Postville III

Shmarya is one of the established bloggers now taking note of Cross-Currents. His comments to my previous entry on Postville, however, represent the sort of unfair antipathy towards Rubashkin that seems to be based less upon the facts of the matter than upon antipathy towards Lubavitch (his own blog going under the title “Failed Messiah”).

For one, it is not reasonable to accuse me of leaping to “defend Rubashkin and his rabbis at all costs.” On the contrary, I said that regardless of PETA’s known agenda, the throat-cut is a practice that “needs to be changed immediately,” and I referred to the case of an animal walking after shechita (slaughtering) as Tzar Baalei Chayim (causing pain to a living thing). All of this was recognized by impartial sources not quoted in the media. As Dr. Marvin Schick put it, “mistakes were made.” Indeed, the OU has responded to this criticism and asked for the throat cut to be stopped.

I’m not known to be a great fan of Lubavitch myself, but I’m not going to cheer on Bloom’s misportrayal of the Postville Jews on that basis. To imply that Rubashkin brought crime to Postville — well, replace black hats with black skin, and think about what that sort of allegation is called. Why should anti-Orthodox bigotry by a Jewish writer be any more palatable to us than racism?

Mistakes are not grounds for closing a plant. PETA may say that they tried quiet negotiation first, but past behavior belies this claim. PETA’s tools are lurid headlines, vivid images and public scandal, rather than quiet, rational consultation.

To say that this particular effort is anti-shechita overall or anti-Semitic is stretching it, but PETA has a long history of valuing animal life to the point of devaluing human life, and a particularly deaf ear towards Jewish concerns. Last year they launched a campaign comparing the slaughtering of chickens to the Nazi Holocaust — and they meant this in all seriousness. Killing six million chickens is, in PETA’s eyes, no different than murdering six million Jews.

In a previous endeavor, PETA wrote to the Palestinian Authority to complain that a terrorist bomber had employed a donkey to carry his explosives, and the animal was killed in the resulting bombing. They asked the PA to ensure that suicide bombers refrain from endangering or killing innocent animals in the future. They did not say a word about refraining from the murder of innocent human beings.

So when PETA says that they want to come in and tell Rubashkin how it should be done, they bring with them both a track record of insensitivity to Jews and a known agenda to halt all meat consumption (according to their mission statement, animals “are not ours to use… for food”). No sane, moral individual would refrain from falsehood or bribery to help avert the murder of innocents — I think it no accident that the sound track of PETA’s video leads the viewer to imagine the cow is bellowing after its throat is severed (never mind that this is impossible).

Done properly, shechita is a humane and appropriate method of preparing meat for human consumption. Animals move after slaughter — that is the normal action of an unconscious brain firing off signals. Just like we feel paper cuts only a second later, the shechita knife is painless. Before the animal has the opportunity to feel the pain of that cut, it is unconscious. Inversion of the animal before slaughter, which PETA now wants Rubashkin to stop, is required by the Israeli Rabbinate.

Let no one forget that PETA’s goal is not more humane killing of animals — it is less killing of animals, even for food. For PETA, changing Rubashkin’s practices is far less important than shutting it down.

What I think we’re managing to do with this blog is to cut through the hysteria on both sides (Rubashkin’s own response was no more cogent, and no less one-sided, than PETA’s). We look forward to doing so on a host of issues. As I alluded to at the beginning of this piece, Shmarya is but one of the established bloggers now discovering us — Simcha, the author of Hirhurim, led hundreds of visitors here over the past few days.

Fear not, Brother Bob. We know that the writers of Law & Order do not read Cross-Currents — or any other Orthodox source — yet. Our goal is to change that in the future.

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8 comments to Postville III

  • [...] rtion) are merely symptomatic of the “take no prisoners” attitude shown in his earlier attack upon yours truly. Let’s compare what w [...]

  • Thanks to Hirhurim, I was one of the people who found your great new blog.

  • Nachum

    I think many of us want to know who’s really behind this site. At least some of the names listed here have already admitted to not knowing much about computers, and they demonstrate their ignorance of proper use of this site by, for example, not responding to comments in the “comments” section in which they are made, but rather as new posts. Who is collecting the posts and responses and posting them here? Is there any point in commenting if the purported authors of a piece never actually see a comment until a middleman presents it to them?

  • Hanan

    Regarding Nachum’s comments…I would just like to caution him. His criticism is valid and I have noticed it as well in places. But he should be aware that this site is still in its infancy and even though there can always be room for improvement, it can always be said in a more respectable way. Claiming that they are ignorant in the use of this site is just plain childish. And your comment of you wanting to “know who’s really behind this site” is even worse. There’s no conspiracy in this site against your or anyone else. Why don’t you say what you’re REALLY trying to say.

  • Yaakov Menken

    Actually, Hanan, I thought Nachum’s comment pretty amusing. Who’s behind this site is far more obvious than for 99 of every 100 blogs out there.

    Most blogs are written by people with nicknames, who may or may not reveal their identities — and who are known because of their blogs. Every writer on the Cross-Currents masthead, on the other hand, can be Googled for several hundred references (or more).

    Rabbi Reinman blogged his response rather than putting it in the comments… and therefore? I’ve seen well-practiced bloggers do the same. But of course, the fact that he did this is only evidence that he himself — rather than an experienced blogger — probably posted his own entry, after receiving comments about his previous posts. Every writer here has email, and the software (wordpress) automatically sends all comments on a blog entry to the author of the entry.

    Technology for the site is provided by Project Genesis, which should be no surprise. One of these days we’ll edit the footer to say “a Project Genesis web site” but that’s not critical. All of the writers are people whose words are already well-known outside the blogging world — but like everyone else, this blog will ultimately be judged by the caliber of what is written herein (rather than how much technical expertise each blogger has).

  • anon

    OU Has made changes becuase they recognized mistakes? I don’t think so. We have it on good authority from Simcha at Hirhurim that the changes were purely a PR exercise.

  • Nachum

    Hanan, I didn’t mean anything deeper than what I wrote. One blogger here inaugurated his personal blog with a declaration that all work was being done by his son, as he didn’t know how to work blogs. Rabbi Menken’s point is well taken. Me, I have my name right up on my blog, and kol hakavod to those (like those here) who do the same.

  • Richard Schwartz

    WILL THE POSTVILLE HORRORS SHOCK US INTO RETURNING TO JEWISH VALUES?
    Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

    The horrific scenes of the mistreatment of animals videotaped at the Postville glatt kosher slaughterhouse and the efforts of some Jewish groups to defend the facility’s procedures raise questions that go to the heart and soul of Judaism: If slaughterhouse procedures are not consistently monitored for strict adherence to the ideals of shechita, are we carrying out our mandate to be “rachmanim b’nei rachmanim” (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors)? Are we failing to properly imitate G-d, Whose “tender mercies are over all His creatures” (Psalms 145:9)?

    Even if shechita is carried out perfectly and pain and distress during slaughter are minimized, can we ignore the many violations of Jewish teachings on compassion to animals as billions of animals on “factory farms” in the United States and worldwide experience
    pain, suffering, and agony for their entire lives?

    If, as is recited at synagogue services every Sabbath and Yom tov morning, “the soul of every living creature shall bless G-d’s Name,” can we expect these cruelly treated animals to join in the praise?

    If “the righteous person considers the life of his or her animal” (Proverbs 12:10), how will we be judged, based on our vicarious treatment of the animals raised, trucked and slaughtered for our tables?

    And, can we ignore the many other ways that animal-based diets and modern livestock agriculture severely violate Jewish values:

    * While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have implicated the products of modern intensive livestock agriculture as significant risk factors for coronary heart disease, stroke, several forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.

    * While Judaism teaches that “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God’s partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture is widely recognized by independent scientists, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, as an environmentally unsustainable enterprise that grossly accelerates soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rainforests and other habitats, global climate change, and other forms of environmental damage.

    * While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, or use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, a diet based upon animal agriculture instead of plant agriculture (which provides protein from grains, beans, tubers, nuts and seeds) wastes many times more land, fresh water, fossil fuels, grain and other resources. It takes up to sixteen pounds of grain to produce just one pound of feedlot-finished beef.

    While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, an estimated twenty million human beings worldwide die each year because of hunger and its effects, and nearly a billion are chronically malnourished. While the solution of widespread hunger is complex, it doesn’t help that over 70 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. and almost 40 percent worldwide is produced to fatten food animals, not to feed the world’s most impoverished human citizens, many of whom are displaced from their land by animal feed growers.

    * While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, the global expansion of Western-style animal-centered diets is increasing the gap between food security “haves” and “have nots,” a chronic injustice that
    can lead to political unrest and violent conflict.

    If Judaism is to remain relevant to many of the great problems of today, it is my heartfelt belief that all Jews must very seriously consider adopting a sustainable vegan, vegetarian or plant-based diet. In my view, it is a moral, social and ecological imperative. While Jews are a small percent of the world’s people and thereby responsible for only a small part of the problems related to modern intensive livestock agriculture and other current practices, it is essential, in view of the many threats to humanity today, that we strive to fulfil our challenge to be a “light unto the nations,” and to work for “tikkun olam,” the healing, repair, and proper transformation of the world.
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