Chief rabbi urges more humane slaughter methods

Metzger encourages importers of South American kosher meat to phase out "shackle and hoist" method and adopt "rotating pen."

Metzger 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Metzger 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger met Monday evening with importers of South American kosher meat to encourage them to phase out the "shackle and hoist" slaughter method and adopt the more humane "rotating pen" method. Although the Chief Rabbinate has condoned the shackle and hoist method for decades, a clandestine video shot in October 2007 and circulated on the Internet by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has sparked new scrutiny. Metzger, who is in charge of kosher supervision for the Rabbinate, has been under pressure from animal rights groups to stop the slaughter method. Two weeks ago The Jerusalem Post reported that Metzger intended to meet with importers to persuade them to stop the shackle and hoist method. Even the Orthodox Union, the largest kosher supervision organization in the world, has advised the Rabbinate to discontinue shackling and hoisting at slaughterhouses that provide Israel with kosher meat. There was an "international attack initiated by organizations for the prevention of cruelty to animals against the kosher way of slaughtering," Metzger was quoted as saying during the meeting, in a press release from the Chief Rabbinate. This quote reflected the feeling among many rabbis in the Rabbinate that PETA's criticism was designed to undermine kosher slaughtering altogether. Sources within the Rabbinate have voiced concerns that Metzger's willingness to compromise on the shackle and hoist issue would shed a negative light on kosher slaughtering as a whole. In the PETA video, filmed inside a slaughterhouse in Montevideo, Uruguay, a cow is shown hanging from a single leg, struggling and bellowing. After the animal is put on the ground, it is shown writhing and being restrained by several workers who step on it and prod it before the cut. According to PETA the entire procedure takes more than three minutes. During the meeting, Metzger told the importers that the shackle and hoist method was "primitive" and instructed the importers "to exert major pressure on the slaughterhouses they work with to make them adopt the rotating pen method." According to this method, the cow is placed in a pen and flipped upside down. The cow is slaughtered in this inverted position. Israel imports most of its meat, both kosher and non-kosher, from South America. Even the non-kosher meat is often derived from animals slaughtered in the shackle and hoist method. It becomes non-kosher after failing to meet various halachic requirements that have nothing to do with animal cruelty. Most South American slaughterhouses, and several older Israeli ones, prepare cows for slaughter by tying the animal's hind leg to a shackle that is attached to a mechanical derrick and hoisting the cow off its feet. The cow is then lowered to the ground on its side and held by three men - one at the head, one at the hindquarter and a third by one of the forelegs - while a fourth man, a shochet ritual slaughterer, cuts through the trachea and the esophagus.