IN 2004, Agriprocessors (Rubashkin’s and Aaron’s), one of the largest of the kosher slaughtering facilities in the US, got caught skeezing like crazy: first, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency joined a civil suit against them for violating the Clean Water Act. Then they were caught engaging in inhumane killing practices -incidentally bringing to the fore the question of whether tzaar baalei chayim – suffering of animals- actually makes meat unkosher, or whether it merely means that we shouldn’t do business with the companies that engage in it because they’re violating other halachot. Uh, yeah. Then
Last month, The Forward reported that AgriProcessors was mistreating its largely Latino employees.
Wait, that’s just the wind-up. Now Agriprocessor -and several other major kosher meat suppliers- have been served with federal subpoenas in connection with a criminal antitrust investigation according to The Jewish Week . Which other suppliers have also been served is not clear, but let’s be honest, is this shocking to those of us who keep kosher? While it is unclear whether Agriprocessors is the focus of the investigation or simply being consulted to help in the investigation of the market, don’t we hear all the time about kosher practices which are not quite cricket?
The current state of kashrut in this country is appalling. The stakes (steaks?) are about to be very high – for those who eat meat, the problems are racking up – of course there’s no reason to assume that Jewish business people are more moral than those of other religions – but they should be. As a traditional Jew myself, I find it enormously painful to have to revisit over and over again the open evidence of the startling lack of ethical behavior in the Jewish community. And although I can’t say this makes it worse, but it is at least a bit niggling (it would be just as bad to cheat anyone. It is not acceptable to rip off non-Jews!), this particular nastiness can’t even be attributed by the somewhat insular communities that occasionally say this sort of thing as, well, it’s only forbidden to cheat other Jews- well, this is other Jews who are being cheated.
I could console myself with my dairy kitchen, but I have to say that it’s a very small consolation for me. Where is the mussar (traditional ethics) movement for our day? I do not want to hear a single person saying that they won’t condemn these aveirot (sins) because if they tell people that the meat isn’t kosher, people who now keep kosher might start buying non-kosher meat. Let them eat seitan!
At least, where are our leaders who should be publicly condemning these practices instead of sweeping them under the rug in the hope that no one will notice? The Jewish community is now mired in the practices of don’t let the non-Jews know… guess what? – they know. It won’t go away if we ignore it. It is not an application of avoiding chillul hashem (desecration of God’s name) to pretend that everything is okay.