhouses in Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.
Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president at PETA, described the practices taking place at those facilities as “an utter betrayal” of the Jewish laws pertaining to shechita.
“The highly stressful, cruel methods of restraint must be eliminated,” said Nachminovitch.
According to PETA, up to 80 percent of the beef imported to Israel comes from slaughterhouses that use the shackle and hoist method. Kosher beef killed using shackle and hoist is not permitted to enter the United States.
In a Channel 10 report on Tuesday night, Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzhoar organization, spoke up against animal abuse.
“Animal welfare is a biblical prohibition, which means that even when we use animals, we should do so in a way that causes the minimal possible suffering,” he said. “Anything that goes beyond this may, in certain cases, disqualify kashrut.”
Rabbi Shabtai Rappaport, head of the Beit Midrash at Bar-Ilan University’s Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies, expressed his concerns with the footage on the Channel 10 broadcast.
“I think the doubts here are significant enough to make rabbis, adjudicators and kashrut supervisors realize that there is a problem,” he said.
In response to the investigation, the Chief Rabbinate condemned the activities documented in the footage but stressed that legal action can only be taken by other government bodies.
“We were horrified to see the shocking abuse of animals,” a statement from the Chief Rabbinate said on Wednesday.
“Animal abuse is a serious offense according to the Torah of Israel.”
“However, in accordance with the law and the ruling of the High Court of Israel, the Chief Rabbinate cannot revoke kashrut in situations where there is no harm to the core issues of kashrut, and therefore, unfortunately, we are precluded from dealing with this matter,” the statement said. “We hope that the authorized bodies will handle this matter with all of their capabilities to prevent the recurrence of further such acts.”