Culture, Global, Justice, Religion, Uncategorized

Another beef with kashrut in the news

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.

9 thoughts on “Another beef with kashrut in the news

  1. Can I get a Baruch Hashem? This has already started to be addressed, in a past issue of Kashrus magazine, one rabbi suggested that supervisory organizations pull hecsherim for Choshen Mishpat (i.e. civil law, incl labor law) violations as one pulls them for Orach Chaim (e.g. Shabbat, Yom Tov) violations.
    The movement is already beginning to take shape in the OU. I think we will see a change in the Kashrut certificiation industry soon, IY”H.

  2. Baruch Hashem – you’ve got it.
    ALthough I have to admit some skepticism – didn’t we go thrrough all this *last * year?
    When I seeit happening, then I’ll add a halelu yah

  3. While living in Israel many years ago, I wittnessed the “kashrut certification process” at a local restaurant. The Rabbi issuing the certification walked into the restaurant, over to the owner (to whom we were talking) and held out his hand without a word. The owner wrote him a check, the Rabbi left, and the restaurant was certified. Since then I’ve failed to be shocked by lack of Kosher business practices in the Kashrut sphere.

  4. Many of the negatives in modern agriculture stem from its highly centralized nature – that’s why people have been supporting farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture.
    Maybe it’s time for Jewish communitites to do this as well – sponsoring Jewish livestock farmers in exurbs across the country.

  5. The whole system appears to be corrupt, and has been so for decades. My mom stopped buying kosher meat 50 years ago, after she and my dad spent a vacation with a fellow in the business who regaled them with stories of what went on.
    Infact, uit it even possible to produce kosher meat withing the bounds of Orthodox halacha and do so ethically? And if it isn’t, what does that say about the divine nature of halacha?
    I think what we need are kosher supervisory agencies which provide theor services free of charge to anyone who requests supervision. The xpesnes should be funded by the community, and the supervising agency should have no business relations with the food providers they supervise. This would have to include a prohiition on food providers making charitable donations.
    (I was once in a shul where the plaque of big-money donors was headed up with the owner of the largest kosher market in Town. The rabbi of the synagogue was in charge f the local va’ad hakashrut. You know, it was funny how any competing market that got started always seemed to have kosher violations, or else I would here all sorts of motz shem ra about them.)
    Peronally, I’m starting to rely on label reading and diregaridng hekhshers. I may ingest some stuff that’s technically treif, but at least I won’t support the kosher krooks.

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