I’m confused. In her interview with PETA investigator Hannah Schein, Abigail Klein Leichman states: “Your undercover video had revealed workers routinely cutting into the necks of live cattle and removing the trachea and esophagus with a meat hook just after the ritual slaughterer had made his cut.” If the workers at Agriprocessors had carried out those actions, then the animal would have become totally treif with no recourse. On the other hand, if the workers had taken out those organs after the shechita process, in which case the animal is halachically dead, then what was the problem?

Hannah Schein responds: During PETA’s 2004 investigation of Agriprocessors and again in 2008, workers were filmed hacking into the throats of cattle immediately after the shochet performed the shechita cut. These workers were not shochetim. Representatives of Agriprocessors and some rabbis attempted to justify these actions by arguing that shechita is supposed to render the animal immediately unconscious and that the animal is considered halachically “dead” immediately after the shechita cut. However, PETA’s videos clearly showed that many of the cattle remained conscious well after shechita and were subject to this hacking dismemberment while they were still fully sensible to pain. Some of the animals staggered to their feet and struggled for over three minutes while their tracheas dangled from their necks. Every expert who commented on PETA’s footage (which can be seen at HumaneKosher.com) agreed that the animals were fully and unambiguously conscious.

After PETA’s 2004 investigation, the USDA determined that Agriprocessors “had engaged in acts of inhumane slaughter.” The Orthodox Union instructed Agriprocessors to stop removing the tracheas and to stun any cattle who demonstrated prolonged consciousness after shechita. However, PETA’s 2008 investigation again caught Agriprocessors’ making gouging “second cuts” into the throats of conscious cattle, resulting in a USDA citation for violating the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

Kosher consumers concerned about tsa’ar ba’alei chayim (causing unnecessary pain to animals) can find vegetarian recipes and information at HumaneKosher.com.