Rabbinate to phase out ‘shackle and hoist’ animal slaughter

Amid claims by animal rights groups of gratuitous suffering, the Chief Rabbinate is planning to gradually phase out the use of the “shackle and hoist” method of kosher slaughter in Israel and South America.

“We are working toward upgrading the way animals are prepared for slaughter to minimize animal suffering,” a Chief Rabbinate spokesman said Sunday on behalf of Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, who is responsible for kashrut supervision.

“I want to reiterate that the methods used up until now were completely kosher,” added the spokesman, “and that the Jewish method of slaughtering is the most humane in the world. But we are doing everything to improve.”

The spokesman refrained from saying what steps Metzger would take to encourage slaughterhouse owners to make the transition from the cheaper shackle and hoist method to the more expensive “rotating pen” method.

“We plan to meet soon with importers and slaughterhouse owners who use the method in an attempt to reach an agreement,” said the spokesman.

Most South American slaughterhouses and several older Israeli ones prepare cows for slaughter by tying the animal’s hind legs to a shackle attached to a mechanical derrick and hoisting the cow off its feet.

The cow is then lowered to the ground on its side and held by three men – one at the head, one at the hindquarter and a third by one of the forelegs – while a fourth man, a shohet (one trained in ritual slaughter), cuts through the trachea and the esophagus.

Normally, the two carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain, are also severed, causing the animal to lose consciousness within five seconds.

But the shackling and hoisting, which normally takes about 20 seconds, is performed while the animal is fully conscious. Animal rights groups claim this causes unnecessary anguish and pain.

They also say hanging the cow by its leg rips its muscle and tendons. However, sources at the Rabbinate said this is false, since ripping of tendons in the leg would render the animal treif, or nonkosher.

The pinning down of the cow after it is placed on its side, often with the use of prods and ropes, takes additional time during which the cow is under stress, the animal rights groups say.

In contrast, in a more humane method common in newer slaughterhouses, the cow is placed inside a pen that holds it tightly and flips it upside down, after which the cow is slaughtered.

However, there appear to be financial reasons slowing acceptance of the rotating pen method.

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