|Ask Rabbi Lerner|
Hi Rabbi Lerner,
Our son has a non-Jewish friend who saw a piece on TV about kosher slaughtering and saw that it looked as if the animal was suffering as it was killed. I did not know what to tell her about this. I thought the animals do not suffer during the ritual. Can you help me with an explanation?
Kosher slaughter is also known in Hebrew as "shechita."
Judaism has always respected the lives of animal - from the time of giving of the Ten Commandments until the present. Rules for kosher slaughtering of animals developed from the rules of the sacrificial system in the Temple. By the time of the Rabbis - at least 2000 years ago - Jews took the lives of animals as humanely as possible according to the best science of the day.
During those 3000 and more years, animals were slaughtered in the most inhumane ways by virtually every people on the face of the earth. This inhumane slaughtering continues today in more places in the world than not.
Recently, kosher slaughtering has been undergoing some change in response to new scientific information. Jews have begun to alter the traditional "hoisting and shackling" to favor a pen, even though it is a much slower procedure and increases the cost of kosher meat.
In addition to being lifted up, a ritual slaughterer must move to the animal quickly, use a knife that is incredibly sharp and without even the slightest nick, and cut through the animal's trachea and esophagus in a single motion (at least one of these for fowl). All this is required in order to try to minimize the animal's suffering.
The ultimate question is whether it is possible to kill an animal without causing some pain and fear? Given the answer is not definitely positive, Judaism has endorsed vegetarianism - which does not require killing an animal - as a "higher" form of eating.
In sum, you can reassure your son that kosher slaughtering is the way that Jews try to minimize the pain and fear felt by animals being killed for food.
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Foundation for Family Education (FFFE)