The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has again attacked the AgriProcessors Inc. plant in Postville, Iowa, over what it deems the cruel and inhumane method of ritual slaughter of cattle.
The issue garnered much media attention in late November, when PETA released an undercover video taken at the plant. As a result of the ensuing uproar and complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) against AgriProcessors and the Orthodox Union (OU) by PETA, the OU issued a statement in early December, stating that it would alter some of its practices, while maintaining that it had not violated USDA regulations.
The issues appeared to have been resolved -- until a couple of weeks ago. Then PETA again started placing large advertisements in newspapers (including The Journal), accusing AgriProcessors of continuing its policy of "mutilating conscious animals."
Apparently, the issue that still remains to be resolved is that of an inverted pen used in ritual shechitah. During the process, the animals are moved into a closed apparatus and then turned upside down, after which a bar comes down allowing the animal's neck to be exposed. This allows the rabbi to make the initial cut and drain the blood from the animal's neck. The animal is then released from the pen upright.
"The issue of the upright pen is the only issue now, and that issue is going to be resolved," said Rabbi Menachem Genack, OU kashruth rabbinic administrator. He said that Dr. Temple Grandin, associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a leading expert in the handling livestock, said that the inverted pen was acceptable.
PETA representatives said they would be satisfied if the OU adhered to recommendations made by Grandin.
The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) conducted an audit at AgriProcessors on Feb. 17, which the plant passed.
PETA spokesperson Ben Goldsmith said that the advertising campaign was ongoing because, "the audit in question was planned and we have no reason to believe that Agriprocessors has changed." Goldsmith said that PETA would stop their campaign if the OU posted the audit report on its Web site so that people could see that there are no outstanding issues.
The report was placed on the OU Web site earlier this week (www.ou.org).
"We are very pleased that the OU has placed the results of this audit on their Web site, but again, we have always known AgriProcessors to be capable of acting in accordance with the standards of the OU, and this audit only proves our point," Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith also said that PETA would halt its campaign if the OU agrees to unannounced audits at AgriProcessors by a third party and that it shows good faith in being willing to accept and implement the changes to the FMI regulations once they have been set.
The ad campaign continues, in part, Goldsmith said, because the advertisements had been paid for in advance.
Genack hoped the issue would be resolved, but noted, "With PETA, things are never fully sorted out. Their issues are only ever sorted out on the fringes. They have a very aggressive agenda."
"They're fundamentally against the slaughter of animals," he continued. "They're vegans. Don't forget, this is the organization that has said it would be opposed to research on animals, even if it could be used to find a cure for AIDS."
Meanwhile, the meeting between the OU and FMI representatives is set to take place some time next month to officially change the FMI guidelines to allow for ritual kosher slaughtering.