WASHINGTON (Jul. 2)
Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D., N.Y.), has introduced legislation to bar a decision by the United States Department of Agriculture which would deny an exemption to an Orthodox Jewish group from a Federal statute regarding feather removal and cooling and chilling requirements for dressed poultry.
In presenting his bill which went to the House Agricultural Committee for consideration, Rep. Bingham criticized the department for its “insensitivity to the needs of the Orthodox Jewish community.” Without an exemption, Bingham said. Orthodox Jews will not be able to buy poultry in conformity with Jewish dietary laws. Bingham described the department’s pending ruling as “an intolerable breach of freedom of religion.”
“There are many Jewish citizens, who, because of their religious beliefs and observance of Jewish laws, will only consume chickens that are freshly slaughtered and will not purchase plucked and frozen chickens,” Bingham said. According to Bingham’s office, the request for the exemption was made by Rabbi Meyer Cohen of New York, Director of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada,
Dr. William Dubert, an aide to Dr. Kenneth McEnroe, head of the meat and poultry inspection program of the Agriculture Department, confirmed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the department was preparing to issue a denial of the requested exemption. The problem, according to Dr. Dubert, has arisen from the acceptance by state authorities of the Federal Wholesale Products Act of 1968, which calls for plucking and chilling of fowl used in interstate commerce. Fowl handled locally are not subjected to the Federal jurisdiction but the regulations both locally and Federally are now practically joined, according to Dubert.
In the department’s investigation, Dubert said, Federal inspectors found they could not satisfactorily examine unplucked chickens. He also said that retail outlets may continue to be a source of live poultry which may be handled in accordance with the individual’s requirements. He conceded this arrangement may not be satisfactory. Dubert also asserted that there is no uniformity within the Jewish community of concern regarding the regulations.