Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Rabbi Klass,

It has been a while now that a number of countries, where Jews reside, have outlawed Shechita – Jewish ritual slaughter. Especially disturbing is what is happening now in Greece and Belgium, since they portray Shechita as being cruel. What are we as Jews to do? Is there any recourse for us in this matter so fundamental to our people?


M. Goldblum
Via e-mail


Synopsis: Last week we discussed the difficulties faced by Jewry post Holocaust in rebuilding itself. The attack on shechita in many countries is just another manifestation of this difficulty. In Poland today one may not so much as attribute any Polish complicity with the Nazi regime to any of the wrong – the atrocities to the Jewish people that occurred during the Holocaust. For them to forbid shechita is galling. However, now we are faced with so many other countries such as Greece, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand, all with Jewish populations, joining the bandwagon in outlawing shechita, causing great trepidation for their Jewish citizens. Not all of the problem should be attributed to anti-Semitism, as there is a movement to equate animal to humans, to which the Torah does not subscribe. We then discussed some of the halachot of shechita, citing the Mishnah (Chullin 27a) that to render an animal kosher it must be slaughtered by cutting the two simanim, the kaneh {windpipe] and the veshet [gullet], with the animal rendered fully dead. We noted leniencies to a Jew where a piece of meat was cut off immediately post shechita, which upon the animal being rendered fully dead one may eat of that piece of meat as well (obviously after it has been koshered removing the blood). We cited the dispute (Chullin 33a) between R. Acha b. Yaakov and R. Papa as regards feeding of those parts to a gentile who is commanded not consume ever min ha’chai a limb of a living thing. The Gemara concludes like R. Papa, based on the principle, “Is there anything that is permitted to a Jew that shall be forbidden to a gentile”? And so rules the Tur (Yoreh De’ah 27 and the Shach ad loc sk2).


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Answer: This is the mistake of those who agitate against our laws of kashrut, even while seeming to be well-meaning. They consider all flesh harmful and therefore consume only that which grows from the ground (vegetarians and vegans). If this is their wish, so be it (and unfortunately, we even find some Jews who have succumbed to this unfounded discipline), but why impose their will on the rest of society?

As an aside, it is well known that many non-Jews regularly seek products that are kosher, as they feel more comfortable with the extra degree of supervision that results in the overall quality and integrity of the final product.

I feel compelled to cite from the fine piece by Ben Wolfson in Mishpacha magazine from a number of years ago (August 8, 1998) as relates to this subject. Though we don’t need, nor do we seek, any confirmation as to the humane nature of our laws by anyone, yet when one comes forth of their own volition, I feel it a matter of significance and quite impactful. The following is from Mr. Wolfson’s article:

“A most unusual person came to speak to hundreds of people at the Beit Issie Shapiro (Ra’anana, Israel) Conference on Developmental Disorders. Her name is Temple Grandin. She is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University in the United States. She is also an engineer who designs highly complex cattle moving machinery that is used all over the world. She has written two books and many research papers. And, Temple Grandin has autism.

“People often ask, ‘How did she come out of it?’ She did not. Dr. Grandin is as autistic as any other but there are gradations in autism. Fifty percent of autistic people are non-verbal. Most have different levels of mental deficiency. Some are physically self-abusive. Some have extraordinary abilities in mathematics, art, memory and music. Others appear quite normal. The diagnosis is based on behavior alone, as there is no blood test, genetic test, brain scan or other medical formula for diagnosing autism.

“There are two reasons that Temple Grandin’s coming to Israel is interesting for Torah Jews. One reason is because of her work in the meat industry. Dr. Grandin has caused a minor revolution in the way shechita is done around the world. Rabbanim are listening to what she has to say about shechita. She has shown them a way to restrain the animal while slaughtering that is easier, faster, and causes less problems with blood flow while being a far more humane way to shecht.”

Mr. Wolfson notes: “She told me that the first time she visited a kosher slaughter house, she heard screaming cattle from a half kilometer away and wondered what was different in this place. What she saw was shocking. I quote from her book, Thinking in Pictures, and Other Reports From My Life With Autism: ‘I will never forget having nightmares after visiting the now defunct Spencer Foods plant in Spencer, Iowa, fifteen years ago. Employees wearing football helmets attached a nose tong to the nose of a writhing beast suspended by a chain wrapped around one back leg. Each terrified animal was forced with an electric prod to run into a small stall that had a slick floor on a forty-five degree angle. This caused the animal to slip and fall so that workers could attach the chain to its rear leg [in order to raise it into the air]. As I watched this nightmare, I thought, ‘This should not be happening in a civilized society.’ In my diary I wrote, ‘If hell exists, I am in it.’ I vowed that I would replace the plant from hell with a kinder and gentler system.’ And she has been doing that for years now. You may wonder why the Rabbanim listen to a gentile, autistic woman.”

He further elaborates: “One reason may be because she knows the laws of shechita very well. She was told about the Talmud and went to the library and found Mesechet Chullin in English and read it. Then, she applied science to what she learned in the Gemara and published an article called, ‘Slaughter,’ for a scientific journal in the meat industry.

“In that journal article she relates some important facts. She studied the reaction time of death from the initial incision of the knife until the death of the animal. She wanted to know if it was painful to cut the animal’s throat. She did this by observation of the animal. What she saw was that when animals were led quietly into a restraining device where they stood upright, into a frame that supplied chin and head support, the animals had little or no reaction to the cut.

“She said that her observations in kosher slaughter houses where there was a poorly designed holder was that the cut allowed the neck to close back over the knife and it resulted in vigorous reactions from the cattle during the cut. She also states that when the moving and holding devises are not well designed, the animal will kick and twist and occasionally go into spasms. She says that when a shochet uses a rapid cutting stroke, on a calm, upright animal, 95 percent of the calves she observed collapsed almost immediately. She says in her paper: ‘Some rabbinical authorities prefer inverted restraint and cutting downward because they are concerned that an upward cut may violate the Jewish rule which forbids excessive pressure on the knife. There is concern that the animal may tend to push downward on the knife during an upward cut. Observations indicate that just the opposite happens. When large 800-to-950-kilogram bulls are held in a pneumatically powered head restraint that they can easily move, the animals pull their heads upwards away from the knife during a miscut. This would reduce pressure on the blade. On the other hand, when the cut is done correctly, the bulls stood still and did not move the head restraint, as equal amounts of pressure are applied by both the forehead bracket and the chin lift.

“Upright restraint may provide the additional advantage of improved bleed-out because the animal remains calmer and more relaxed. Observations indicate that a relaxed, calm animal has improved bleed-out and a rapid onset of unconsciousness. Excited animals are more likely to have a slower bleed-out. The use of a comfortable upright restraint device would be advantageous from a religious standpoint because rapid bleed-out and maximum loss of blood obeys the Biblical principle of ‘Only be sure that you eat not of the blood: for the blood is the life’ (Devarim: 12:23).

“Another interesting point in her article is the comparison of Jewish slaughter to Arab. She says that the Arabs use a short knife that causes definite distress and struggling in cattle. Also, she points out that the Arabs stun the animal before they slaughter it. Perhaps they do this because of the cattle’s tendency to struggle in this method.”

Our concluding citation from Mr. Wolfson’s article: “The other point of interest to Torah-observant Jews is how this woman, who says that she is completely logical and totally unemotional, came to believe that there is a G-d.”

In summation, I must add, that if it is kosher and humane for our people, who are guided by the laws of our Torah, which are humane in nature, then it is surely kosher and humane for the gentile as well. It therefore is important for us to be vigilant and wage the battle, whenever and wherever possible, to support our brethren, wherever they may be in their quest to practice their religion in complete freedom. I noted earlier my own father’s, z”l, proactive involvement in the battle to protect kosher slaughter, The Jewish Press has always been the beacon of support as this battle is waged. As presidium Chairman of the IGUD Horabbonim/Rabbinical Alliance of America, I am also proud and pleased to report that the IGUD Horabbonim at the 5782 Rosh Chodesh Shevat Conference passed a resolution, among others, condemning any ban on shechita as anti-Semitic as it is a sinister trampling on our G-d-given right to practice our religion. We called upon animal rights experts to understand that shechita truly is the most humane way to slaughter animals. I know that our sister rabbinical, kashrut and lay organizations count themselves as being in this same struggle – our sincere blessings to them. We pray that a very public clarion call and outcry will receive the Divine blessings, without which there can be no success, please G-d.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.