Via Adeline Bash
on Mar 16, 2011
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There have been several instances where someone has pointed out to me a connection between religion and the meat industry. Arguably the most famous example: the bible says God gave humans dominion over animals (i.e. we get to do whatever we want to them). As an atheist, this argument means little to nothing to me personally but I understand that for a lot of the world this has defined their relationship to non-human animals.

But the other day I read about a disturbing slaughter practice that I don’t think can be validated: the process for creating kosher meat.

The 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act’s sanitary requirements mandate that a slaughtered animal must not fall in the blood of a previously slaughtered animal, meaning they must be killed while suspended above the floor in some way. Jewish law says that an animal must be conscious when killed. This means that for meat to be considered kosher and still follow sanitary requirements the animal must be hung while conscious before being killed. Here is a description of this suspension process from Peter Singer’s novel Animal Liberation:

“A heavy iron chain is clamped around the leg of a heavy beef animal weighing between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds, and the steer is jerked off its feet, the skin will open and slip away from the bone. The canon bone will often be snapped or fractured. The animal, upside down, with ruptured joints and often a broken leg, twists frantically in pain and terror, so that it must be gripped by the neck or have a clamp inserted in its nostril to enable the slaughterer to kill the animal with a single stroke, as the religious law prescribes.”

Once the animal is killed often only its forequarters can be sold as kosher meat. Jewish law also dictates that meat must be removed of forbidden tissues, veins, lymph nodes and the sciatic nerve. This is usually too laborious to be worth the extra meat and instead it is sold as standard, un-kosher meat to supermarkets. So, if you think that you can make a conscious choice about your meat know that while it may not be labeled “kosher” it may have the same cruel origins.

There are laws that prohibit this kind of treatment to animals— even those that face slaughter. But because of religious freedom this particular process for kosher meat is exempt from them and has created loopholes in animal cruelty laws across the entire industry. Any protest of these atrocities is labeled anti-Semitic (even though many Orthodox Rabbis themselves have questioned it). It is a classic example of how the focus on political correctness and religious tolerance often allows cruel and antiquated practices to persist when they no longer coincide with the modern world.

The religious intent behind kosher guidelines is to honor the animal and minimize its pain. And this may have been possible hundreds of years ago when animals were being killed on family farms. But in today’s factory farm settings it is not, and it is unreasonable and immoral for it to continue.

This may be how kosher slaughter was intended to look:

But this is how it really does:


About Adeline Bash

Adeline Bash is a Boulder native currently studying journalism at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Like all journalists, she hopes to make a difference through her writing by advocating for those who cannot do so themselves. Along with writing, she plans to spend her life climbing mountains, learning everything she can, traveling the world, and spending time with as many of its living beings as possible. You can see more of her ideas and writing at Trekking Through It.


8 Responses to “Kosher=Cruel”

  1. BenRiggs says:

    Maybe instead of dismissing Kosher, we should dismiss factory farming?

  2. LindsayW says:

    Thank you so much for this Adeline! I couldn't agree more. Best thing to do is work towards abstaining from all animal products. There is no kind way to kill an animal – that's the plain fact about this. And yes, Ben, I agree, we should also dismiss factory farming!

  3. addiebash3 says:

    Absolutely, but I would say that's a much bigger step. I think people need to be exposed to things gradually to get the bigger picture that our entire food system, and definitely our meat industry, is totally corrupt. Singer suggests in his book that he asks no more of those who follow kosher than anyone else to stop eating meat, but that perhaps they have even more of a responsibility to since the production of their meat has so much more potential for cruelty. I think that's a good approach.

  4. addiebash3 says:

    Lindsay I just checked out your blog! I love it!! I recently decided to change my blog to focus on food and animals. I will keep you posted on it!

  5. Blake says:

    Let's not forget that "meat" back when the rules were established were sheep or goat, not cow.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Kevin R: Kosher=bullshit. Leave the animals alone.

    Dan M: Who is the BARBARIAN here?

    Shirley P: I've always questioned the practice of Kosher meat, having grown up in a household that believed in it. Perhaps in the olden days in the small villages and towns of Europe, the practice may have been more humane, but today it's an industry, just like any other profit making industry!!!

    Marina G: ‎:(

  7. ARCreated says:

    it does seem the rules that made kosher cruel (which by nature is designed to be the opposite of cruel) is factory farming…and although I am personally living a vegan lifestyle the sweeping statement of saying "just don't eat meat" is still to me not a valid arguement …factory farming is the problem.

  8. joyce says:

    I have my own problems with commercial slaughter of animals, but, I also recommend that you do some more research and, perhaps, rewrite this article with knowledge, openness and the sincere effort towards respect that your posts suggest you believe in. You might read actual reports by Temple Grandin, who redesigned many of the slaughter houses in this country to be more humane. She is a leading voice for animals in the field of slaughterhouse design. Her reports, available online, show that, while far from perfect, many of the kosher places rated far above the non-kosher ones. (Her reports get quite specific.) I hope that as a real journalist you would visit some kosher slaughter houses and some non-kosher ones, even Halal ones before writing. There are terrible ones in each section and more humane ones, too. People I know who have actually gone to see for themselves have felt the kosher ones were more humane. It seems out of keeping for your page to write something judgmental and uninformed, as if you believed in knee jerk emotional reactions to sensationalist bits of information instead of informed articles that reach across gaps to create understanding and cooperation.