By Yadidya Greenberg
I spent the first eight and a half years of my life living on one of Israel’s much-idealized kibbutzim (communal living villages). My mom worked in the kibbutz dairy, and for a time my dad worked with the broiler chickens. I loved milking the cows, and my favorite thing in the world was to let the calves put my entire hand in their mouths. Through these experiences I developed a great fascination and love for animals that has never left me.
This story might inspire thoughts of red barns and cows grazing through lush green fields, chickens gaily clucking and running at their heels. Sadly this is far from what most kibbutzim look like. Those calves that I loved so much were actually veal calves, and were being kept in tiny crates where they couldn’t move so their meat would be tender at the time of slaughter. The milking cows lived in a pool of their own feces and had abnormally large udders that often caused severe back pain and injury.
Conditions for the chickens were a different story, so deplorable and scary that I refused to go near their barns. I even had a fear of chickens into my teens because of those early childhood experiences.
In a way all of us have been through the same process I went through. We grew up with an idealized and superficial sense of human-animal relationships, not being able to imagine the suffering behind the food we ate. Just as I loved those little calves with all my heart, unaware of their agony, we’ve all unwittingly eaten that factory farm product with happy animals grazing green pastures on the package, not knowing the truth behind the pretty pictures. Despite our love of animals we still tend to turn a blind eye to the harsh quality of life experienced by the creatures we consume. I’ve chosen not to.
I choose to confront the reality of killing the animals I eat and to understand the source of all of my animal products. Through my experiences of living on kibbutz, raising my own animals, learning kosher slaughter, and working in an industrial slaughterhouse I’ve come face to face with the factory farm system, and can see what needs to change. I want to share that vision with all of you.
I’m on a journey into the deepest depths of the human-animal relationship. It will be a journey of love and suffering, a journey of life and death, into the blood and guts of it all. We are all omnivores born into this factory farm world, and it’s on us to change it. I invite you all to join me on “The Kosher Omnivore’s Quest”.
Yadidya Greenberg has studied animal welfare for over half his life and was one of the founders of the Boulder Jewish community egg and goat milk co-ops. He is a trained and certified shochet (kosher ritual slaughterer), and is now working with leaders in the animal welfare, Jewish and natural foods world to create a Jewish Animal Welfare Institute as well as line of Jewish Heritage Poultry educational and breeding operations.