It is often argued that one of the most humane methods of killing an animal is through the performance of kosher slaughter. Indeed, the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act (HMLSA) of 1978 goes so far as to define kosher slaughter, and handling in connection with such slaughter, as humane, and consequently fails to provide any regulation over this method of killing. It is thus concerning that a number of kosher slaughterhouses have, in recent years, been discovered to be using blatantly inhumane practices, which the relevant religious authorities have insisted are completely kosher.
This Article examines the Jewish law concerning kosher slaughter and asks how it is possible for a slaughter that has been performed in an inhumane fashion to remain kosher. The answer, it concludes, is that the religious rules provide little guidance on the handling of animals in connection with slaughter. There thus exists a need for either the religious authorities or the law to supplement the existing religious rules with further requirements aimed at ensuring humane-slaughter practices. After analyzing both comparative law on this issue and the relevant First Amendment considerations, this Article argues that there is a need for Congress to remove the HMLSA’s current exemption of handling in connection with kosher slaughter and for regulations to be passed governing this issue. It makes suggestions as to how such regulations could provide for more humane-slaughter practices in a manner that fails to offend either the Free Exercise Clause or the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.