Statement of Rabbis and Certifying Agencies on Recent Publicity on Kosher Slaughter

December 9, 2004

As rabbis and certifying agencies involved in the supervision of kosher meat slaughter in the United States, we are deeply concerned that the recent publicity surrounding the videotape released by a group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals may lead to misconceptions about the practices depicted on the videotape and, more generally, about the shechita process itself. We therefore wish to state as follows:

1. Shechita involves the slicing or cutting of the trachea and esophagus with a sharp knife without nicks in a manner which has been established over centuries to be the most humane form of animal slaughter. Shechita typically renders the animal insensible almost instantaneously.

2. After the animal has been rendered insensible, it is entirely possible that it may still display certain reflexive actions, including those shown in images portrayed in the video. These reflexive actions should not be mistaken for signs of consciousness or pain, and they do not affect the kosher status of the slaughtered animal’s meat. There may be exceptional circumstances when, due to the closing of jugular veins or a carotid artery after the shechita cut, or due to the non-complete severance of an artery or vein, the animal may rise up on its legs and walk around. Cases when animals show such signs of life after the slaughter process are extremely rare, and even such an event would not invalidate the shechita if the trachea and esophagus were severed in the shechita cut.

3. With the act of shechita, it is common to cut the carotid arteries, a practice designed to facilitate bleeding and accelerate unconsciousness. Excision of the trachea, however, is not common practice. We wish to make clear that nothing in any such post-shechita “second cut” or excision in any way undermines the validity of the shechita itself or the kosher status of the slaughtered animal’s meat. We further note that regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture explicitly approve a second cut to facilitate bleeding.

4. We reaffirm our commitment to the Jewish mandate of avoiding “tzaar baalei chayim,” unnecessary pain to any creature. We reiterate that the shechita process embodies this very mandate. We rededicate ourselves to the ongoing responsibility of ensuring strict compliance with all religious and federal laws governing kosher slaughter.

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky
Halachic Consultant
Orthodox Union

Rabbi Sholem Fishbane
Kosher Administrator
Chicago Rabbinical Council

Rabbi Menachem Genack
Rabbinic Administrator
Kashrus Division
Orthodox Union

Rabbi Asher Hatchuel
Rabbinic Head
Sephardic Beth Din of America

Rabbi Moshe Heinemann
Rabbinic Administrator
Star-K Certification

Rabbi Emanuel Holzer
Chairman, Kashrus Committee
Rabbinical Council of America

Rabbi Chaim Kohn
Rabbinic Administrator
Khal Adas Jeshurun

Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz
Head of Beth Din
Chicago Rabbinical Council

Rabbi Yitzchok Stein
Rabbinic Head
Beth Din of Karlsburg

Rabbi Yechiel Steinmetz
Rabbinic Judge
Monsey, NY

Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum
Nirbater Rav
Rabbinic Supervisor
Alle Processing Corporation

Rabbi Menachem Meir Weissmandl
Rabbinic Head
Nitra Beth Din of Monsey