If you ate Rubashkin meat from November 2003 through November 2004, did you eat treife (non-kosher)? The answer to this question is complicated, but the answer, I believe, is yes you did – and here’s why.

Rubashkin ripped the throats out of live, fully sensate animals. This cruelty should render the meat from those animals treife – but it did not, according to the OU, KAJ, Crown Heights Beit Din, etc. Why not? The answer to this question exposes the dirty little secret of kosher supervision and shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter).

You may have been told by your rabbi, in Hebrew school, in the synagogue, that the purpose of shechita and its main benefit is that it is the most humane form of slaughter. Agudath Israel and the OU have made this contention many times over the years, often to governmental agencies, sometimes under oath, and it is a major component of campaigns to protect shechita across the world. But it is not true.

The Rubashkin case has proved that humane slaughter is not an essential component of shechita. That is why rabbis were able to rule with ease that meat from Rubashkin-tortured animals was kosher.

While I admire the ability of Rabbis Hershal Schachter, Yisroel Belsky, Menachem Genack, the KAJ, etc., to find this leniency in the law which saved all of us from having to re-kosher our kitchens, the fact remains that humane treatment of animals is not a part of kosher law as applied today, and, while the legal codes of Judaism place a high significance on animal welfare, the legal scholars of Judaism – today’s Orthodox rabbinate – do not.*

So, did you eat treife? In the ultimate sense, yes you did – and you did so with the blessings of the rabbis who permitted animal torture. Remember that the next time you look for the kosher seal.

* The same can apparently be said for hygine, food handling standards, and use of diseased animals – see the New York Times report in the post immediately below.



Filed under Kosher Meat Scandal


  1. Larry Lennhoff

    *sigh* I feel you are misusing the words to call the food treife. I don’t eat kosher veal because of the conditions those animals were raised in. I feel it transgresses the laws against animal cruelty. By buying the meat I am encouraging them to continue in their production, and that I will not do.

    That said, I think that the law I am upholding is lifnei ever (not putting a stumbling block before the blind) not kashrut. I would never ask someone to re-kasher a pot in which veal was cooked – I find the idea absurd. A similar logic may apply to Rubashkins.

    On the other hand, I find it ironic indeed that the word treife literally means ‘torn’. Rashi claims lifnei ever is not violated by putting a stumbling block before a blind person (although the act is still forbidden) so this redefinition of words for legal purposes has been going on a long time.

  2. Neo-Conservaguy

    While the word “treif” or “treife” is indeed constantly misused by many Jews to mean “not kosher”, in this case Shmarya is using it EXACTLY correctly in the physical sense. He’s pointing out that the redefinition in this cause is performed by the rabbinate, who rule that the animal is “dead” – Voila – no “life”, no possibility of treif. The problem is that anyone with credible medical knowledge of large animal biology can see a gap between this rabbinic definition of “dead” and reality. The reality is that the cutting both the carotid arteries and jugular veins may be an important part of effective, humane slaughter, and that isn’t always happening. Nor was a reasonable period of time waited for the animal to become insensate before tearing the throat. Nor were effective standing pens (e.g. Grandin pen) utilized, in part due to requirements by Israeli rabbis for upside down slaughter, which I’m told is better from a rabbinic point of view for various reasons (clean cutting area, avoids “extra” pressure on blade, etc.), but worse from an effective slaughter point of view.

    The status of veal (and chickens too) is a whole ‘nother issue. The issue is not of treif (although that could be an addition issue as above), but rather the living conditions of the animal. Prominent rabbis from the Orthodox (R. M. Feinstein, zt”l) and Conservative (R. D. Golinkin) movements have ruled that caged veal cannot be kosher to eat because the animal is denied certain pleasure during its life. On the other hand, free range veal, also known as “pink veal” because the flesh isn’t milky white, should be an acceptable candidate for kosher slaughter.

    I’m not currently aware of a ruling on caged chickens, but from a medical perspective, raising chickening in the densely packed cages of the average grower is a disaster. It’s one reason that the birds are pumped full of antibiotics (in the feed) – they get sick much more than free birds. They also become agressive, hence the beaks are clipped or burned off to prevent fraticide. Fortunately several brands (Empire, David Eliot, etc.) offer free roaming or free range raised birds. Even without a rabbinic ruling, the educated, caring consumer can make a choice and vote with money.

  3. ben matityah

    treif and worse , pigul of the idolater

  4. ben matityah

    if you ask chabad , they will explain to u , that the animal was born to serve man . when a jew consumes the animal and bentches , it’s a tremendous zchut , for which the mistreated bheime should be gratefull , rather than being petty and complaining .

  5. christian girl

    god bless yall, jesus is lord!

  6. Why worry about kashrus of meat when you can live on DELUXE FRUITCAKE all year round including Pesach. That is right, I, the one and only Scotty Boy, is proud to introduce my new line of DELUXE FRUITCAKES – kasher parve lemehadrin even for Pesach and never under the supervision of Zeilingold who threw me into CHEREM for being such a schmuck!

  7. martin

    Treif is a Yiddish word, not Hebrew. It means not-kosher, and not necessarily relating to halacha.

    Treifeh is a Hebrew word meaning, torn.
    They are NOT the same word.

  8. C-Girl

    And the proper term for an animal that is improperly schechted is “neveila”. Treif stems from the word “traif” and was adapted in Yiddish vernacular to extend to things that aren’t actually torn flesh, but still aren’t okay to eat.

  9. Anonymous

    Oops. Let me try that again. Should be:

    “Treif” stems from the word “treifa”.

  10. Anonymous

    Halachic advice coming from a guy who was put in cherem.

  11. Neo-Conservaguy

    …writes the yellow flag waving heretic.

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