A reuben of one’s own

Talia Kollek
January 21, 2016
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you aren’t Jewish you may have missed an exciting development in the world of McMaster Jewish cuisine last semester: sandwiches.

Now, for around three dollars, you too can own a certified Kosher sandwich from La Piazza. McMaster’s Jewish community posted “sandwich selfies” in celebration – mind you, as a group of people that have holidays in the name of dairy products, trees, and the arrival of Friday, it is safe to say we are generally willing to celebrate most things. Yet, as I told people of the incredible bracha (blessing) that was kosher cream cheese and salmon on white, I was met with considerable confusion from my non-Jewish friends. The most disturbing question I received was “why would you condone the Kosher butchering of animals when the methods are so cruel?”


Here is the most important thing you need to know: food is personal. Last year, the Danish government banned Kosher and Halal slaughter. European law states that animals must be stunned before slaughter, but grants exemptions based on religious grounds. Jewish and Muslim laws have strict regulations surrounding Kosher and Halal slaughter that does not allow for the stunning of animals.

Your first thought might be that not stunning an animal is inhumane and must be outlawed, but to single out Kosher and Halal slaughter for cruelty in the world of meat production is foolish. Firstly, methods of stunning are not necessarily painless. They can include electric shocks, gassing, or a bolt to the skull. Occasionally the animal is not properly stunned (the bolt misses the brain, the voltage is not high enough), and is in pain until it dies. Jewish law very strictly prohibits causing unnecessary suffering to animals, with the exemption of the slaughter itself, which must be done as swiftly as possible and render the animal unconscious almost immediately.

This is not to say that the killing of animals for food — kosher, halal, or otherwise — is painless and without its faults. However, if you honestly care for the welfare of the animals that end up on your dinner plate, then you would care about their holistic quality of life, not just the moment before their death. You would campaign for better living conditions and feed in factory farms. You would care for different animals equally; as much for the chicken that makes Friday’s mazo ball soup, as you would the giraffe that a Danish zoo fed to a Lion — for entertainment purposes — the same year they banned kosher slaughter.

To single out Kosher and Halal slaughter for cruelty in the world of meat production is foolish

Despite that one Jewish friend you know who loves their bacon, for many Jews keeping kosher is not optional. The same goes for Halal. To label Halal slaughter as inhumane reflects the Islamophobic belief that Islam cares less about the sanctity of life. To restrict Kosher food is to isolate and drive away Jewish families from their communities. In attacking our food supply, you are saying to us “we do not want you to live here.” It is not a campaign for animal rights; it is thinly veiled anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.


So what does the supply of sandwiches at McMaster have to do with it? The short answer is: keep ‘em coming. Our university has done some amazing things to accommodate Jewish and Muslim students. I know that if I face discrimination on campus that I can go to HRES (Human Rights and Equity Services) for help, or that if I need a quiet place to pray I can go to the basement of Thode. I feel safe openly identifying as Jewish both in the community and the classroom, which is no mean feat. To make students feel welcome, food should be right alongside institutional policy. To give us as many meal options on campus sends the message that the University wants us to feel comfortable living and studying here. I’m loving the sandwiches and can’t wait to see what comes next. Who knew egg salad could taste so good?

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