Rubashkin’s attorney Nathan Lewin claims the USDA report is clear – Rubashkin did no wrong:
"The body of the report has got a lot of stuff that indicates that no
one thought that there was anything inhumane," Lewin said. "It’s only
because it looks bad that PETA is able to exploit it."
When this scandal broke in 2004, Lewin – often billed as a "noted" Constitutional expert by Agudath Israel – accused PETA of being Nazis. When pressed for evidence, Lewin admitted he had none, other than the coincidence that Nazis (like the Torah) were big on animal welfare. But, here is why Lewin is lying.
In October 2003 Lewin and many rabbis from kosher supervising agencies met senior-level USDA officials in Washington. The rabbis, led by Agudath Israel and Lewin, asked the USDA to rewrite the Humane Slaughter directive because its wording prohibiting "sawing" with a knife could be "misinterpreted" by inspectors leading them to stop the line during kosher slaughter. The group lobbied strongly for line inspectors to be restricted from enforcing Humane Slaughter directives on their own. The USDA agreed to this and issued new directive calling for line inspectors to call the regional USDA office before taking action. And regional offices were made to understand that the line should rarely be stopped. This was done because no one at the USDA had ever seen Rubashkin’s throat-ripping with meat hooks. USDA officials, more worried about Muslim slaughter because of its often amateur execution, were happy to oblige the rabbis because USDA officials trusted them. Immediately after the directive was changed to the text Lewin and the rabbis wanted, Lewin’s client – Rubashkin – brought out the meat hooks and began ripping out the throats out of live animals.
Lewin’s late father was a noted defender of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter). Lewin’s father wrote many years ago about the inherent humaneness of shechita, repeating ad nauseum the "fact" that the ‘swift and painless’ cut of the schochet’s knife immediately severed the carotids and jugulars, leaving the animal unconscious before it realized what happened, and dead within seconds after that. Yet today’s rabbis – and Nathan Lewin – justify throat-ripping with meat hooks, and argue that shechita that does not sever the carotids and jugular is not only kosher, but humane.
Nathan Lewin’s actions prove his father wrong, and they should send a clear warning to anyone who cares about kosher or animal welfare.