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A Cut Above:Shechita in the Crosshairs, Again
Rabbi Moshe T. Schuchman, Star-K Kashrus Administrator

The Community and Its Shechita

One of the most basic features of a functional Jewish community, no matter the size, has historically been the shochet.  Rabbis are a necessity, but were not always available; access to kosher meat is indispensable.  The original American Jewish community of twenty-three Dutch Jews from Brazil, who landed in New Amsterdam (later, New York) in 1654, was led by the celebrated Asser Levy, who was also the shochet.   Well before the first ordained rabbi, Rabbi Abraham Rice, arrived in 1840, shochtim served the needs of American Jews.
In the more established kehilos of Europe, the shochet was also deemed critical.  An intrepid shochet, who risked his life in the early 1930s to provide kosher meat to Jews in Soviet Russia, remarked during an interview:

“I was formerly a shochet in a neighboring town, where I was persecuted so relentlessly that I had to pull up my stakes and leave.  The rabbi and the other religious functionaries also had to give up.  But without a rabbi, a Jew can get along.  Without a teacher, perhaps also. But without a shochet? Judaism, G-d forbid, would then disappear altogether!”1

This close knit relationship between the community and its source of meat existed up until the second half of the 20th century.  As late as the 1960s in the United States, it was not uncommon to see the poultry peddler going door-to-door selling live chickens.  The kosher housewife picked one out, and either she or one of the children would walk the bird to the neighborhood shochet, who would return it wrapped in newspaper ready for cleaning, salting, and finally, cooking.  If you were lucky, the shochet owned a plucking machine and would de-feather the bird for you.2

Over the past half century, economic forces have subsequently eroded these familiar communal structures.  In a sharp departure from tradition, nowadays, the vast majority of beef and poultry are shechted and processed in large facilities, usually far away from where consumers live.3  Most often, procuring kosher meat has become no different than purchasing any other packaged goods in the supermarket.

While easier on the wallet, this situation is not without its adverse effects.  Rabbis who are not affiliated with a kosher certifying agency involved with shechita lack firsthand information to guide their congregants in what is and is not acceptable.4  Furthermore, the numerous steps and intricate skills required to produce a piece of kosher meat are sorely underappreciated by the general public.5

Subterfuge!  Attack On Shechita

When threats arise against our right to perform shechita, ignorance is no longer an option.  One must be concerned and formulate a response.  Our adversaries understand very well the link between the existence of the Jewish community and its shechita.  Therefore, as Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzenski wrote in a letter dated 1927,6 an attack on shechita is no more than a thinly veiled challenge against our right to exist.  The real aim of those who purport to champion the cause of humane treatment to animals, he asserted, is either to starve the Jews and force them to leave the country, or to eat non-kosher and thereby assimilate.7

Today’s issues are merely a further progression of what began 150 years ago.  Therefore, it is worthwhile to review some of the history regarding the freedom to shecht.
Anti-shechita propaganda first appeared in Switzerland, at a time when Jews were not yet granted citizenship.8  In 1860, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals persuaded the canton of Aargau, a notoriously anti-Semitic region bordering Germany, to require that all cattle be stunned before slaughter.  This move effectively made shechita impossible.9 

Empowered by victory, the Society’s members eventually succeeded in bringing this motion to a plebiscite.10  In 1893, Parliament ratified a constitutional amendment expressly forbidding the bleeding of meat animals without preliminary stunning.11  This remains the law in Switzerland until today.12

Based on the Swiss precedent, Germany and other European countries followed suit and opened their own discussions on the subject.  In the 1890s, scientific studies were commissioned in Prussia and Russia to investigate the impact of various modes of slaughter.  The conclusions were in favor of shechita, with the Russian report published by Dr. Issac A. Dembo in 1894, going as far as to assert that shechita was actually the most humane of all slaughtering methods.13

Exposing The Roots

It is noteworthy that “stunning” in the 19th century did not refer to an electric shock, captive bolt, or nitrogen gassing, as these methods were not yet developed.  Rather, it referred to rendering the animal unconscious by a blow to the head with a poleaxe or heavy mallet.  Anti-Semitic motives notwithstanding, how were voting populations persuaded to accept the incredulous proposition that such stunning fits “humane” criteria, more so than shechita?
For millennia, the Torah has mandated practicing sensitivity toward animals. Tzar ba’lei chaim is an injunction against causing undue duress or harm to an animal, whether physical or emotional.14  The rest of the world was largely unfamiliar with such a concept.  Until the late 1800s, it was acceptable at the highest echelons of nobility to crudely exploit animals for their entertainment value, in activities such as cockfighting - or worse.15 

Western countries experienced an awakening in the late 19th century with the emergence of advocacy groups for animal protection, and governments began legislating animal welfare laws.16  One observes that these developments occurred concurrently with two other factors:

  1. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, introducing humanity to the Theory of Evolution.  A worldview where human beings are considered no more than advanced primates became popular.
  2. People began to feel a kinship to animals, and transposed human experiences onto wildlife.  Emblematic of this attitude was the fictional Alice in Wonderland, published by Lewis Carroll in 1865, which attributed humanistic qualities to forest creatures.  Anthropomorphism in tales and fables previously existed, but in the mid-19th century they gained a widespread audience.  Eventually, this genre exploded in the cartoon industry of the 20th century.

The convergence of the above factors makes it conceivable how an animal sympathizer, imagining his own fright when thinking about a shochet’s sharp knife pressed against his own throat, might presume that a cow is similarly traumatized.  After all, if humans and animals share a common swamp ancestor, don’t they share similar perceptions?17  This wholly unscientific reasoning permits one to believe that an unforeseen bloodless bludgeon is (slightly?) preferable to exsanguination through a direct, frontal cut.  To promote the anti-Semitic cause, such logic is sufficient.

Relentless Resumption

After the dust settled from WWI, the subject of shechita was reopened in Europe. Animal activists exposed their true diabolical motives when shechita was disparaged in newspaper articles using rhetoric against Jews in general.  A bright spot appeared in England in 1925, when the official report from the Minister of Health came out in favor of shechita finding “no cause for complaint on humanitarian grounds against the Jewish method of slaughtering, if efficiently carried out, as was usually the case.” The prestigious Veterinary Journal wrote that shechitah was “practically and physiologically the best method”.  Legislation to permanently protect shechita in England was passed in 1933.18

When the Nazi party gained power in Bavaria in 1930, not surprisingly, shechita was immediately banned. In 1933, barely three months after Hitler, yimach shemo,became chancellor of Germany, shechita was outlawed in the entire Reich.19  Enforcement officials confiscated knives from shochtim.20 Part of the distorted propaganda against Jews was to disparage them as cruel and barbaric, with shechita being a prime example.  The irony is not lost that the most sadistic clan known to mankind made such a claim.21  As other European countries came under German influence during the war, Shechita was immediately discontinued.23

The main rabbinical spokesman for German Jews at that time was Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, head of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin.  He worked tirelessly and wrote voluminously,23 in a valiant attempt to alleviate the suffering caused to German Jews because of this ban.  He was alarmed at the prospect of so many thousands of Jews relenting and eating non-kosher meat.  He searched for creative solutions that could possibly satisfy the legal constraints, and yet be acceptable to halacha.  In the end, however, he bowed to the ruling of Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzensky and other leading European gedolim, that the integrity of shechita should not be compromised one bit.24  After Kristelnacht in November 1938, he ceased his efforts when it became obvious that Germany was determined to eradicate the Jews and would never accommodate any form of shechita, even if it technically conformed to the law of the land.

Uncompromising, With Sensitivity

It is important to emphasize that throughout these ordeals, while the rabbinic leadership maintained a fierce, uncompromising defense of the act of shechita itself, they were at the same time consistently willing to accommodate improvements in ancillary areas, such as transportation and the handling of animals prior to shechita.  This was not driven by political considerations.  Rabbis were genuinely interested in maintaining the Torah’s mandate to treat animals respectfully, even as they are being prepared for human consumption.

Throughout the 1890s, Rabbi Michael Cahn of Fulda,25 working together with Rabbi Hirsch Hildesheimer,26 met and corresponded extensively with respected physiologists and veterinarians to combat the opponents of shechita.  Their efforts were largely successful.  However, when an objection was raised regarding the way animals were bound and cast to the ground for shechting, Rabbi Cahn worked with experts to develop mechanical methods to lay the animals down more gently.27

Indeed, the method of animal restraint during shechita has been an ongoing point of contention.  Traditionally, animals were shechted while lying on the ground in a supine position (shechita munachas).  In the early 20th century, it was deemed unhygienic for the animal to come into contact with residual blood leftover from previous slaughters.28  For many decades, the alternative in both kosher and non-kosher slaughterhouses was ‘shackle and hoist’ (shechita teluyah),29 where the animal is shackled with a chain around one of its back legs and, using pulleys, is suspended in the air.  A helper uses nose tongs to pull back the head so the shochet can cut the throat.  By the 1950s, activists called for the cessation of this practice, based on the assumption that the hoisted animals feel stressed.30

In 1955, Senator Hubert Humphrey introduced a bill requiring slaughterhouses to stun animals, accomplished with a captive bolt pistol, prior to slaughter.  He also aimed to reform other cruel practices, such as instances in which animals were skinned or had their hooves cut off while still alive.  Kosher slaughterhouses never had these types of problems, as only healthy animals are fit for shechita.31

While developing the new standards, the Department of Agriculture contracted Rabbi Yoseph Dov Soloveitchik as its expert halachic consultant.  He became deeply involved in the matter and made numerous trips to Washington in the years 1958-1962, where he testified before congressional committees in defense of shechita.  When pressured by kosher slaughterhouses, which were to incur considerable expenses eliminating the ‘shackle and hoist’ mechanisms, Rabbi Soloveitchik replied, “I am willing to fight to defend shechita, but not shackle and hoist!”

Similarly, the position of STAR-K is to preserve shechita as an institution regulated exclusively by the highest halachic standards without any outside interference, but at the same time accommodate reasonable improvements in animal handling.

A Standing Matter

In Fall 2010, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the 15-member advisory committee to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), received a proposal from its Livestock Committee requiring beef or poultry labeled as ‘organic’ to be rendered unconscious through stunning prior to slaughter. Fortunately, one year later, at the NOSB’s Fall 2011 meeting, there were knowledgeable board members who rejected this motion, acknowledging the exquisite humaneness of shechita.32 A related proposal, that all organic meat animals must be slaughtered while restrained in a comfortable upright position was accepted.

This issue of upright shechita (shechita omedes) has made some recent headlines. Currently, it is the preferred choice by animal welfare advocates. Halachically, some argue that it is problematic since the weight of the animal’s head (a cow’s head can weigh 30 lbs.) places pressure on the knife and will cause ‘drasa’, which invalidates the shechita.33 In modern kosher slaughterhouses, this concern is negated since the animal’s head is comfortably supported by a specially designed apparatus. Therefore, STAR-K and other national hashgachos concur that this is an optimal form of shechita.34  

Another device used in some slaughterhouses is an inversion pen, where the animal enters and is gradually rotated until it is lying upside down.  It allows the shochet to cut with the more traditional downward motion.  This machine was originally invented in 1927, called the “Weinberg Casting Pen”, with improvements made over the years. High costs and reduced efficiency preclude smaller operations from using it.

The Situation Today

We, in the United States, are privileged to live in a country that protects religious practices. More than just protecting the right to perform shechita, the Humane Slaughter Act of 195835 states explicitly that shechita qualifies as a humane method of slaughter.

Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, and a number of South American countries, also sanction shechita, but in most countries it is only as an exemption to the law, without conceding it humane status. Debates in England challenging this allowance have raged since the 1980s.

Switzerland, as previously mentioned, does not allow beef shechita without prior stunning.  Many attempts have been launched to relax the law, but to no avail.  Movements to ban even importation of non-stunned meat also arise, but this right was reaffirmed by the Animal Protection Regulation of 2008.  Similar bans are in place in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Lithuania, and recently New Zealand. Some surpass the Swiss precedent and outlaw even poultry shechita.

In June 2011, “The Party for the Animals”, a small political party in the Netherlands, made enough noise to induce the Dutch House of Representatives to vote to ban religious slaughter without stunning.  A year later, in June 2012, the bill was struck down in the Senate, saying it went against the law on religious freedom.

The biggest issue today facing countries that exempt religious slaughter from stunning laws is the push for labeling.  Realizing that they don’t have enough support to get rid of shechita outright, activists in England and France would like every piece of meat slaughtered without pre-stunning to be labeled as such.  This has the potential to significantly damage the supply of kosher meat, because shechita is economically viable only if the hindquarters, or any animal declared a treifa after slaughter, can be sold as non-kosher.  Given the inflammatory climate in parts of Europe, such labeling will likely curtail these necessary sales.

Australia, Denmark, Austria, and Finland require stunning, but not in a way that has an adverse effect on the shechita.  Instead of stunning cattle36 before shechita, they require administering a captive bolt immediately after the shechita.  This procedure dramatically cuts off the blood flow by ceasing nervous system activity and achieves a more aesthetically pleasing result. Although the shechita itself is kosher, since the animal’s blood does not drain properly, it causes a problem with regard to kashering37the meat.  Rema (Y.D. 67:3) allows such meat to be kashered only after it is cut into small pieces, a considerable hindrance for meat processors and butcher shops.38 

Scientific Support

Dr. I.M. Levinger39 describes how the three basic precepts of surgery – cito, tuto et jucundo – quickly, with certainty, and a minimum of suffering – apply to the shechita procedure and all its details.  The shochet must cut with a swift uninterrupted motion (she’hiya).  He must use an exquisitely sharpened knife, honed to perfect smoothness on par with surgical instruments, that cuts effortlessly (drasa); not concealed by any foreign object (chalada), allowing him to move with certainty.  Both simanim (trachea and esophagus), and ideally the carotid arteries and jugular veins, are severed, but not torn, thus inducing rapid blood drainage,40 and immediate and irreversible loss of consciousness without any suffering.

There is extensive literature from the scientific community about the impact of shechita on an animal.  Methods to measure pain and stress in an animal were contrived, and results were compared to other forms of slaughter.  A brief summary can be found in Dr. S.D. Rosen’s article, Physiological Insights into Shechita,41 published in the prestigious Veterinary Record, June 12, 2004. He reaches the conclusion:

“Characterisation of shechita as ‘cutting an animal’s throat’ with descriptions of blood spurting from the neck or of the late muscular spasms, are unattractive, to say the least.  However, to the uninitiated, coronary artery bypass surgery is also visually unappealing! . . . after a review of the physiological issues involved and the experimental data, it is submitted that Shechita is a painless and effective method by which to stun and dispatch an animal in one rapid act.”

This outcome is confirmed by Dr. Temple Grandin, world renowned scientific expert on humane animal handling and slaughter practices, whose insights are not influenced by religion or politics.  She once commented about shechita that is properly performed:

“I was relieved and surprised to discover that the animals don’t even feel the super-sharp blade as it touches their skin.  They made no attempt to pull away.”  (Regenstein42 and Grandin 1992)

Of course, shechita opponents produce their own research to advance their agendas.  Researchers in New Zealand published a 2009 report concluding that according to their EEG (brain wave) method to measure pain in animals, pain is indeed felt during a shechita cut.  Dr. Grandin was quick with her rejoinder dismissing their claim,43 pointing out the study was fundamentally flawed in three ways:

  1. During actual shechita,the cut is held open and does not allow nerve endings to touch.  The research paper did not note if this was done during the study.
  2. The knife used in the study was only 9.65 inches long.  This is much shorter than a shochet’s chalaf,whose length is double the width of the animal’s neck, thus ensuring a swift and smooth cut.
  3. A shechita knife is sharpened by hand on a whetstone, and achieves a smoothness and sharpness unattainable by the mechanical sharpening devices used in the study.

Attacks On Shechita As A Promoter Of Peace

Recent threats to shechita are aimed not only against Jews, but against Muslims as well.  There are significant practical and theological differences between shechita and halal, but they both disqualify slaughter on animals that have been previously stunned.  A refreshing benefit has been the amicable cooperation between religious leaders as they work together in their common defense.

Torah Wisdom

Scientific findings in support of shechita have value when engaging in dialogue with lawmakers and rational advocates for animal protection.  Nevertheless, for Jews who turn to the Torah for direction in all matters, they are only nominally relevant.  Proper treatment of animals is a concept originally introduced to humanity by the Torah.  The same Creator who created the animal kingdom and enjoined us to treat animals compassionately, is also the One who commanded us how to shecht them.44

The Ramban writes in his commentary to B’reishis (1:29) that although man was granted permission to harness animals for food after the mabul/deluge, he must show respect for a creature’s life-soul.  Therefore, eiver min hachai, meat removed before the animal has expired, is universally prohibited.  The Jewish people exemplify a higher moral standard and, therefore, they must completely drain the blood before consumption since that is where the life-soul of an animal resides.  Shechita, says the Ramban, is the best way to fulfill this requirement and is Divinely designed to spare the animal from any pain or suffering.  This sentiment is echoed by Sefer HaChinuch (451).45

Toras Hashem Temima.  Many of the Torah’s precepts, codified centuries ago, reflect a physical reality, some of which have only very recently been discovered by the scientific community.46  Popular beliefs and even scientific opinions change from one era to the next.  We will continue to adhere to the Torah’s eternal laws and values, patiently waiting for the day when its veracity is unanimously recognized by all mankind.

 

1 J. Berman, Shechita,Bloch Publishing Company, New York 1941, p.256; quoting, David L. Meckler, “Mentsch un Maschin in Soviet-Land”, Warsaw 1936, p.322

2 The easiest way to remove feathers is by scalding. However, this will cause the blood of the unsalted bird to be absorbed in the meat and render it non-kosher.

3 It’s considerably cheaper to send a refrigerated railcar or truck packed with slaughtered meat from the Midwest, where most cattle is raised, to the East Coast, than to send live herds for slaughtering closer to the point of consumption.

4 Indeed, Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 18:17) records that in post-Talmudic times special supervisors are commonly appointed to check shochtim, instead of every rabbi being personally involved.  Nevertheless, rabbis were always kept busy examining abnormalities in chickens, such as broken bones or pockets of coagulated blood, to determine if they were treif.  Today, a good hechsher vouches for its kosher status. The story is told about a woman who brought a chicken to her rabbi every Friday morning, despite purchasing it in a supermarket with a fine hechsher.  The rabbi gently suggested that this was an unnecessary use of her (and his) time, but she insisted saying, “My mother always showed her chickens to the rabbi before Shabbos, and I want to keep up the tradition!”

6 Achiezer IV:12

7 Rabbi Mordechai Breuer, Modernity Within Tradition, p. 342, cites “striking proofs that the proceedings of the associations for the prevention of cruelty to animals were inseparable from the general anti-Semitic movement. The timing of the agitation spoke for this above all but so did the significant fact that these associations had never objected to the administration of the imperial armed forces, who had the animals for its army canned goods slaughtered in the Jewish fashion and not in the more usual way.” He then quotes the aged Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who put “this threat to Judaism on a scale with the worst religious persecutions of antiquity and the middle ages.”

8 Granted in 1874.                                             

9 ‘Stunning’ refers to a variety of methods to make an animal insensible.  This is accomplished either with a mechanical blow to the front of the skull (with a mallet, or with a captive bolt, penetrating or non-penetrating) or electrocution (electrodes are attached to the animal’s head and heart).  For poultry, immersion in electrified water or gassing is used. Any of these options will almost certainly injure the animal sufficiently to render it a treifa, and in many instances cause death and render it a neveila

10 Berman p. 237, “The pre-referendum discussion was marked by misinformation and bigotry. . . Responsible elements in the country urged the rejection of the anti-shechita proposal. . . the National Council sitting at Berne voted 61 to 49 to recommend to the people not to vote for the anti-shechita measure. With the referendum impending, August 10th was declared a fast day by [the national Rabbis]. . . The ‘American Hebrew’ of December 1, 1893 said, ‘It is stated that this majority was obtained chiefly in the German cantons and among the Lutheran populations, where the anti-Jewish feeling runs the highest’ . . . the Anglo-Jewish Association observed, ‘To the credit of the Roman Catholics it should be stated that their votes were solidly cast against the new clause, their priests having made it known that the movement was a religious attack on the Jews.’”

11 See http://www.swissjews.ch/en/religioeses/koscherfleisch/schaechtverbot.php.

12 The Swiss ban is not total; poultry shechita and importing shechted beef are permitted.  Interestingly, during WWI (1914-1918), when Switzerland was surrounded by warring nations, the Bundesrat temporarily set aside the anti-shechita article in the Constitution. (Berman p. 251) 

13 Berman p. 239. These reports led to the abolition of anti-shechita orders in Saxony (1910) and Finland (1911).

14 Physical:  The Torah demands one who sees an overburdened animal to help lighten its load.  (Ki Seitzay 22:4)  Emotional:  Ba’al Haturim (ibid. 22:10) explains the Torah’s prohibition against harnessing an ox and a donkey to the same plow, because an ox chews its cud (ruminates) while a donkey does not.  While engaged in hard labor, the donkey will experience anguish when it senses that the ox is satiated while it remains hungry.  Also, the Torah (ibid. 25:4) prohibits placing a muzzle on an ox while attached to a threshing wheel, preventing the animal from nibbling grain while it works.

15 Noda BiYehuda (1713-1793) famously ruled that hunting for entertainment, still a favorite pastime in modern cultures, contravenes halacha and Jewish values.  (Y.D. II:10, cited in Pischei Teshuva 28:10)

16 The ASPCA was founded in the United States in 1866. The Cruelty to Animals Act, limiting animal experimentation, passed in England in 1876.  From a Torah stance, protecting animals is a just and noble cause.  This discussion is unrelated to the later movements for animal rights or liberation.

17 Studies show that the opposite is true; animals often do not share these human perceptions. Dr. I.M. Levinger, renowned animal physiologist from Basel, conducted an experiment in 1961 where a blood-stained slaughtering knife was shown to a number of animals.  Most of them paid no attention at all, while one animal drew close and licked off the blood.  Only a human associates such a sight with danger and exhibits fear.  (I.M. Levinger, Shechita in the Light of the Year 2000, p. 109) Also, Dr. S.D. Rosen (Physiological Insights into Shechita, published in the Veterinary Record, June 12, 2004, p. 762) discusses the limitations of measuring pain felt by animals since they lack articulate expression of feelings. One can only infer the presence of pain by observation of behavioral responses or through clear neurophysiological data, if available. See Wikipedia, “Pain in Animals.”

18 Berman p.240

19 Unlike Switzerland, the Nazis also forbade poultry shechita and importing kosher meat was restricted.

20 Rabbi Dr. H.J. Zimmels, The Echo of the Nazi Holocaust in Rabbinic Literature, Ktav 1977, p.182

21 When defiling the ‘New Beis HaMedrash’ of Slobodka in 1941, the Germans rounded up all the stray animals in town, placed them in the shul and shot them.  They then allowed the carcasses to rot and covered them with torn Sifrei Torahs.  Such was their concern for animal welfare. (Zimmels, p. 320; Mi-Maamakim by Rabbi E. Oshry, I:1.)

22 Norway (1930), Sweden (1937), Hungary (1938), Italy (1938 ), and then every subsequent country that came under German dominance.

23 Collected in Sridei Aish, comprising hundreds of pages.

24 A public letter (giluy da’as) dated Iyar 5697 (Spring 1937) stating the serious Torah violation of stunningbefore shechita,is printed in Achiezer IV:14. It is signed by all European Torah luminaries of the time, including:  Rav Chaim Ozer, Rav Chanoch H. Aieges (Marcheshes), Rav Shimon Shkop, Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz (Kaminetz), Rav Elchanan Wasserman (Baranovitch), Rav Avraham T.H. Kamai (Mir), the Brisker Rav, Rav Menachem Zemba (Warsaw), among many great leaders.  The letter emphasizes the centrality of shechita and kosher food in preserving the sanctity of the Jewish people.

25 Rabbi Cahn (1849-1919), an early graduate of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary, was rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Fulda.

26 Son of Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer, founder of the Seminary.

27 Breuer, pp. 342-343

28 U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 stipulates that, for sanitary reasons, an animal cannot be slaughtered on the ground where it will come in contact with the blood of another animal.

29Rav Eliezer Silver (HaMaor, Teves 5719 – 1959)objected to shechita teluya on grounds that the animal’s head invariably moves, and because the Ridbaz also expressed displeasure.  Experienced shochtim testify, however, that when held properly this method produces a superior shechita.  Today, this issue is relevant to a difference between the way fowl is slaughtered in Eretz Yisroel and in other countries.

30 A different objection to this method is the grave danger it poses to workers in the event of pulley failure.

31 Another unrelated advantage of shechita is that it greatly reduces the risk of infection from the incurable mad-cow disease, which is a virus in nervous tissue that can be transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body when the cow is ‘stunned’ by a blow to its head.  (Dr. Alex Leventhal, Israeli Ministry of Health)

32 Instrumental to achieving this recognition were the efforts of Mr. Richard D. Siegel, Esq., as well as Dr. Wendy Fulwider, an animal scientist, who had become chairwoman of the NOSB committee on livestock in 2011.

33 A kosher shechita requires that the cut must be made solely by the sharpness of the blade, without any additional pressure, from either the shochet or any external source.

34 Some contend, based on Shach (Y.D. 6:8), that upright shechita is only kosher bdi’eved.  However, there is no source in the Talmud to support this claim and the Rambam (Hilchos Shechita 4:7) explicitly permits it.  See Mesora Issue 23, where Rav Belsky demonstrates how this assertion is a misreading of the Shach. Teshuvos V’Hanhagos IV:178 encourages a community not to change its custom, but he also concedes that shechita omedes is kosher, and the Satmar Rebbi zt”l did not challenge it.  

35 7 U.S.C.A. § 1902. Humane methods. The law was updated with the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act of 1978. Jewish leaders who played an active role in this legislation were Rav Eliezer Silver, Rabbi Herman Neuberger, and Mr. Issac Lewin, father of prominent attorney Mr. Nathan Lewin.

36 Due to physiological differences between cattle and sheep – sheep blood drains much quicker - the requirement applies to cattle only.

57 Kashering is the process of removing forbidden blood through soaking and salting.

38 Achiezer IV:19-20 allowed stunning animals after shechita in pre-WWI Stockholm, and again in Hungary in 1939, if kosher meat would otherwise be unavailable.  Today, most kosher certifications consider such meat as kosher only b’dieved.

39 Shechita in Light of the Year 2000, p. 16.

40 Studies note that this has positive effects on both the hygiene and freshness of kosher meat.

41 Available on shechitauk.org. See also, Zivotofsky, A.Z., & Strous, R.D., A perspective on the electrical stunning of animals: Are there lessons to be learned from human electro-convulsive therapy (ECT)? in Meat Science (2011)

42 Professor Joe Regenstein from Cornell, is a scholar who dedicates himself to protecting the liberty to perform religious slaughter worldwide.

43 Meat & Poultry - The Journal of Meat & Poultry Processors, April 2010

44 Torah and the laws of nature are a seamless continuation of one another. See Rabbeinu Bachya, V’eschanan (5:21).  Hashem’s mercy extends over all His creations, V’rachamov al kol ma’asav” (Psalms 145:9).  Therefore, it is inconceivable that He would command us to slaughter in a way that is not compassionate.  Sometimes, concerns for tzaar ba’alei chaim conflict with the complete performance of a mitzva, and each case must be judged separately to determine which takes precedence. (O.C. 305:18-20 presents an example where Shabbos laws are determined by animal comfort.)  There are situations where a minimal degree of discomfort is allowed if deemed absolutely necessary to ensure a proper shechita (See Pri Megadim, Sifsei Da’as 24:8, Mishbitzos Zahav 53:9, Shulchan Aruch Harav 24:14).  However, these unique applications have no bearing on the essential nature of shechita as a gentle procedure. 

45 Indeed, Pri Megadim (intro. to Hil. Shechita) objects to attributing human logic as a basis to explain reasons for Divinely ordained laws.  However, the Rishonim were not necessarily giving a reason for why the Torah mandates shechita.  Rather, they are pointing out that the laws of shechita precisely reflect an ontological truth of the natural world.

46 One example is the halacha (Chullin 54a, Y.D. 54:1) that an animal whose kidneys are missing is not rendered a treifa, and is healthy enough for shechitaPrima facie, this is unfathomable; in the absence of artificial dialysis, how can an animal live without functioning kidneys?  Rabbi Dr. I.M. Levinger (cited in Rabbi Y.D. Lach’s Chullin Illuminated, p. 182) brings a Dutch 1971 study, where cows had their kidneys surgically removed and surprisingly survived!  Apparently, ruminating (i.e. kosher) animals possess an automatic mechanism which causes the rumen to compensate for a loss of kidney function by filtering toxins.  Halacha codified this secret of nature thousands of years before it was discovered by science.

 

 



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