Week Five, Day One
Chesed of Hod
Since the most recent debacle at Rubashkin’s, documented widely, with a focus on the huge immigration raid detaining nearly 400 of the slaughterhouse’s 968 employees and sending many of the remaining into hiding (and not to mention so many other violations of so many varieties of American law and halachah that the mind boggles), the Postville Plant has reopened on essentially a skeleton crew.
SInce, according to the Forward, it is producing less than half its usual output, and Agriprocessors produces more than half of glatt kosher beef in the USA and the greatest share of glatt kosher poultry, and Postville produces 85% of that beef, instead of American Jews wondering how we’ve come to such a pass; that after several years of people reporting violation after violation of Jewish law, human rights, and American law, how is it that the Orthodox Union hasn’t revoked its supervision; how is it that there isn’t an outcry against such practices, against the kosher meat industry from within the Jewish community – and for that matter – why haven’t we been more carefully examining the actual kashrut of let us say, the organization behind the meat (cf. Rabbi David Berger, author of The Rebbe the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference)?
How is it that we are actually even thinking about whether or not we’ll get enough meat?
At the Hazon food conference late last year, Rabbi Yehuda ben Chemhoun, a prominent shochet of 27 years, and Rabbi Seth Mandel, the senior mashgiach at the Orthodox Union, both spoke of how they limited their own intake of meat, and Rabbi Mandel said plainly that he felt that the kosher meat industry in this country was broken, at least in part because people were expecting to eat too much meat. Instead of meat being something to have occasionally, for shabbat and holidays, people -because of its easy availability- are eating meat every day, sometimes at every meal. And this is sick: it is sick beause it leads us to an industry of waste and cruelty, and to health problems from over indulgence and also to health problems from eating the flesh of animals being treated badly throughout their lives – and through their deaths.
Although I rarely eat meat, I am not a veg. But how can we continue to support an industry that causes this much pain not only to animals, but to human beings. Our sages argue about what the purpose of our kashrut restrictions of meat and shechita are: some say it is because animals feel emotionally as we do, and it is wrong to be cruel to them; some say that it is because we are to learn from the example of our care with animals that all the more so we need to take care of other human beings, to teach compassion.
What Rubashkin’s has revealed is that it cares about neither. So, the only question left is: how long will we allow it to continue, and what will we decide to do now?