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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When kosher isn't - aron Rubashkin and the Great Kosher Lie

I was writing this blog and accidentally deleted it . Hopefully this is close to as eloquent . Either way , you will get the point....

Millions of people purchase kosher-certified meat "products" for a multitude of reasons , the most common having to do with perceptions of animal welfare , cleanliness , or approval from a "higher authority" . Animals are supposed to be treated with compassion and respect and killed quickly and relatively painlessly in accordance with over 5000 years of traditions .
I grew up in a rural area (or rather various areas) with content , cared for , free-roaming cows and chickens that met their ends quickly and without suffering . Roosters and bulls strutted with pride and mother animals tended to their young. All was well in my Rockwellian version of the agricultural world. So , obviously , when I moved to Toronto at 17 , I had no idea of the existence of the factory farms that most animal flesh comes from . I'm not sure whether it was becoming more religiously observant or more aware of animal sufferings , or possibly just simply an allergy to pork , but I began to purchase more kosher meats . After all , in the big city , they were widely available , and in my mind , they were better for the animals and for me , and of course , I felt better for it. So when I moved to a small town for work and found Aaron's kosher products in the meat case , I was a pretty happy camper and bought them whenever the "need" arose . (it was several years until I decided to forgo meat altogether) I was impressed by the company's ideas of bringing cleanliness , animal welfare standards , and of course , kashrut , to everyday homes in crappy little hick towns all over North America . After all , a nice old Chassidic butcher like Mr. Rubashkin would never LIE to us........
......... or would he?

Rumblings about Mr Rubashkin's business dealings and shoddy enviornmental record started surfacing around 5 years ago. After hearing complaits about the dumping of untreated effluent waste into the water system of a small town in Iowa , an investigation occurred where the firm owned by Aaron Rubashkin , now named Agriprocessors admitted polluting waterways and paid a substantial fine . There were rumblings about animal abuse and intimidation of employees and rivals . So , PETA and Animal Liberation Israel decided to see if they could catch Agri in the act , so to speak . What they found were animals faving their esophagii and trachii ripped out while still alive and animals walking around several minutes after they should have died. In addition , animals had their throats cut in a saw-like fashion , causing the cattle pain and thus rendering the animal as not kosher . The OU (Orthodox Union) decided to stand by their men and declare the meat processed at the Postville plant to be kosher despite all evidence to the contrary , including the fact that KAJ removed it's certification . It also should be noted that Star-K certification proclaimed Agri's products non-kosher according to current conditions . In fact , the methods of slaughter including the ripping out of the throat and the pens Agri uses are actually ILLEGAL in Israel . To label such meat kosher is a FRAUD perpetrated on your own people and he should be ashamed!!!! And I'm not the only one who thinks so , in fact , you can find more than a few Rabbis' names on this petition ,including David Mivasair of Ahavat Olam in Vancouver .
Unfortunately , the abuses don't stop with the animals . The long-standing abuses of employees and others are too many to ignore. In fact , the Federal government finally decided to arrest Aaron and Sholom Rubashkin , among others , for thousands of crimes ranging from the bizarre to the abhorrent.The initial search warrant mentioned the operation of - get this- a methamphetamine lab in the Postville facility , something alluded to by Natalie Portman at the Oscars when she told Ben Stiller that he looked like he worked in a "Chassidic meth lab". I could get into detail about every charge and allegation , but you can read ... here they are...

- 9311 criminal counts of violations of the child labour act
- hundreds of thousands of violations of the Humane Slaughter act
- recruiting hundreds of illegal immigrants
- underpaying , and sometimes not paying employees (in fact , 70 Rabbis walked out of the plant to protest this)
- requiring employees to pay for safety equipment out of paycheques
- failing to report injuries
- firing employees at a Brooklyn facility for complaining about conditions
- attempting to quash a union mandate by force
- bribing USDA inspectors
- failing to pay overtime
- anti-competitive practices including physical intimidation and sabotaging competitors
- manipulation of the kosher certification system
- physical and sexual assault of employees by supervisors
- identity theft to facilitate hiring illegals
- green card fraud
- bank fraud
- permitting operation of a methamphetamine lab
- turning a blind eye to drug and weapons trafficking inside the Iowa plant
......and the list goes on...........

So why am I bringing this up now? Well , because the Rubashkins are out of jail and Agriprocessors has embarked on a shiny new PR campaign in the hopes of convincing you , the consumer , that their products meet the standards of the "higher authority" . And , of course , they need some new employees , now that their illegals have been deported , their honchos arrested or fired , and their decent folks have quit. Don't buy the lie! Don't buy their cruel products , don't work for them , don't stock Rubashkin's products on your shelves and be sure to tell your customers why - because even good people can become greedy and sometimes OU-certified really isn't kosher . It obviously meant nothing to Aaron Rubashkin.

If you "must" get your meat fix , or you need that steak or whatever for your visiting uncle Yitzhak , you can try these producers or a Whole foods location
Golden West Glatt Cattle Company (Denver , CO) - OU
Wise Organic (Winfield , PA) - OU , QAI , Beth Din Tzedek/CH
Marvid (Montreal , PQ) - CRC , Montral Vaad Hair , OU, Nirbitor Rav
Empire Kosher meats have KAJ certification as of late , so that's your call

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