Meeting of Kosher Organizations at the OU Tackles Monsey Scandal and Humane Slaughter Controversy
Faced with substantial challenges that have rocked the kosher industry in the past two years, even as growth in sales continues at a 15 percent annual rate, the Chicago-based Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO) held the annual meeting last Thursday that follows the giant KosherFest show in New York. The all-day gathering took place in the Manhattan offices of the Orthodox Union, and was attended by dozens of AKO member representatives from across the United States, from England, and even from Australia.
Though the program included a wide variety of sessions, touching on everything from “Issues in Take-Out Stores and Restaurants” to “Disturbing Practices within the Kosher Tanker and Hauling Industry and How to Combat Them,” the greatest concerns clearly were the recent scandal in Monsey, NY, in which non-kosher chickens were sold as kosher; and the controversy that has been present on and off for the past two years of animal welfare and humane kosher slaughter.
Recalling that the issue of humane slaughter first surfaced at Thanksgiving in 2004, Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, delivered introductory remarks in which he declared, “This is an issue we really have to deal with. We shouldn’t be afraid of it.” He noted that the Rav, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the acknowledged leader of Modern Orthodoxy, addressed congressional committees on the issue of kosher slaughter in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, and was instrumental in the design of the ASPCA pen for humane slaughter, which has now been in use for the past half century.
Rabbi Genack noted that meat, kosher and non-kosher, being imported from South America to the United States is not slaughtered in a pen. He called on the industry to transition to the use of pens in South America.
He noted with pride that kosher slaughter is the most humane form of slaughter. In fact, he said, the United States Humane Slaughter Act, based on scientific research, affirms that kosher is inherently the most humane form of slaughter.
Regarding the Monsey situation, Rabbi Genack declared that the scandal requires “creating new means of identifying kosher meat and monitoring the distribution chain." The OU hopes to make recommendations in this area within the next several weeks, he said. Among the means of identification under review are holograms, DNA identification, and electronic markings. The plumba (the metal tag attached to kosher meat) used from time immemorial is inadequate, he said. The solution to the problem must be global in scope, he added.