Culture, Justice, Religion

When Shochets Push Back Against Factory Farming

From a longer post at The Jew & The Carrot, reporting on the Hazon Food Conference:
Our shochet was amazing. Rabbi Yehuda Benchimhoun, an Algerian-descended French Jew of Lubavitch conviction, is a reluctant but intense shochet whose story and words impressed us all here, but above all his kavannah, his incredible intentionality with the animals he shechts. More than just being a six day a week vegetarian, he impressed us all with the seriousness with which he approached his duty to honor the life of animals. He was deliberate, he was careful, he was precise. And his respect for the letter of the law alongside its intent was phenomenal.
But aside from his quiet but intense adherence to the intent of halakha, he impressed me most when he related this story, forgive my paraphrasing:

I was shechting for a big manufacturer and one day they delivered to the slaughterhouse on my schedule 290 cattle in rail taxis designated for the occupancy of only 150. And they had not been fed or watered in three days, either! So I told them I wouldn’t shecht. Those animals were not kosher. The manufacturer was incredibly upset, of course, but I refused. I told them to call my rabbi in Crown Heights – and my rabbi supported me. He said, “If Yehuda says they’re not kosher, then they’re not kosher!”

We had learned earlier that day that animals are not fed the night before shechting but must absolutely be fed water; three days without food or water was a cruelty. To hear such stories of shochetim within the industry pushing back against the pressure to kill more cattle, more cheaply, less humanely while retaining the technical title of “kosher” is — why should I be so surprised? — surprising. In a really holy way.

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