Photograph by Konstantin Nikiforov/Wikimedia Commons
I slaughter my own chickens.
For the past several years, I have seen many animals die. I have experienced a range of feelings, from total cold focus to sadness and even fear. But I recently experienced a slaughter that transformed the way I see meat.
I trained in kosher slaughter four years ago, after seeing a slaughter myself. I realized I wanted to be able to produce my own meat — I saw making local kosher meat accessible as an essential way to create a healthy Jewish community, healthy food systems and a healthy local economy.
At the Hazon Food Conference in December, I helped with a demonstration led by fellow shochet (slaughterer) and food activist Yadidya Greenberg, and I performed the actual slaughter.
Urban Adamah privately slaughtered 15 chickens that were scheduled to be killed as part of a public kosher slaughter workshop on May 4 that was canceled after community outcry.
Adam Berman, executive director of the Berkeley farm and education center, disclosed the news in an email to J. this week.
The chickens, which were no longer laying eggs, were killed by a shochet (kosher slaughterer) in two sessions attended by staff members and Urban Adamah fellows. Eight chickens were slaughtered on May 14 and the remainder on May 20.
“Unfortunately, we were unable, due to time limitations, to process all of the chickens on [May 14],” Berman wrote in an email. “The remaining few were killed by staff, with the support of our fellows, on Tuesday afternoon, May 20 All of our chickens were treated with utmost kindness and care during their lifetimes and killed in the most thoughtful and humane way we know possible.”
The meat was used in chicken soup and served at Urban Adamah’s weekly free farm stand on May 21. The stand usually gives away produce grown on the Berkeley farm.
A Berkeley workshop on kosher slaughter — during which 15 hens were to be killed — was canceled this week amid public outcry from animal rights groups and others.
Urban Adamah initially stood firm that its long-planned event would continue as scheduled on Sunday, May 4, even in the face of activists who threatened to picket and protest outside the urban farm and education center.
But on May 1, Adam Berman, founder and executive director of Urban Adamah, a nonprofit grounded in Jewish values, sent out an email explaining the cancellation.
“We regret to inform you that we are canceling our shechita (ritual slaughter) workshop planned for this Sunday,” the email began. “Our landlord has asked us to cancel the event. We do not have explicit permission in our lease for this activity.
“It has also become clear that there is a significant protest being organized outside the farm during the workshop. The noise and disruption expected from the protesters would very likely have caused undue stress to the chickens and the program participants, and prevent us from holding a safe, educational and compassionate workshop.
“We believe this program has significant merit and fits into Urban Adamah’s overall mission. We cannot, however, move ahead as planned given the current circumstances.”
In a phone interview with J. on May 1, Berman would not comment on the fate of the chickens now that the workshop is canceled. “We don’t yet know what we are doing with the chickens. We are considering our options,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Earlier in the week, Hope Bohanec, a Petaluma-based project manager for United Poultry Concerns, said her group had informed Berman that three Northern California farm-animal sanctuaries expressed interest in “rescuing” the chickens.
“Animal Place in Grass Valley, Hen Harbor in Santa Cruz and Harvest Home in Stockton are willing to take the hens, conduct a rescue with transport vehicles and volunteers,” she said. “[Urban Adamah] would not have to do anything.”
Berman told J. it was “very unfortunate” that the event was canceled because it would have been a good learning experience for Jewish community members interested in the processes of kosher slaughter.
“The landlord asked us to cancel it because it wasn’t in our lease, and we have a good relationship with them, so it wasn’t a battle we felt like having,” Berman said.
Yadidya Greenberg is a certified shochet (kosher slaughterer), animal welfare educator and blogger. He has given live kosher slaughter and animal welfare presentations at The Portland Meat Collective, Urban Adamah of Berkley and the Hazon Rocky Mountain Food Festival just to name a few. Yadidya will also be featured in the upcoming documentary “Farm and Red Moon”. He has been an active member of the Colorado Hazon community and is slowly making headways onto the national stage. After making this video he teamed up with Director of Hazon Denver, Sarah Kornhauser, to write up this short interview which gives a bit more information on the video, Yadidya, and his message.
(JTA) — Diaspora Jews often find themselves exasperated with the Israeli rabbinate. But on one significant issue, an Israeli rabbinic authority is looking far more enlightened and merciful than his peers in the United States.
Recently elected Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau surprised more than a few people last week when he reportedly threatened to terminate the kosher certification of a slaughterhouse belonging to Soglowek, one of Israel’s largest meat producers.
Lau issued the warning after an undercover investigation produced video footage showing routine and egregious abuses of chickens and turkeys at a Soglowek slaughterhouse in northern Israel. The graphic video, aired on national television in Israel, showed chickens packed in filthy cages without food or water, writhing turkeys tossed into metal boxes with their throats cut, and several other forms of cruelty.
“As a human being and as a Jew, I was shocked by the footage, by the brutal behavior of those employees toward helpless animals,” said Lau, according to Israel’s Ynet website. “Such things shouldn’t happen. The Torah forbids us to act in this way and obliges us to be extra vigilant with regard to animal welfare. We cannot remain silent in the face of such things. We will act firmly and sternly against this factory.”
Lau summoned Soglowek officials to a meeting and urged all slaughterhouses nationwide to take additional steps to avoid abuses. The Soglowek slaughterhouse was shut down temporarily by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Israel’s leading rabbi has warned Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders that his party’s support for a ban of ritual slaughter of animals in the Netherlands is “anti-Semitic” and could drive away the country’s Jewish community.
Wilders rose to prominence in the Netherlands denouncing the growing influence of Islam in the West, calling for a ban against Muslim immigrants, a halt to the construction of mosques and a ban on Muslim face-veils.
Some of his most outspoken supporters are in the conservative, pro-Israeli movement in the United States. Wilders calls himself Israel’s “greatest friend” and has also proposed creating a national Dutch holiday to commemorate the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In a letter to Wilders on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, called on Wilders’ Freedom Party to stop backing a ban on ritual slaughter.
It is the strongest public condemnation yet of Wilders’ position on the policy and comes two weeks before the Netherlands holds a general election September 12 in which he is expected to take a sizeable portion of the vote.
It is commonly remarked that the best lies told are those that contain some truth. And so it often seems to be with the argument, which returns like the tides every few years, that shechitah, kosher ritual slaughter, is intrinsically inhumane. That it stands apart from the modern, civilized form of animal slaughter the rest of the world engages in and that this dark, antiquated and backwards practice must be brought into the light and abolished by right-thinking, morally upright persons of conscience.
The most recent foray into this field, by James McWilliams, makes some excellent arguments that seem simple and logical to the common man. This would seem to point to his overall conclusion, that kosher slaughter is “gruesome” being true. While it is certainly true, and sad, that kosher slaughter, like any slaughter can be gruesome, it is by no means inherent to the details of kashrut. McWilliam’s sullies his valid points by mixing them with half-truths and assumptions.
The Dutch Senate formally scrapped legislation to ban ritual slaughter in the Netherlands.
Fifty-one of the 75 senators voted Tuesday not to ratify the law passed last year by the parliament.
The vote is the final word in a protracted public debate about animal welfare, religious freedom and integration that began in September 2008, when tiny Holland’s Party for Animals submitted a bill to ban the slaughter of conscious animals. Islamic and Jewish law require that animals be conscious at the time of the slaughter.
Last week, the Dutch Senate ratified a deal to adapt ritual slaughter to the state’s animal welfare norms.
This story is cross-posted from JTA.
Dutch Agriculture Minister Hans Bleker signed an agreement with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and slaughterhouses that will prevent a ban on ritual slaughter.
Under the agreement signed Tuesday, animals can continue to be ritually slaughtered as long as they lose consciousness within 40 seconds of their throats being cut. After 40 seconds they must be stunned, which is prohibited under both Jewish and Islamic law.
A prominent Dutch rabbi, however, criticized the covenant as “unacceptable.”
“The government is concerning itself with issues such as how to perform the cut. That is the domain of rabbis and the Jewish community,” Lody van de Kamp, a rabbi and politician, told the daily Reformatorisch Dagblad Wednesday. “The government should stay out.”
Last month, The Dutch Animal Rights Party pushed a bill through the lower house of the Dutch Parliament that would outlaw the slaughter of animals without stunning. The law, if ratified by the upper house of parliament, will in essence make locally raised and slaughtered kosher (and halal) meat illegal. A similar law was passed in New Zealand last year, and kosher slaughter is already outlawed in Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The battle over the ethicality of kosher slaughter came to the United States recently, though fortunately with a better outcome. A Washington state appellate unanimously rejected a suit that would have made a law protecting religious slaughter unconstitutional, says the JTA.
Jewish groups in Europe are strategizing ways to combat the Dutch bill. In June, United Kingdom Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks told British paper The Telegraph: “We are worried that [this type of bill] could spread. There has been a non-stop campaign by animal welfare activists to have all forms of ritual slaughter banned. It has to be fought everywhere because if it’s lost anywhere it has a potential domino effect.”
Local kosher and halal meat may not be available for long in the Netherlands. Dutch lawmakers voted today to approve a law proposed by the Dutch Animal Rights Party that would ban kosher and halal slaughter, CNN’s Belief Blog reports.
The bill requires that animals in the country be stunned or anesthetized before being slaughtered. Animal rights activists argue that this method causes the animal the least amount of pain. However, kosher (and halal) meat can only come from an animal that has been slaughtered according to religious law, which prohibits stunning.
The Dutch Jewish community, which numbers 40,000, has protested the bill as a violation of religious freedom. Marianne Thieme, head of the Animal Rights Party, says that humane treatment of animals must trump religious freedom. Speaking to the house before the vote she said: “This way of killing causes unnecessary pain to animals. Religious freedom cannot be unlimited. For us religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins.”