The Chief Rabbinate of Israel still certifies meat slaughtered in Latin American slaughterhouses that employ a method generally considered unnecessarily cruel, despite having pledged to stop doing so by 2011, Anglo animal rights activists said recently.
"The rabbinate is on record as finding the practice of shackle-and-hoist ethically problematic and certainly inflicting pain and suffering on animals," said Rabbi Adam Frank, of Hakol Chai, an Israeli branch of an American animal welfare organization founded by Nina Natelson, of Washington, D.C. "What more does the rabbinate need in order to make this a priority and take care of the interests of the Jewish people, the kosher consumer and the animals?"
Frank and a group of like-minded local activists have been lobbying for a ban of importing meat slaughtered by the method known as shackle-and-hoist - a procedure during which fully conscious animals are chained by the ankle and hoisted upside down before being slaughtered - since 2007.
Last June, Avi Blumenthal, an assistant for Metzger, told Anglo File that if the South American slaughterhouses do not abolish shackle-and-hoist and switch to a more humane method by 2011, the Rabbinate would cease to certify the meat produced there as kosher.
But the rabbinate has not kept its promise, asserts Frank, who was born and raised in Atlanta and today is the rabbi of the predominantly Anglo Masorti congregation Moreshet Yisrael in central Jerusalem.
"It's been fours years now," he told Anglo File. "The first three years the public was pacified by statements on behalf of the Israeli Rabbinate that they would ensure a changed would occur. Either they misled the public or they lied."
Blumenthal admitted that the rabbinate still certifies meat slaughtered with shackle-and-hoist, which is illegal in Israel, the U.S. and the European Union. Since the Israeli rabbinate requires that the animal be slaughtered while lying on its back, in accordance with laws of kashrut, kosher meat is produced either with shackle-and-hoist or with the help of a box-like holding pen that inverts the animal before the cut is administered.
"Many factories in South America did switch to the inversion method," Blumenthal said. "Those who didn't switch will do so eventually, but there are two problems that delay that process: Some factories have technical difficulties because the installation of the inversion pen needs space they don't have. Secondly, the Israeli importers signed long terms contracts [with the slaughterhouses] and therefore cannot exert pressure on the owners."
However, there is "a positive trend" regarding the number of Latin American slaughterhouses that installed inversion pens, Blumenthal added.
The director of the rabbinate's overseas slaughtering and meat imports department, Rabbi Ezra Harari Raful, told Anglo File that while a small number of South American slaughterhouses have installed inversion pens, most of the 15-odd slaughterhouses that supply Israel still use shackle-and-hoist. "Both from a veterinarian and from a kashrut perspective there is no problem with this kind of slaughtering," he said.
Rabbi Menachem Genack, the head of the kashrut division at the New York-based Orthodox Union, said Metzger had told him he seriously intends to switch to the inversion pen system. "I'm not sure whether  was a realistic time frame. I always understood it as something transitional that would take time," Genack told Anglo File. "It's not an easy thing to do, it's quite complicated," he said.
But the Anglo activists don't buy this rationalization.
"Clearly, practicalities are always a valid argument," said Rabbi Danny Schiff, an Australian-born Jewish ethicist who supports Frank's campaign. But "there's no excuse for the Rabbinate dragging their feet in this area. Everybody understands that there are technical implementation problems and political hurdles to be overcome. But what can we realistically expect and how can we be assured we're moving to the right direction?"
Blumenthal said he was unable to provide a definitive deadline because different Israeli importers have contracts with several slaughterhouses that will expire over the next few years.
Jared Goldfarb, a teacher and environmental activist from Jerusalem, said the question was less the practices at Latin American slaughterhouses but more why Israel doesn't import meat from countries where shackle-and-hoist is banned.
"That we are not able to effect the policies in South America because we aren't strong enough consumers doesn't mean that we have to keep ordering meat from these slaughterhouses," said Goldfarb, who grew up in New Hampshire. "It's not difficult to find humane kosher slaughter. The fact that we are still buying kosher meat from completely unacceptable slaughterhouses just boggles the mind."
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