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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Kosher slaughter’

Authority, Shmothority, Is Hebrew National Meat Kosher?

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

A Minnesota court is hearing an appeal of a lawsuit arguing that Hebrew National is falsely labeling its products as “100 percent kosher.”

The original lawsuit, filed in May 2012 by 11 plaintiffs claiming fraud and breach of contract, was dismissed in January by U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank on the grounds that the issue is religious in nature and therefore not for the courts to decide.

The appeal of the case, Wallace et al v. ConAgra Foods Inc., was heard in St. Paul on Dec. 19 before a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the plaintiffs’ brief, ex-employees of AER Services, which did the slaughtering for Hebrew National, testified that they were pressured to certify as kosher at least 70 percent of the beef they slaughtered, according to the American Jewish World, the Minnesota newspaper that broke the original story.

The plaintiffs contend that the U.S. court does not have to resolve any Judaic religious issue, because ConAgra employed a production quota system, where a predetermined percentage of cows would be labeled as kosher.

Anne Regan, attorney for the plaintiffs, told the panel of judges that ConAgra was well aware of the problems with AER, and with Triangle K, the firm that provided the hechsher, or kosher certification, for the meat. She reiterated the argument that the quota undermined ConAgra’s claim that it was producing kosher meat to the highest standards.

Judge James B. Loken pressed his question about what makes meat kosher or not, and suggested that if an animal “wasn’t well enough” to meet a “rabbi’s standard, you can’t go there.” In other words, the U.S. court can’t sort out what constitutes a kosher product.

Regan said that if the case was sent back to the district court, attorneys for the plaintiffs could file discovery motions and try to prove that ConAgra was defrauding consumers. The plaintiffs’ brief noted that consumers view kosher food as the “new organic.”

Judge William Jay Riley, chief judge of the 8th Circuit court, also expressed skepticism about how meat could be considered kosher, if the employees of the kosher slaughtering firm “just passed on the cows.”

AER Services, ConAgra and Triangle K have denied the allegations and blamed disgruntled former employees for trying to sully Hebrew National’s reputation. Their attorneys reiterated their argument that a U.S. court cannot constitute what qualifies as kosher, the American Jewish World reported.

“A secular court simply cannot second guess a religious determination by a religious authority,” said Corey Gordon, representing the defendants.

The judges said they would rule on the appeal “as soon as possible,” the paper said.

JTA and AJWNews content was used in this report.

Kosher Slaughter Ban Shows Poland Has a Jewish Problem

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

The Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, has a Jewish problem.

In a painful affront to the Jewish community, it recently defeated a government initiative to reinstate the legality of kosher slaughter of animals. This prompted Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, to threaten resignation and triggered sharp criticism of the Sejm from Jewish communities in Poland and around the world.

What happens in Poland regarding Jews has special significance because of the Holocaust. More than 90 percent of the country’s three and a half million Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation. Poland began legislating against kosher slaughter in 1936, and once the Germans occupied the country three years later, the practice was banned entirely.

Since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, however, Jewish life in Poland has undergone a remarkable, and previously unimaginable, renaissance. Full recognition of the rights of Jews to practice their faith – including kosher slaughter – was enshrined in an agreement the government signed with the Jewish community in 2004.

Indeed, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, addressing an overflow crowd at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Washington several weeks ago, declared it was his country’s responsibility to ensure “that today’s Jewish community in Poland is safe, welcome and respected.”

He honored Poland’s Jewish community “not just for how it died, but for how it lives, and how it is coming back to life.”

When legislation was adopted a few years ago mandating the use of electronic stunning equipment before an animal is killed – a practice prohibited under Jewish law –the Jewish community was granted an administrative exemption. In January, however, a court ruled the exemption unconstitutional. Alleged violations of animal rights trumped age-old Jewish religious practice.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government framed legislation to override the court decision. What should have been a fairly easy corrective measure was instead defeated on July 12 by a vote of 222 to 178, leaving in place the judicial ban.

Thirty-eight Sejm members representing Tusk’s ruling Civic Platform party joined with the opposition in voting to outlaw ritual slaughter. In Poland, this was viewed as a major victory for animal rights advocates, as their views prevailed against the nation’s farmers and meatpackers, who had developed a lively business exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim countries.

Jews, however, see matters quite differently. From their perspective, the Sejm’s action stigmatizing kosher slaughter as inhumane blatantly contradicts Foreign Minister Sikorski’s pledge to make Jews “safe, welcome and respected.” They point out that kosher slaughter, whereby the animal is rendered immediately unconscious by severing the carotid artery, is humane, and that the continued legality of hunting in Poland, which results in far greater and more indiscriminate pain to animals, suggests there may in fact be another, unstated reason for outlawing kosher slaughter: anti-Semitism.

In the wake of the Sejm vote, pejorative comments about Jews in some of the Polish media and online give some credence to these fears.

Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident. The situation for European Jews looks even grimmer in a broader context. Just a few months ago, a similar scenario unfolded in Germany when a court banned ritual circumcision, another fundamental element of the Jewish religion, on the grounds that it mutilated children without their consent. There, too, anti-Semitic motivation was not hard to discern in certain quarters amid the talk about physiological and psychological harm.

Fortunately, Chancellor Angela Merkel navigated a bill through the German parliament overruling the court and reestablishing the religious freedom of Jews to continue an age-old tradition of their faith. Whether Poland will successfully follow her example and push through a law guaranteeing the right to kosher slaughter remains to be seen.

Such attacks on Jewish religious practice, in fact, constitute just one front in a wider struggle over the future of Jewish life in Europe. Anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise, increasing by 30 percent between 2011 and 2012. In France, there was an astounding 58 percent jump over that same period, including the targeted murder last year of four Jews, three of them small children, in Toulouse.

Vocally anti-Semitic political parties are represented in the Greek and Hungarian parliaments and are gaining power on the local and regional levels in other countries. Public opinion polls show alarmingly high levels of anti-Semitic attitudes. Demonization of Israel in the media and among some intelligentsia is often indistinguishable from Jew-baiting. No wonder that opinion surveys point to a striking number of European Jews contemplating emigration.

French Senator Receives Death Threats over Anti-Shechitah Stance

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

A French senator said she will complain to police over death threats she received after proposing special labels for halal and kosher meat.

Sylvie Goy-Chavent of the centrist UDI party will lodge a complaint with police over the threats and online “calls for civil war and a call for the Israeli government to attack France,” she told the France Info radio station over the weekend.

She did not say where the threats appeared, but reader comments in an article by the Jewish French news site JSSNews about Goy-Chavent featured a call to “slash her neck and see how long it takes her to bleed.”

The threats followed a non-binding proposal that Goy-Chavent submitted last month in her capacity as senatorial rapporteur on the meat industry. In a report published last month, she recommended that producers of meat originating from animals that were not stunned before slaughter be legally required to apply “special labeling, to be applied in a non-stigmatizing manner.”

Last year, Goy-Chavent signed a full-page ad in Le Parisian urging the French president to outlaw ritual slaughter in France. She also has expressed support for labeling products from areas that came under Israeli control after 1967, according to the online news magazine Mediapart.

Reacting to Goy-Chavent’s proposal, Joel Mergui of the Consistoire — the French Jewish community’s body responsible for religious services — said “it risks reaffirming preconceptions that Jews are cruel.”

Poland Rejects ‘Shechitah’ Kosher Slaughter

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

The Polish Parliament rejected a draft law that would have legalized Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, in Poland.

The bill, defeated 222-178 on Friday, would have allowed shechitah provided it is done in a slaughterhouse. It also excluded certain forms of immobilizing the animal.

Until this year, Poland allowed shechitah, making about $650 million annually by exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim-majority countries like Egypt and Iran. But the business practically ground to a halt in January after a constitutional court ruled that the country has no right to allow religious slaughter. The ruling was made after a petition filed by animals’ rights groups.

Dozens of Polish farmers marched in Warsaw on Wednesday in a rally in support of allowing shechitah.

On Friday, Jewish groups bemoaned the failure to pass a law allowing ritual slaughter.

“The majority of Polish MPs gave the Polish Jewish community three choices: don’t practice your religion, don’t eat meat, or don’t live among us,” said Abraham H. Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“For a country still struggling to come to terms with its past treatment of Jews, it is outrageous to strike such a blow to the future of Jews in Poland. This vote was a clear violation of religious freedom, supported by the ignorance of some and the bigotry of others.

“The debate demonstrated acceptance of the false premise that kosher slaughter, which involves a single cut with a razor-sharp knife to minimize pain, is less humane than slaughter with pre-stunning by electrocution, gassing or a bolt shot to the animal’s forehead.”

“Populism, superstition and political interests won out,” said Piotr Kadlcik, President of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland. “It looks like we’ve made a full circle and are heading back to what happened in Poland and Germany in the 1930s.”

“Jewish communities across Europe will be incredibly distressed that the Polish Parliament has voted not to protect the religious freedom of its Jewish and Muslim citizens,” Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in statement.

“The result of today’s vote in the Sejm is extremely disappointing,” a spokesperson for Shechitah UK, a non-profit working to repeal efforts to ban the practice, told JTA. “It represents the lowest point in the campaign to protect shechitah in Europe.”

The group said that it will work with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and the Conference of European Rabbis to offer assistance in the campaign to overcome this setback.

The Conference of European Rabbis also said it was “alarmed by the level of disinformation that has characterized the parliamentary debates” on the issue.

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Polish prime minister,” the conference said. “We will also be exploring what our legal options at E.U. level might be at this stage. This is very sad day for the Polish Jewish community and indeed for all of European Jewry.”

In a joint statement, Schudrich and Kadlcik said the result of the vote was “a shock.” The de-facto ban infringes on freedom of religion, they added. Noting that hunting for sport is legal in Poland, they said the vote against shechitah reflects “sinister hypocrisy which usually masks the discrimination against a part of the citizenry.”

Polish Court asks Tribunal to Rule on Ritual Slaughter Ban

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

A Bialystok court has asked the Polish Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether the country’s ban on ritual slaughter is compliant with the constitutional freedom of religion.

The case is connected to the ritual slaughter of one cow which took place in March in Tykocin.

Poland on January 1 banned slaughter without stunning, a requirement for kosher slaughter. In March, one cow was slaughtered in northeastern town of Tykocin.

Urszula Sienczylo, the chief prosecutor of Bialystok, said at the time that it did not violate Polish law because the 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland states that ritual slaughter may be performed in accordance with the needs of the local Jewish community.

The decision of the Bialystok prosecutor was appealed by animal rights activists and the local veterinary inspector. The case then came to the court in Bialystok which last week turned to the Constitutional Tribunal. The case is on hold pending the ruling of the tribunal.

This month the Polish Parliament is scheduled to vote on the legalization of ritual slaughter.

‘What’s Bad for the Goose is Worse for Kosher Slaughter’

Monday, June 17th, 2013

A senior rabbi from Paris has warned Israel’s agriculture minister that legislation in Israel to ban the import of goose liver could jeopardize kosher slaughter in Europe.

“Imagine how it will look if Israel itself is the first to ban the import of goose liver, which was an issue raised by these animal welfare groups [opposing kosher slaughter],” Rabbi Yirmiyahu Cohen, the head of the rabbinical court in Paris, wrote Minister of Agriculture Yair Shamir.

Cohen’s letter was sent on Sunday, the same day that Shamir said he would remove his appeal against a bill prohibiting the trade of “foie gras,” a delicacy made from goose liver which is produced commercially by force-feeding ducks and geese.

The practice was banned in Israel several years ago after the High Court of Justice deemed it abusive, but the import and sale of the product remain legal.

“It is known that some European nations are listening to animal welfare groups’ concerns in order to proscribe shechitah,” Cohen also wrote, adding that the same groups also oppose the production of “foie gras.” Cohen warned, “Proponents of this law give a weapon to our enemies.

He wrote that that he is familiar with the process of force-feeding and the kosher slaughter of geese after visiting on a number of occasions one of the largest facilities in Hungary and witnessing the procedure for himself. He said, unlike previously, where the procedure was done in a manner injurious to the geese, Hungary developed a method that is not harmful to the birds.

Israeli Company Sued over Cruelty to Kosher Slaughtered Animals

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Jerusalem District Court on Monday will hear arguments over the validity of a consumer class action suit against Tnuva Central Cooperative for the Marketing of Agricultural Produce in Israel Ltd., based on the claim that Tnuva misled consumers regarding the humane treatment of animals in its Beit She’an beef slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant, where its Adom Adom (“very red”) top quality brand is produced.

After a December 6, 2012 expose on Israeli TV consumer advocacy program “Colbotech” revealed some shocking details of the way animals are being treated in the Beit She’an slaughterhouse, a group of consumers, headed by a Haredi woman named Ruth Kolian, is looking to sue Tnuva for consumer anguish.

The issue at hand is whether the fact that the animals had undergone inhumane treatment in itself justifies a claim for monetary compensation for the plaintiffs, and whether it is sufficiently broad to justify a class action suit.

Tnuva, for its part, will be arguing that the very fact that the plaintiffs are essentially organized and represented by an organization called Anonymous for Animal Rights, which exposed the terrible violations at the Beit She’an plant in an effort to get it to close down, disqualifies them from adopting the stance of a cheated consumer.

Here are just some of the appalling conditions the Colbotech show exposed, the list is very long:

Calves were beaten and shocked repeatedly to urge them to march to slaughter.

Calves who had difficulty walking were shocked dozens of times in a row, in different parts of the body including the head and testicles. Those who still did not manage to walk were dragged on the floor by forklifts (the law in such cases says they should be killed on the spot).

Lambs were dragged on the ground by workers holding them by one leg (one employee was documented hauling two lambs at the same time).

Lambs were beaten repeatedly on their heads and bodies with a pipe, in order to encourage them to stand or walk, sometimes without any apparent reason.

Workers were documented stepping on lambs, lying down on them or riding them, throwing them in the air and catching them by the lambs’ mouths.

Calves were kept hanging upside down before slaughter for extended periods of time. An employee told an undercover investigator: “Today a live calf released itself, because of a worker’s blunder. It freed itself [from a conveyer belt to which it was attached hanging upside down by one leg] after it had already been butchered, it came to us still alive, it started to riot, nearly killed us. We fled. Finally they overcame it, with electric shockers. They beat it up until it calmed down ”

In many cases this Tnuva slaughterhouse’s meat was disqualified as traif because of bone fractures and other issues. The meat was marketed non-Jewish consumers.

It is interesting to note that while the plaintiffs never make the claim that it’s the halachic shechitah which is to blame for the terrible images the TV audience had viewed last winter—they blame Tnuva’s mismanagement—it is the corporation which, in effect, is making the anti shechitah case, suggesting it is impossible to slaughter an animal humanely.

The defense also provided a friend of the court note from Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Machpud, head of the Badatz kashrut system, who argues in very strong language against unnecessary cruelty to animals, stating that such action would entail the removal of the kosher certification.

Anonymous for Animal Rights has recruited potential plaintiffs for the district court case by defining them as “any person who has purchased … over the seven year period prior to the filing of this appeal, meat products produced by the brand ‘Adom Adom,’ and who, because of watching the investigation on Colbotech … has suffered emotional anguish and damage to their private autonomy.”

The suit is for 200 million Shekel (roughly $55 million).

The defense will argue that the law in Israel does not award damages to a person who suffered anguish from watching another person’s suffering (parents and their children, for example). How much less entitled are the plaintiffs, who were only affected by watching animals suffer.

But, of course, as Yossi Wolfson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, noted, the human-suffering is in relation to a third person, while here the consumer experienced the anguish directly.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/suit-over-israeli-corp-cruelty-to-kosher-slaughtered-animals/2013/05/20/

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