July 2006

Arlene Holtz grew up right behind her grandfather's kosher butcher shop in downtown Philadelphia. It was there that she learned to be mindful of the mitzvot - among them the laws of keeping kosher.

But when news broke that the killing practices at the Agriprocessors plant, America's largest kosher slaughterhouse, may have been less than ideal - even, some have claimed, less than kosher - Holtz began to think twice about her fidelity to kosher meat.

"I believe the ideas behind kashrut are good," says Holtz, 59.

Strictures on what sorts of meat can be eaten and how the animals must be killed were intended to ensure humane treatment of the animals, she says. But what if it turns out they're not always treated so well?

"If I eat that meat, then what am I saying, that it's OK?" she asks. "It's not OK. That's not kosher meat - even if, by the letter of the law, it is."

The recent spotlight on the esoteric field of kosher slaughtering practices has sparked a mini-tempest in Jewish journalism circles. Some 18 months after an animal rights group's video showed Agriprocessors using a controversial method for slaughtering cattle - turning the animal upside down and pulling out its trachea after its throat had been slit - the Forward reported that workers at the plant are underpaid, undertrained and exploited.

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