Saturday, January 22nd | 20 Shevat 5782

February 12, 2013 2:45 am

Outlawing Kosher Meat and Europe’s Profound Semite-Loathing

avatar by Joshua Gelernter


Kosher meat. Photo: Marecheth Ho'eElohuth.

Some heartwarming news has been making its way through Jewish sewing circles: Kosher food was served at the Super Bowl last Sunday. It’s nice to hear, and it’s not altogether surprising: Jew-friendly victuals are available in American stadia from coast to coast — because America is a wonderful, wonderful place, and Americans are (by and large) sweethearts.

But: not too long ago, Dutch Jews had to make a deal with the Dutch Government to keep kosher slaughter legal. The agreement reached requires that butchers consult science advisors, and that animals be stunned after their throats are cut. According to Amsterdam’s chief Rabbi, the deal — which sets a precedent for the Dutch government butting its nose into Dutch Jews’ religion — doesn’t reflect the Jews’ “wishes, views [or] likings.”

One thousand, nine hundred and fifty years ago — in 71 — Titus had coins struck bearing the inscription “Judea Capta” – Judea conquered. He had just put down a Jewish revolt and was very pleased with himself; the war against the Jews had been long, expensive and unusually bloody. After the Romans won and the capta coins were minted, thousands more Jews were murdered and Jerusalem was declared judenrein. Like the Babylonians and Greeks, Titus thought he had disposed of his Jew problem. Egyptian King Amenhotep conveyed the sentiment best, thirteen hundred years earlier – “Israel is laid waste; its seed is no more.”

Like Amenhotep, and the Amalekites and the Assyrians and a crowd of other Caucasoid proto-Europeans, Titus had not solved the Jew problem. And like the Romans who had to fight off another Jewish revolt fifty years after the Titus war, contemporary Europe feels bitter and impotent at this longest-standing failure. Jews are a three thousand year-old carbuncle; the multi-millennia ones who got away.

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The English tried expulsion, the Italians tried ghettos, the Spanish had the Inquisition. The Russians had the Pale of Settlement. The Germans had gas chambers. And after the Germans were stopped, having got only half the job done, Europe’s better elements thought that perhaps enough was enough. For the first time in its collective history, overt Jew hatred was shunned in polite European society.

And so, Europe’s profound (Freudian?) Semite-loathing needed other outlets. The number-one outlet these days is, of course, spewing bile at Israel. But another, more fringe, outlet is obstructing Jews’ religion. Mainly, by outlawing kosher meat.

Kosher slaughter of animals is illegal in Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, where laws require that animals be stunned before being killed. A similar ban is being accommodated in Holland and discussed in Britain. The two sides of this fight, as it’s understood by Europeans, are supporters of religious freedom on the one hand and opponents of animal cruelty on the other.

Everyone who sees the argument that way misses the point. The regulations of kosher slaughter aren’t an archaic religious tradition flying in the face of “animal rights”; they’re PETA’s progenitor.

The entire process is designed to be as painless for the animal as possible: you have to cut an animal’s esophagus, trachea, jugular vein and carotid artery in one swift motion. You can’t use a dull knife, or a serrated knife, or a nicked knife, or a rusty knife. You can’t pause as you cut the animal’s throat, or burn the animal, or cause it undue mental anguish. And, remember, these rules were established in a time and place where cutting meat off of still-living animals was a common practice – a common enough practice, at least, to be prohibited as one of the seven laws non-Jews in Israel were required to follow (ranking therein with prohibitions on murder and theft).

And the rules of Jewish animal treatment don’t end with butcher regulation. You can’t muzzle an animal while he pulls your plow – that would be cruel, you’ve got to let him eat some of his work. You can’t feed yourself till you’ve fed your pets and livestock. You’re permitted – and obliged – to violate the strict rules of the Sabbath to stop an animal’s suffering. And the big one that Gentiles tend to know, you can’t cook a calf in its mother milk – not because that has any effect on the calf, but because: what sort of person does that? A corollary law would be keeping kids from burning ants with lenses.

Jews introduced animal empathy to the western world; Europe thinking that Judaism is hostile to animals makes as much sense as Europe thinking Jews living in the West Bank is immoral because they captured the land from people who captured the land from people who captured it from Jews.

But (annoyingly), there’s a small extent to which the Euro-PETA types have a point: stunning animals before slaughter would be a good addition to the kosher cannon — accidents happen, the cut might not be as clean as required, better safe than sorry, and so forth. One of the core provisions of Judaism is that the law is up to men rather than God; if Jews want to get together and change their rules, they can.

Unfortunately, the Rabbis with the depth of authority to enact that sort of law-change were all murdered in the 1940s.

Good work, Europe.

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