Undercover footage reveals abuse at South American slaughterhouses that exports to Israel

Since 2008, the Chief Rabbinate has spoken out against the shackle and hoist practice, encouraging the use of the rotating pens instead.

Cows grazing  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Cows grazing
(photo credit: REUTERS)
At many of the South American facilities exporting beef to Israel, cows are still subject to “shackle and hoist” slaughter – a kosher method already denounced years ago by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.
Video documentation of the ongoing practice appeared on Channel 10 news Wednesday night, following an undercover investigation conducted by the station, together with Israel’s Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live, as well as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the US. The footage documents the kosher slaughter occurring in Frigochaco, a Paraguayan slaughterhouse that markets meats to Israeli importer the Neto Group. It includes reports from facilities in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil – countries that also export beef to Israel.
The shackle-and-hoist method involves positioning the animal upside down – a necessity in kosher slaughter – by shackling its hind leg with a chain and then performing the ritual procedure. In addition to employing this method of slaughter, the Paraguayan workers were documented using restraint tools like pronged “devil’s forks” and metal hooks that attach to the animals’ nostrils, according to Anonymous for Animal Rights.
Shackling and hoisting was gradually phased out in Israel and does not appear in beef slaughter procedures published by the Agriculture Ministry’s Veterinary Services.
Procedures for minimizing pain to slaughterhouse animals, published in May 2014, apply only to the “rotating pen” method of kosher slaughter – a practice considered more humane than hoist and shackle, in which the cow is shifted upside down inside a pen rather than suspended by a chain.
Since 2008, the Chief Rabbinate has spoken out against the shackle-andhoist practice, encouraging the use of the rotating pens instead.
As far as imported meat products are concerned, supervisory procedures published by Veterinary Services in April 2013 indicate that all such imports should meet standards equivalent to those accepted in Israel.
However, Veterinary Services responded to the undercover investigation on Tuesday, indicating that “Israeli animal welfare laws and regulations do not apply outside the borders of Israel.”
“Veterinary Services is working to promote slaughter in more humane way, as is customary in Israel,” Veterinary Services said.
At the Frigochaco facility, more than 80 animals are slaughtered each working hour, with approximately 200,000 animals slaughtered there last year alone – for both kosher and non-kosher customers, according to the report.
“The investigation shows that the animals go through a chain of continuous torture,” said a joint statement by Anonymous for Animal Rights and PETA. “It is outrageous that shackling and hoisting is still taking place: It is time for the Rabbinate to enforce its instructions and for the Agriculture Ministry to prohibit this unnecessary abuse.”
Approximately 66,000 tons of beef were imported to Israel in 2015, primarily from South America, accounting for roughly 60% of beef products consumed in Israel, the investigators said.
Yossi Wolfson, an attorney for Let Animals Live, stressed that “killing an animal is always painful and stressful for the animal.” But he acknowledged that internationally accepted standards do exist that “aim to reduce this pain and agony as much as possible.”
“What we see in those slaughterhouses in South America is really cruel beyond imagination,” Wolfson told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “If people see slaughter, even under the best standards and the best application of those standards, it is so agonizing that they would probably stop eating meat.”
In a Channel 10 report on Tuesday night, Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzhoar organization, spoke up against animal abuse.
“Animal welfare is a biblical prohibition, which means that even when we use animals, we should do so in a way that causes the minimal possible suffering,” he said. “Anything that goes beyond this may, in certain cases, disqualify kashrut.”
Rabbi Shabtai Rappaport, head of the Beit Midrash at Bar-Ilan University’s Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies, expressed his concerns with the footage on the Channel 10 broadcast.
“I think the doubts here are significant enough to make rabbis, adjudicators and kashrut supervisors realize that there is a problem,” he said.
Anonymous for Animal Rights, Let Animals Live and PETA have now launched a campaign requesting that members of the public send letters to the Agriculture Ministry, Veterinary Services and Chief Rabbinate officials, demanding a ban on imports from slaughterhouses that employ the shackle- and-hoist method.
In response to the investigation, the Chief Rabbinate condemned the activities documented in the footage but stressed that legal action can only be taken by other government bodies.
“We were horrified to see the shocking abuse of animals,” a statement from the Chief Rabbinate said on Wednesday.
“Animal abuse is a serious offense according to the Torah of Israel.”
“However, in accordance with the law and the ruling of the High Court of Israel, the Chief Rabbinate cannot revoke kashrut in situations where there is no harm to the core issues of kashrut, and therefore, unfortunately, we are precluded from dealing with this matter,” the statement said. “We hope that the authorized bodies will handle this matter with all of their capabilities to prevent the recurrence of further such acts.”
The Agriculture Ministry said restrictions on international trade are only determined within a framework of trade agreements signed by Israel.
“Restrictions with respect to animal abuse are a developing field in recent years and are regularly being updated,” the ministry said in a statement. “The Agriculture Ministry, which places great emphasis on preserving animal welfare, takes care to remain updated on changes and to exercise its authorities on the matter.”
On Wednesday morning, as a result of the Channel 10 investigation, a group of attorneys – Hagai Kalai, Haya Erez and Ohad Rosen – filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of private citizen Aharon Mundik against the Neto Group for NIS 238 million. Arguing that all reasonable Israeli consumers would prefer to purchase meat that is not a product of animal cruelty, the claim accuses the company of hiding its noncompliance with international slaughter norms from members of the public.
“The Animal Welfare Law is one of the most important in the statute of laws, and the most forgotten,” the lawyers said in a statement. “The country pays very little attention, if any, to preventing the unnecessary suffering of animals in the slaughter process.”