Kosher is a quintessentially Jewish concept to describe what is “fit,” including the food we eat
Ancient kashrut laws have provided Jewish communities with a framework for determining which foods are “fit” and how to slaughter animals according to approved religious procedures. However, the original architects of Jewish law likely couldn’t have imagined a system of farming as massive and as destructive as the one we have today: more than 99 percent of farmed animals in the US are raised on factory farms, including those that supply the kosher market. Still, a large percentage of the public (both Jewish and non-Jewish) are susceptible to kosher humanewashing, or the faulty belief that kosher-certified animal products came from more humane farms.
While major kosher certifications could serve to ensure ethical standards at all stages of animal agriculture, this is not their current function or goal. And while kosher slaughter tends to receive more attention (particularly outside the US) for its animal welfare implications, we believe that upholding the value of tza’ar ba’alei chayim (preventing unnecessary suffering to animals) is crucial at every point in the animal’s life. Our vision for a truly kosher way of eating is one where no Jewish communities rely upon factory farmed products for the food they serve, and instead support more sustainable forms of agriculture that promote care for animals, people, and the planet.
In order to cultivate and grow a sustainable Jewish animal advocacy movement, we must address the issues that are critically connected to and interdependent with industrial animal agriculture. We must work in partnership with Jewish communities and justice movements to achieve positive change.