The Kosher Community\'s Dirty Little Secret
Do we really answer to a higher authority On May 12, 2008, 389 illegal immigrant workers were detained by federal officials at the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa, in the largest enforcement action ever carried out by immigration officials at a workplace. As of May 23, 260 of those workers were sentenced for working at the meatpacking plant for working under false documents. Allegations against the company filed in affidavits by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials also include the physical abuse of workers, payment of wages well below minimum wage and the production of methamphetamines at a lab located at the plant. Other allegations by workers include child labor and sexual abuse. In addition, AgriProcessors has been investigated and cited in the past for environmental and animal cruelty claims. AgriProcessors is the largest kosher meatpacking company in the United States, producing an estimated 60% of all kosher meat in the U.S. and 40% of all kosher poultry. AgriProcessors products are sold under many different brand names, including Rubashkin\'s and Aaron\'s Best, as well as in butcher shops and kosher markets without any brand name. Chances are, if you have bought kosher meat, then you have eaten meat produced by AgriProcessors. We, the undersigned, are shocked and dismayed at the conditions and situation at the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa and at the response (or lack thereof) of the Orthodox Union (OU), which certifies AgriProcessors\' meat as kosher. The entire episode has brought shame on the Orthodox community. We find it unacceptable that human beings and animals are mistreated to provide us with our kosher food and that, as Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of the OU\'s kashrut certification division has stated, as long as the slaughter of animals is done in accordance with Jewish law, the OU will not consider terminating their kosher certification of a corporation\'s products unless the corporation itself is convicted of crimes. The OU is paid for its certification by the very companies it is certifying, an inherent conflict of interest that we believe has clouded the OU\'s judgment in this case. We believe that the imprimatur of kosher certification should not be based merely on the type of animal and the manner of slaughter but the overall manner with which a corporation treats its animals, employees and customers. The events and allegations going back years at AgriProcessors\' plants raise many troubling questions, including: Where were the OU\'s mashgichim (kosher supervisors) at the Postville plant Either the mashgichim were not present, which calls into question the basic kashrut supervision of the plant, or they were present and turned a blind eye to the abuses of animals and human beings which calls into question their basic humanity and ability to be trusted with such an important responsibility as assuring the kashrut of our kosher meat supply. While as a legal matter individuals and corporations are innocent until proven guilty, we as citizens and consumers are not required to give such presumption of innocence. We believe that the OU should suspend their certification of AgriProcessors\' meat and poultry pending the outcome of the government and OU investigation into the company\'s business practices. Accordingly, we demand that: 1. All local butchers and supermarkets immediately cease carrying any of AgriProcessors\' products and that all synagogues refuse to allow caterers who use AgriProcessors\' products to make use of the synagogues\' facilities. The fact the AgriProcessors\' various plants around the world, including in countries with less stringent government regulations than in the United States, provide an estimated 60% of the kosher meat and 40% of the kosher poultry should not factor into this decision one iota. 2. Menachem Genack immediately step down as head of the OU\'s kosher certification division and that the OU immediately initiate a review of all AgriProcessors plants and OU\'s own internal procedure for kosher certification. The OU makes a lot of money certifying AgriProcessors\' products and must go the extra mile to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest in this situation. The failure of the OU\'s mashgichim to notice or report the activities at the Postville plant indicates a failure of leadership at the top of the OU\'s kashrut division that can only be remedied by a change of leadership. 3. All kosher certification agencies adopt rules and regulations requiring humane treatment of animals and employees as a precondition to obtaining kosher certification for any products. As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. Now that we know what goes on at AgriProcessors\' plants, if we continue to eat their products, what does that make us Please send this petition or a link to this website to anyone you know who may be interested in signing and also print a copy and give it to your local kosher market and synagogue. Through our actions we can send a signal to our so-called leadership that we will not stand for such abuses any longer.