Discussion with Humane-Slaughter Expert Dr. Joe Regenstein

In 20’02, the Director of AskNoah.org communicated with Dr. Regenstein, Ph.D., of Cornell University, a renowned expert on issues of ritual slaughter in the international livestock industry.
Below we have posted the discussion, which addresses points of interest for those who observe or wish to learn more about the Noahide prohibition of eating meat that was removed from a living animal. Please visit that page for a published essay by Dr. Regenstein, links to some of the relevant humane-slaughter practices that are recommended for the meat industry by the American Meat Institute, and links to U.S. regulations for humane slaughter.
For a more complete discussion, see the relevant chapters in Part IV of the book “The Divine Code“, by Rabbi Moshe Weiner.

From: Webmaster, www.asknoah.org

To: Dr. Regenstein, Cornell University

Date: Aug. 21/02 12:28 PM

Subject: Inquiry regarding U.S. standards for ritual and general slaughter of livestock and fowl

Dear Dr. Regenstein,

I would like to pose a few questions for you regarding the U.S. standards for general slaughter of livestock and fowl, and how these regulations might be developed in the future.

I am the Webmaster for the outreach website www.asknoah.org, which is a serious and wide-ranging effort to raise the level of public awareness and learning about the Seven Commandments for the Children of Noah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe greatly stressed the need for such efforts, especially in the last decades of his leadership.

As part of this work, I have done considerable research into the 7th Noahide Commandment which forbids all Gentiles to eat “flesh removed from a living animal.” Although there are several opinions in the Talmud of how this is to be defined, Maimonides holds that meat that was cut from a living animal is forbidden as food for Gentiles even after the animal is dead, and that the religious law is that “living” means that the animal’s heart is still beating.
(If meat is removed after the heart has stopped beating but before the limbs stop moving, Maimonides holds that it is accepted after the fact, but it is forbidden from the outset.)

From my studying of the U.S. slaughter regulations, it seems that across the board, the standard for livestock slaughtering, skinning and butchering is that the animal must be rendered insensitive (i.e, put into a state of surgical anesthesia) before it is skinned or flesh is removed. However, I have not found any regulation that says the animal must be “dead,” nor does it define death.

From my communications with the humane slaughter expert, Dr. Temple Grandin, I have learned that practically speaking, the majority of U.S.-processed livestock meat is probably not “flesh removed from a living animal,” since before the butchering commences, the animals are usually sufficiently bled out so that the heart is stopped. However, there are no official regulations on this matter. (For fowl the situation is worse, since all the slaughter regulations are presently voluntary.)

It seems to me that some developments in the past few years have made the environment very favorable for motivating federal action to bring the slaughtering regulations closer into alignment with the definition of “kosher” for Gentiles, or at least to create a new optional category for slaughterhouses to get this certification. First of all, more and more people are becoming aware of the Seven Commandments through outreach efforts.

Furthermore, in 1991, the US Congress signed a Joint Resolution (Public Law 102-14, 102d Congress, 1st Session, H. J. RES. 104) to designate March 26, 1991 (the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s birthday) as Education Day, U.S.A., which contained the following declarations regarding the Seven Noahide Laws:

“Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded; Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws;
Whereas without these ethical values and principles the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos;
Whereas society is profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles that has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society;
Whereas the justified preoccupation with these crises must not let the citizens of this Nation lose sight of their responsibility to transmit these historical ethical values from our distinguished past to the generations of the future…”

Similar Joint Resolutions have been passed in the subsequent years, so there definitely is awareness on the Congressional and Presidential level about the importance of the Noahide Laws.

To summarize, I would like to know your opinion on the prospects for an effort to create regulatory or voluntary standards for defining certified practices to avoid “flesh removed from a living animal” in U.S. livestock (or fowl) slaughtering operations for the general public.


Webmaster, www.asknoah.org

From: Dr. J. M. Regenstein

Date: Aug. 21/02 08:37 PM

Subject: Re: Inquiry regarding U.S. standards for ritual and general slaughter of livestock and fowl

Your timing is interesting. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) are currently working on rewriting the rules for animal agriculture by using the power of the marketplace rather than the government. They are working with the trade associations to develop third-party independently audited standards for animal welfare issues including kosher and halal issues. The American Meat Institute (AMI) guidelines are a starting point for this (they are on the AMI website.) I believe they call for the animal to be “dead” before further processing commences. And it may even be in the audit sheets — which are still in development.

So I think this issue may resolve itself in the US in a fairly natural way. It would be nice to see.

Hope that is helpful.

Dr. J.M. Regenstein

To: Dr. Regenstein, Cornell University

Date: Fri., 23 Aug 02 17:25

Subject: Follow up to my question about animal slaughter guidelines

Dr. Regenstein,

Thank you for your informative reply! I have searched extensively through the AMI guidelines, and I can’t find an explicit statement that says an animal must be “dead” before further processing commences. All the guidelines seem to be based on a requirement for “insensitivity,” and that signs of a return to sensitivity in an animal being processed indicate a problem with the stunning technique. If you could point me to something further than that in the AMI guidelines, it would be greatly helpful.

Best regards,

Webmaster, www.asknoah.org

From: Dr. J. M. Regenstein

Date: Aug. 25/02 08:53 AM

Subject: Re: Follow up to my question about animal slaughter guidelines

Hi! I think I need to follow this up with Temple Grandin and others. I think the issue is one of measurement — you can only audit what you can measure and insensibility is measurable, death is not. But I’ll try to learn more.

Dr. J. M. Regenstein

To: Dr. Regenstein, Cornell University

Date: 3 September ’02 4:31 PM

Subject: For your reference: selected laws of permissible meat for Gentiles.

Dear Dr. Regenstein,

Thank you for your plans to follow up with other experts regarding how our modern animal-slaughter regulations might be crafted to included consideration of the prohibition of “flesh removed from a living animal” for Gentiles…

Best regards,

Webmaster, www.asknoah.org

From: Dr. J. M. Regenstein

Date: Sept. 04/02 08:03 AM

Subject: Re: For your reference: selected laws of permissible meat for Gentiles

Hi! I got to speak to Dr. Grandin the other night – and she indicated that the insensitive standard that is used is actually longer than “heart death” – if the animal is properly bled out, there should be no problems and any of the larger plants leave sufficient time for bleed out to reach such insensitiveness. The only place she was at all concerned was possibly small plants, those that might not become a part of the upcoming audit plan.

Hope that helps.

Dr. J. M. Regenstein

Image source: facebook.com/IFTfoodscience/photos/a.229759170427439/5889248547811778/