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Part II: A History of Shehitah Practice - Part I: The Laws of Shehitah

Part II: A History of Shehitah Practice

Sale of Non-Kosher Meat to Non-Jews


Other than from non-kosher slaughterhouses, an additional source of non-kosher meat is the unfit meat from the kosher slaughterhouses. Jewish law allows kosher slaughterhouses to sell meat that is either “nebelah,” improperly slaughtered, or “treifah,” torn, to non-Jews. This allowance permits Jewish meat-dealers to cut their losses, since otherwise the business of kosher meat sales would be prohibitively costly. However, this allowance is limited to the sale of non-kosher meat that has come into the possession of the Jewish meat-dealer unintentionally. That is, the meat dealer had to have purchased the animals hoping them to be found kosher, but the shohet then ruled them unfit. Only as a default, the meat-dealer is allowed to sell the non-kosher meat; he cannot have purchased the animal knowing it would not be kosher or slaughtered improperly. Additionally, Jewish meat-dealers often sell to non-Jews the hind-portion of cattle, which is forbidden to Jews.55

The sale of non-kosher meat to non-Jews is advantageous to both the Jewish seller, who otherwise loses out on any profit, and the gentile buyer, who can purchase high-quality meat at reduced prices. However, throughout history the meat trade between Jewish meat-dealers and their gentile neighbors has been curtailed due to various prejudices and religious restrictions. Such restrictions placed an enormous burden on Jewish meat-dealers and slaughterers, and by extension the communities in which they lived. If the slaughterer and dealer were unable to sell the non-kosher portion of animals, the entire kosher meat enterprise would be inefficient from a cost-profit analysis. Slaughterers and sellers would have little incentive to engage in an enterprise in which they would be losing money due to loss from the inability to sell a portion of the meat. Unfortunately, such situations have arisen repeatedly for hundreds of years.

During certain periods, the Christian Church has disfavored the sale of meat to Christians by Jewish vendors. Until approximately the year 1000 C.E., the Christian Church forbade eating idolatrous meat and meat from animals whose blood had not been drained, both contemporary Roman practices. Meat from Jewish vendors did not fall into either of these categories and was readily purchased by Christians. By the year 1000 C.E., the Church no longer stressed a prohibition against eating blood. Two possible explanations are given for this: (1) the clergy realized that the majority of European Christians were accustomed to eating blood and were unwilling to comply with the prohibition, so enforcement attempts would be futile; (2) the clergy wanted to remove all Jewish influence on their Christian followers and so ended the blood prohibition which was a Jewish regulation.56 At around the same time the Church stopped enforcing the blood prohibition, the clergy began to disfavor meat purchases from Jewish vendors. The Church did not want the business to foster further relationships between Christians and Jews, and it thought that the meat sales reflected negatively on Christian standing since the Christians would be buying meat that was not worthy enough for the Jews to eat themselves.57 The first documented expression of condemnation for the sale of Jewish meat to Christians was in an epistle entitled, “On the Insolence of the Jews,” sent to Emperor Louis the Pious by Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons in the year 829. Agobard complained that “when Jews slaughter an animal, having a defect, they sell the meat to Christians, and in their pride call the animals, meat for Christians, ‘christina pecora.”58 While Emperor Louis the Pious paid little attention to Agobard’s complaints, this was the beginning of an onslaught of Church and royal decrees throughout Europe for many hundreds of years forbidding the sale of Jewish meat to Christians, and in many cases forbidding the practice of Shehitah altogether. The sale of meat by Jews to Christians was prohibited in the Papal States all the way through the middle of the 19 Century. Because of these restrictions on the sale of Jewish meat, a trade pattern evolved to circumvent the edicts, where Jews became the slaughterers and Christians became the meat-dealers.th

Islam also has several restrictions on the slaughter of animals for consumption,59 largely similar to the Jewish shehitah process. Islam requires cutting the animal’s throat with a sharp knife. Additionally, Islam formally requires that the animal’s head be pointed in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and that the slaughterer recite a benediction before the slaughter. Because of these additional requirements by which the Jewish shohet did not abide, many Muslims refused to buy meat from Jews. By the 16 Century, Muslims no longer insisted that animals be orientated toward Mecca at the time of slaughter. Muslims began to purchase Jewish meat, and do so for the most part today, though not universally.th
2014-07-19 18:44
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