But is this always the case? In the course of the probe of AgriProcessors Inc. of Postville, Iowa, by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in late 2004 it was found that employees of one of the nation's major kosher slaughterhouses "had engaged in acts of inhumane slaughter," [and] that federal inspectors did nothing to stop it and instead accepted gifts of meat from plant employees. The plant is the America's largest producer of meat certified as glatt kosher.
To see a video of this slaughter click here
For those that don’t have the stomach to watch this video, it shows "electric prods used to shock the faces of cows in order to guide them into the slaughter pen. The pictures also showed an uncommon practice of speeding post-shehita blood flow by using large hooks to rip out the animals' trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (food pipe) while the animals are still conscious. Immediately after the procedure cows are seen standing and attempting to bellow and leave the killing-floor area.
It is important to note that the ideal kosher cut would sever the trachea, esophagus and carotid artery, thus immediately eliminating blood flow to the brain and rendering an animal unconscious in as quickly as 10 seconds. Contrary to widespread perceptions, however, a valid kosher slaughter requires only the cut of the trachea and esophagus. The post-cut scenes on the videos of staggering, mutilated animals seem to be cases in which the carotid arteries were not severed, thus leaving the animal conscious and able to suffer pain. Source:jpost
Reacting to these published findings, the head of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's international ritual slaughter division, Rabbi Ezra Raful, said that he would permit the import of meat to Israel from the slaughterhouse in question, saying that "in the case of AgriProcessors, there is no halachic problem."
Thankfully, many poskim, including Maimonides, believe that the prohibition against cruelty to animals informs our interactions with animals far beyond sadism.
Rabbi Ezra Raful also said Jewish law permitted a non-Jew to use a hook to sever an animal's carotid arteries, as long as most of the trachea and esophagus were severed by the shochet [ritual slaughterer].
He said that if a Jew used the hook, the slaughter was not kosher because of the halachic principle of marit ayin - the mistaken impression that the ripping of the arteries with a hook was part of the Jewish slaughtering process. This issue would not arise if a non-Jew ripped out the artery, since a non-Jew is disqualified from performing shehita (ritual slaughter).
Raful said he had been informed by sources in AgriProcessors that only non-Jews performed the ripping. Raful said it was unfair to apply subjective criteria of cruelty to shehita.
"For me it is terribly cruel to boil a lobster live or to fry a live shrimp or freeze a fish live. It depends on what you are used to. It's all very subjective. "But the Torah is not subjective and the same Torah that prohibits cruelty to animals allows shehita," he said.… (Click here for full article)
So, what are our options now? As a meat eater, I believe one should do the following.
1. Watch the video of the shechita, If you are OK with what happens there, keeping eating meat with no worries.
2. If the video bothers you. Stop eating beef and write letters to the kashrut authorities demanding that the laws of the shechita be followed not just to the letter of the law, but also in the spirit of the law as Rambam prescribes.
3. Stop eating meat altogether
From a reliable source I have found out that in Australia animals are not slaughtered in the same manner as the Iowa plant and thus actually may suffer less than non-kosher animal slaughter. In Australia, the shackle and hoist method(used in Israel) where the cow is strung up by its legs before shechita is not used. Also, the animal is shot with a blot immediately post shechita.
Does any of this effect what you will be eating for dinner tonight?