Kashrut Vs. The Corrida
by Gerald A. Honigman
I love my “kid” brother, Dr. Joseph, for lots of reasons. Among those which truly stand out is the decision he made while still in high school to become a vegetarian.
Now, before some of you shake your heads and laugh, I have a question for you...
Have you ever visited a slaughter house to see what animals go through to satisfy your and my own eating habits?
I haven’t...but I’ve read enough to know it’s truly horrible.
As a fisherman, I do know what taking another life means...so (for that and other reasons) indulge very carefully and deliberately--yet my own practices are not as good as they should be either.
True, in nature, animals are often eaten alive while they’re still struggling. But we’re humans and we do have other choices.
Okay...this article is not about laying a guilt trip. What it is about is trying to find the best compromise. And that brings me to the real topic of today’s discussion, a contrast between how Jews and others who have not become vegetarians view the worth of G_d’s other creatures.
Over the years, I have often heard Gentiles ask questions about what “kosher” is all about. On a number of occasions, the subject has been a source of ignorant comedy as well--another way to poke fun at those “unbelieving” Jews.
To explain that the source of Kashrut goes back to the same source which gave the world such things as the Ten Commandments and such (i.e. the Hebrew Bible, aka “Old Testament") might help a bit, but--for a number of reasons--usually not much.
While Kashrut--the rules for keeping kosher--involves a number of different issues, for the sake of this discussion, I will just focus on the Hebraic tradition of treating G_d’s creatures with compassion.
Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel here, please look at these excerpts from Aaron Gross’s Tikkun Magazine article, “When Kosher Isn’t Kosher,” in the Vol. 20, No. 2, March/April 2005 edition:
...Few contemporary rabbis have articulated the moral foundations of kashrut for so many of today’s current Jewish leaders as Rabbi Samuel Dresner. In his book Keeping Kosher, he reminds us that in the biblical vision, “permission to eat meat is understood as a compromise, a divine concession.” The Rabbinic tradition has taught that human beings were originally vegetarian in the garden of Eden on the basis of Genesis 1:29, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.” God’s original plan contained no slaughterhouses; animal slaughter was only reluctantly allowed after the flood (as in Noah...), and this slaughter had to be regulated.
As Dresner explains, “Jews are permitted to eat meat, but they must learn to have reverence for the life they take.” The laws of shechita (ritual slaughter) are the concrete manifestation of this required reverence. However, it also is now evident that kosher slaughter can be turned on its head, becoming among the cruelest methods of ending life. As Rabbi Barry Schwartz, who sits on the task force on kashrut for the Central Conference of American Rabbis, noted upon viewing PETA’s (People For The Ethical treatment of Animals) video, “If this is kosher, then we have a big problem.”
Fortunately, Rabbi Schwartz has been joined by many others, and, in a remarkable demonstration of spontaneous Jewish pluralism, these voices have come from across the Jewish spectrum. Rabbi Raphael Rank, the President of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, fired off a letter to all Conservative Rabbis shortly after the AgriProcessors’s story appeared, calling PETA’s investigation “a welcome, though unfortunate service to the Jewish community.” He argued that “[w]hen a company purporting to be kosher violates the prohibition against tza’ar ba’alei hayyim, causing pain to one of God’s living creatures, that company must answer to the Jewish community, and ultimately, to God...”
PETA (whose methods I sometimes have problems with) had gone under cover in a major kosher slaughter house and found some very disturbing practices there as well. Despite this, the latter still received higher marks than most non-kosher plants.
The point is--given the proclivity to imperfection all humans wind up displaying--Jews, for a very long time, knew what they needed to be striving for in these regards...and still do, even when they miss the mark.
Animals had to rest on the Sabbath as well as their masters. The idea of them being slaughtered just for sport--as in the arena--or trophy was forbidden. Jews cannot mix meat and dairy products because of the command not to seethe (boil, cook) a kid (young goat) in its own mother’s milk. It was bad enough that man was now eating meat--but cooking it in its own mother’s milk was beyond acceptance. The acidic process of digestion was perceived as a method of cooking, and so forth.
Okay, now let’s shift gears a bit.
A few days ago I read about a 16-year old matador who slew about a half dozen bulls in one day in the corrida. In Spain alone, tens of thousands of bulls are slaughtered this way each year.
Again, since I am against duplicating wheels, check out these paraphrases below from the CATCA (Campaign Against The Cruelty To Animals) site:
Before specially crossbred bulls get sent into the corrida to be slowly tormented and tortured with spears thrust into them by horsemen and such to weaken them even further prior the matador’s final execution, they are not released into the ring until…
--they are kept in the dark for days without food or water, given laxatives, hit with a large sack in the ribs and kidneys to weaken them;
--vaseline is placed on eyes to blur vision;
--cotton is stuck in the nose and throat to inhibit breathing;
--testicles are often stabbed with knitting needles;
--then, if the bull has then become too weak after all the preparation, turpentine is dropped on the testicles so it appears furious when it enters the ring (due to the burning sensation); it has been reported that the door which opens is deliberately dropped on the bull’s head as well in these regards.
Now, keep in mind that this does not even take into account what the horses go through as they often get gored and disemboweledduring this human “sport.”
Note that all of the above takes place in countries whose own religion often likes to lecture others about its superiority--frequently calling everyone else non-believers (and worse). Additionally, such “sports” as cock and dog-fighting are popular in such “superior” nations as well.
Yep...I recall even some “friends” of mine (let alone others) over the decades joking about kosher food and such...simply another way to ridicule those “G_d-killers.”
Just think about that a bit...