Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim at AgriProcessors and Local Pride

Following my post last night about the federal sentencing of former AgriProcessors executive Sholom Rubashkin, several comments called into question my claim that there had been inhumane treatment of animals at AgriProcessors. This claim was not a significant focus in yesterday’s post. I offered a comment with a succinct explanation, which apparently provided inadequate evidence for at least one of the skeptics. Because it will require a lengthy response to show why I overwhelmingly believe there was tza’ar ba’alei chayim (unnecessary animal suffering) at AgriProcessors, I have decided to put up a new post rather than a mere comment. This information is not new for many readers of The Jew & The Carrot, but demands for it arising out of last night’s post are.

Some readers will inevitably question the involvement of PETA and be tempted to tune out the details. Don’t just shoot the messenger. If you can see the video footage with your own two eyes, read the statements from leading animal welfare experts like Dr. Temple Grandin, and take note of AgriProcessors’ punishment by the U.S. government, then that’s evidence enough in my book.

It’s not surprising that misinformation abounds on issues related to AgriProcessors. As U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose said in a press release today largely about the financial charges, “various interest groups and people evidently seeking personal notoriety have hijacked the true facts of this case for their own purposes. It is impossible to address the mountain of false information that has found its way into the public arena.”

2004

Watch this PETA undercover video, and you can see for yourself that cattle had their tracheas ripped out of their throats and suffered prolonged agony following shechita.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) later told the plant to stop the throat-ripping procedure and determined that AgriProcessors employees “had engaged in acts of inhumane slaughter.” (One of the comments in response to last night’s post attempted to shift the blame from AgriProcessors to the USDA. While the USDA also erred in its role, it is false to claim that the USDA report somehow vindicates AgriProcessors.)

The abuse was condemned by myriad rabbis and animal welfare experts. Dr. Grandin, who is deemed a leading expert on animal welfare in slaughterhouses by both animal welfare advocates and the meat industry (certainly including AgriProcessors), noted, “In conclusion, many of the cattle that had their trachea removed were fully conscious and fully sensible. The duration of complete sensibility was probably prolonged by the pain of having their inner tissues cut and pulled during this dressing procedure.” She separately stated, “I thought it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been in at least 30 other kosher slaughter plants, and I had never ever seen that kind of procedure done before.”

2007

As I wrote on The Jew & The Carrot in July 2007, “Last week, video footage from an undercover investigation of Local Pride, a [Rubashkin-owned] kosher slaughterhouse in Nebraska, was released by PETA. The footage shows that cows had their ears mutilated to remove ID tags and their throats ripped into with a hook–all while they were still conscious. Veterinarian Dr. Holly Cheever commented, ‘This method of slaughter as depicted on this tape is brutal and should be amended to provide a humane end for these animals.’”

2008

Another PETA video investigation “showed that a worker other than the shochet made a ‘second cut’ to animals’ throats following the initial cut of shechitah, which is a big no-no,” as I explained on heebnvegan in September 2008. The procedure was condemned by Dr. Grandin and is illegal under the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

The Des Moines Register reported, “Federal regulations bar workers performing kosher slaughter from making the second cut unless a rabbi is watching. Agriculture Department inspectors followed up on the video and determined that a worker had violated the regulation and issued the citation, known as a ‘noncompliance record,’ said Amanda Eamich, a spokeswoman for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.”

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11 Responses to “Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim at AgriProcessors and Local Pride”

  1. Shmarya Says:

    The USDA found that Agriprocessors violated the Humane Slaughter Act:

    http://failedmessiah.typepad.c.....guilt.html

  2. Michael Croland Says:

    Shmarya, thanks for chyming in. This is what I referred to toward the end of the 1st paragraph in my 2004 section. But by all means, I encourage people to read up on this in greater depth.

  3. Shmarya Says:

    Yup. Me bad. An me very tired

  4. Uriel Says:

    For those who choose to watch the Peta videos, do yourself a favor and make sure you also watch Peta’s undercover videos from non-kosher slaughterhouses, if you want to understand what true tza’ar baalei chaim is. Then compare what you see there to the Rubashkin videos. Perhaps Rubashkin was employing some questionable slaughtering practices, but there is absolutely no comparison between what was going on there and what goes on elsewhere. But Rubashkin was held to a higher standard, as he should have been, because he represented a higher standard, and he did not meet that standard.

  5. Hannah Lee Says:

    Thank you, Michael,for citing all these independent sources on this one post!

  6. PETA Says:

    You couldnt of said it any better about peta and the people who were going after rubashkin!!! all for themselves!!!

    “various interest groups and people evidently seeking personal notoriety have hijacked the true facts of this case for their own purposes. It is impossible to address the mountain of false information that has found its way into the public arena.”

  7. steven Says:

    Thank you for letting the world know how dumb you are. like comment # 3 said these videos do now show any tzar baalwi chaim, do your research and learn what a animal feels and doesn’t feel!! not even worth arguing with you!! hopefully one day you will grow up
    Listen to Nathan Lein’s speech from boro park 2 nights ago and then come back and talk, he has proof to everything he says, and thats why he is taking over the case and will win.

  8. Michael Croland Says:

    Steven,

    First of all, I’ve been contributing to The Jew & The Carrot for three years, and it’s always been respectful dialogue in the comments section on this blog (as opposed to so many others). I find it surprising that you and others this week are resorting to comments like “Thank you for letting the whole world know how dumb you are” and I hope that name-calling and personal insults aren’t something you plan on continuing on this blog. Reasonable people can genuinely disagree and still be respectful.

    As for doing my “research” and learning what animals feel, I certainly have. I actually just finished reading a scientific book about the extent to which nociception and pain are felt by animals (see my The Jew & The Carrot post from earlier this month: http://jcarrot.org/fish-feel-pain), and I’ve also read up on how this plays out in the moments after animals are shechted (see my previous commentary here: http://heebnvegan.blogspot.com.....-pain.html).

    100% of veterinarians and animal welfare scientists who reviewed the video footage from the 2004 investigation agreed that animals were still capable of feeling pain after the initial cut of shechita had been made (see their statements here: http://www.goveg.com/feat/agri.....xperts.asp). When a PETA representative raised that exact point in an hourlong debate against Nathan Lewin (not Lein) a couple years ago, Lewin just dodged the issue and never rebutted the point. I kept listening and hoping he’d attempt a decent argument in that regard, but he didn’t.

  9. Edith Says:

    Michael, thank you for citing all the independent sources. One of your links, “(certainly including AgriProcessors)” goes to an article in “the Forward”
    Animal-rights Expert Endorses Kosher Plant
    By Guest Author
    Published July 07, 2006, issue of July 07, 2006.
    Dr. Temple Grandin is quoted as approving of the plant. PETA spent 7 weeks at Agri and was able to put together a video of select animals. This is not the typical reaction. The method of restraint and slaughter at the Agri plant is more humane than most. I think Dr. Temple Grandin agrees. The Rubashkins were trying to provide a service to the people that eat kosher meat. They have never been tried for animal cruelty. Shmarya mentions a report by the USDA. The article states “The inspector general’s office gave its report to federal prosecutors, but “based on the information presented to us, we decided there was not a prosecutable case,” said Robert Teig, a lawyer in the United States attorney’s office for the northern district of Iowa.”
    PETA has found them guilty as if it is a fact.
    Why are you bringing this up now?

  10. Michael Croland Says:

    Edith,

    Re “I think Dr. Temple Grandin agrees.”
    * It depends on when we’re talking about.
    * PETA found numerous examples of inhumane practices (not just the 5-minute video I linked to. there’s also a 30-minute clip publicly available, and many more hours of raw video footage I’m sure) in the 2004 investigation. I quoted Dr. Grandin’s opposition from 2004.
    * The Forward article from 2006 SPECIFICALLY refers to a tour of the plant she took in 2006, and she said everything she saw then was OK.
    * But by the time the 2008 investigation came out, she complained that the tours that AgriProcessors gave to her, rabbis, and the media showed distinct practices from when nobody was watching. This is why she called for video monitoring, which the plant did not implement. In 2008, she told JTA, “There’s no point [re the scheduled visits]. I’ve been in business 35 years, and I’m getting sick and tired of: They act good when you’re there and they don’t act good when your back is turned. They did the same thing for the rabbis they would do for me — put on a show.” (For more information about Dr. Grandin’s reaction in 2008, see my heebnvegan post: http://heebnvegan.blogspot.com.....child.html)
    * The reason why I linked to that Forward article is because it shows that Dr. Grandin isn’t just held up as an expert by the animal rights movement. AgriProcessors also praised her as an expert — even more so on a post on their Web site (which has of course been taken down by now) around that time than in that Forward article.

    Re “They have never been tried for animal cruelty.”
    Not every violation of every law is tried by a jury. The USDA has enforcement power that works separately from jury trials, etc. I mentioned two instances of when they got into trouble with the USDA. This is distinct from being put on trial for cruelty to animals.

    Re “Why are you bringing this up now?”
    See the explanation I gave in the first paragraph.

  11. Ilia Alexeev Says:

    Talmud calls to the Vegetarianism! [And a bit about the Talmud itself] :
    https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B8mGY6JYOQDOUEUxV3hFTDBvYUk&usp=sharing

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