Jewcy has a great article up about undercover investigations into the Lubavitcher Rubashkin-owned Agriprocessors and what passed for “kosher” slaughtering. This post is not specifically about the Potsville controversies, but just general observations about kashrut.
The popular idea of kashrut does seem to be that it’s cleaner, that it is in fact more healthy and just plain tastes better, and this includes reported (though second-hand and admittedly, unconfirmed) instances of pareve food being marketed as kosher in order to sell it to a more health-conscious crowd. And on a level, this makes sense – the laws of kashrut are frequently explained as having animal welfare in mind, not to be cruel, etc., so those kinds of associations are likely bound to happen over the years.
Except that, really, the abuses outlined in the article ultimately point to one thing: kashrut, really, refers to a specific ritual method of animal killing, and as long as those rules are followed, all other concerns (human or animal) are really only peripheral, since the concern of the hechsher is to make sure the rules are followed and not much else, apparently.
So then the question becomes: what happened to the spirit of humanity and concern for the animals eaten? I came to Judaism believing it to be a religion mainly of compassion for everyone but the insistence, ultimately, of ritual before all else dulls that compassion and, I think, takes us away from our “light unto the nations directive”. The message of the prophets, apparently, has been lost and missed, and it’s a damn shame for so many reasons.