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Can meat from an abused animal be kosher?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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Question:

Moses, I have done a lot of research about the meat industry and am absolutely shocked by what animals are subjected to. I am aware that Kosher slaughter is more painless than any other slaughter and that would make me feel better about eating it. But my question is this: are the animals treated better at the farms before slaughter than typical non-kosher meat and poultry? If they do come from typical USDA-regulated farms how can they be kosher? Don't they transgress the commandment of not causing pain to an animal?

Best,
NoPain

Answer:

The word Kosher means "fit".

For food to be "fit" for consumption in Jewish law the Animal has to be kosher, not the animal handler.

it is possible that a particular farmer may be transgressing Jewish law by mistreating an animal making him an unkosher/unfit farmer
In the context of food Kosher means that a particular animal is "fit" to eat because a) it, the animal, is on the list of food types G-d permits for consumption, and b) it, the animal, was prepared/transformed from animal to food in the manner that G-d instructs.

There are other Jewish laws concerning people who deal with animals regarding the treatment, reproduction, responsibility etc of/for animals. The two sets of laws are mutually exclusive.1

Therefore, it is possible that a particular farmer may be transgressing Jewish law by mistreating an animal making him an unkosher/unfit farmer; but his transgression does not have the power to make the animal unkosher/unfit.

In protest to the cruelty of the farmer you may, and arguably should, refuse to eat food prepared from his livestock. But as far as kosher dietary law is concerned, this animal did nothing to make it loose its privilege of becoming kosher food.

On a practical level, you can easily find free-range organic kosher chicken etc. which means you are buying kosher food from a "kosher" farmer.

Footnotes

  • 1. For example, there is a law that you can't slaughter a cow and its calf in the same day; similarly you may not take a mother bird together with its chicks. If someone transgressed this law and slaughtered the mother and child, the person is punished - but the meat is Kosher. See Maimonidies laws of Shechitah 12:1 and 13:1

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Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.