The Latest AgriProcessors Scandal
Note: I posted about the AgriProcessors raid on May 13, but I later removed that post.
On May 12, more than a dozen federal agencies raided Iowa-based AgriProcessors, the world's largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse. In part, AgriProcessors is infamous because of a 2004 PETA investigation that exposed cruelty to animals at the slaughterhouse, including by documenting that cows had their tracheas and esophagi ripped out of their throats while still conscious. In recent weeks, there have been some disturbing new allegations (and yes, these should be seen as allegations):
- AgriProcessors employed hundreds of illegal immigrant workers who were arrested in the May 12 raid.
- Among those arrested were 18 juveniles (some as young as 13)—on a school day.
- According to an affidavit quoted in USA Today, "approximately 76% of the 968 employees of Agriprocessors were using false or fraudulent Social Security numbers in connection with their employment."
- In one incident, a floor supervisor put duct tape over the eyes of a worker and hit him with a meat hook.
- Many workers say they were required to work overtime without compensation.
- Workers were apparently paid $5 per hour as a starting salary.
- Some employees ran a methamphetamine lab at the slaughterhouse and brought weapons to work.
- Workers were pressured into giving sexual favors in exchange for promotions and shift changes.
This latest AgriProcessors scandal (there have been many) has led to some interesting developments. AgriProcessors CEO Sholom Rubashkin has been ousted. It seems likely that the nation's supply of kosher meat is in jeopardy, since such a large percentage of it comes from AgriProcessors. The Rabbinical Association and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism asked Conservative Jews "to evaluate whether it is appropriate to consume Rubashkin products until this situation is addressed." In that vein, my rabbi gave an overview of the AgriProcessors controversy in his sermon about Parashat Bechukotai this past Shabbat, promoting Hekhsher Tzedek and the theme that our actions have consequences (e.g., we are rewarded for good deeds and punished for bad ones). The Orthodox social justice group Uri L'Tzedek is calling for a boycott (which is supported by Hazon), as is a Washington, D.C., Orthodox rabbi.
The story has been covered extensively by Jewish blogs and papers, the JTA, mainstream papers, and other media outlets. I follow this stuff closely, and even I can't keep up—the number of posts about this on FailedMessiah alone is mindboggling. There are too many articles and posts to mention all the great ones, but Jewschool deserves recognition for two standouts: "It's Our Turn to Help" (May 15) and "Blogging the Omer, Day 29: And You Shall Eat and Be Satisfied" (May 18). (Kol Ra'ash Gadol has been blogging the omer for Jewschool and has mentioned the AgriProcessors scandal quite a few times. I blogged the omer last year, so you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone more pleased about this than I am!) Kol ha'kavod to those who are shining the spotlight on corrupt business practices in the kosher meat industry.