Kosher slaughterhouse vows to clean up practices

new york (jta) | The Orthodox Union is promising to institute changes at a kosher slaughterhouse it supervises following complaints from a strident animal rights group.

The promised changes at Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville, Iowa, come after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a video that placed slaughter practices at the plant in question — and after the group filed lawsuits with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against both the plant and the Orthodox Union, the largest kosher supervisory organization in the world.

The changes are the latest developments in a case that has shined a spotlight on a religious practice that gets little public attention.

Officials with the Orthodox Union said this week that they will make two main changes to slaughtering procedures followed by the plant, which processes meat for the Rubashkin/Aaron’s Best label.

The plant no longer will allow slaughterers to pull out a slaughtered animal’s trachea in order to hasten death. Instead, an artery that supplies blood to the brain will be severed on a second cut.

The Orthodox Union also said it would look for a way to either kill or stun cows that are still walking even after the initial stage of slaughtering.

The changes come after a visit to the Agriprocessors plant early this week by several rabbis, including Menachem Genack, head of the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division.

A PETA spokesman said the group is pleased that the Orthodox Union is taking steps to improve the conditions for cows at the plant. Among other steps, PETA hopes it will require an upright pen for animals while they’re being killed and require that Agriprocessors allow the animals to die after shechita, or ritual slaughter, rather than dumping them still conscious from the pen.

“Certainly admitting that there’s a problem is better than denying that there’s a problem,” PETA’s Bruce Friedrich said. “Getting rid of that horrific situation in which the animals were mutilated still fully conscious is critical.”

Friedrich said the complaint against the Orthodox Union could be rescinded if the group follows a series of recommendations made by Temple Grandin, an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University, who has been highly critical of the Agriprocessors plant.