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WHEN RITUAL SLAUGHTER ISNíT KOSHER: AN EXAMINATION OF SHECHITA AND THE HUMANE METHODS OF SLAUGHTER ACT

MICHELLE HODKIN


1 Journal of Animal Law 129 (2005)
Publish Date:
2005
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law
Printable Version

WHEN RITUAL SLAUGHTER ISNíT KOSHER: AN EXAMINATION OF SHECHITA AND THE HUMANE METHODS OF SLAUGHTER ACT

From the article:

"The righteous person regards the life of his beast." I have always felt honored to be part of a heritage that is known to be the first in recorded history that ascribes such benevolent and compassionate treatment towards animals. Judaismís plethora of laws relating to the treatment of animals delineates the extensive and unique quality of the religion that mandates the utmost compassion of human beings to be extended towards the creatures with which we share this earth. Though the religion permits the slaughter and consumption of animals for food, that permission goes hand and hand with extensive, detailed requirements for the slaughtering process that help ensure that the animal dies as humanely as possible.

It is from this perspective that I viewed and read a New York Times article published on December 1, 2004, entitled Videos Cited in Calling Kosher Slaughterhouse Inhumane. The articleís gripping first sentence read, "An animal rights group released grisly undercover videotapes yesterday showing steers in a major kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa staggering and bellowing long after their throats were cut." With shock and disappointment, I read on and learned that the steak I enjoyed just two nights previous likely came from a cow who suffered from the same treatment as the several cows documented in the videotape released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Kosher slaughter, or shechita as it is called in biblical Hebrew, is so humane that when performed as intended by Jewish law, the animals donít even feel the cut before dying. Even in modern times and by modern standards, experts have agreed that the shechita method as outlined in Jewish law is humane, and unconsciousness normally follows within seconds of the throat cutting. So how does one reconcile these truths with the video released by PETA of the practices occurring at the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa? What follows are my own conclusions to that troubling question, and my recommendations to improve the lives and deaths of cows at kosher slaughterhouses.

(pdf file - 142.70 KB)

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