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Is All Our Milk Treif?


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#1 mamash

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 01:32 PM

I recently heard some discussion about the status of milk nowadays. The way the metzius was presented to me is that because of the age of the milking cows and the conditions in which they are kept, the vast majority of cows if they were to be schechted would be found to be treifas. I've heard that Rabbi Hershel Schachter from YU does not drink milk because of this concern. So the question is, if milk from a treifa is treif, and the majority of milking cows are treifas, why is the milk we drink kosher?

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 06:01 PM

That would work according to the opinion of Rabeinu Yitzchok Halevi, quoted in the Rashba on Chulin (9a), that if we shecht a cow and for some reason its lungs get lost, so that we cannot check them, we are prohibited to eat the cow מן התורה because we see a great number of non-kosher lungs among animals we shecht. Therefore we have to be be concerned that the lungs that we cannot find are not kosher.

But the Halachah is not that way. The majority of Rishonim (see Tur YD 39 and Rashba above) disagree with Rabeinu Yitzchok Halevi, and hold that we only have to check the lungs if they are available, מדרבנן, and so if the lungs are lost we can still eat the cow.

The same applies if we find a lot of treif milk cows. If we cannot check a cow (because we did not shecht it) that is like a case where the lungs are unavailable for checking. We are allowed to eat the cow.

L'Halachah, even if we find that the vast majority of cows we shecht are treif, we still we have no Halachic right to conclude that the majority of all milking cows are treif, as I will explain shortly. The rule רוב בהמות אינן טריפות still applies, even if the majority of milking cows that you check are found trief.

The reason for this is that the vast majority of these cows have not been shechted and therefore you have no idea whether they are trief. The fact that the vast majority of the amount of cows you did check were treif does not constitute a רוב since only a small minority of the cows were shechted.

If you want to say that the odds are that the rest of the cows that weren't schechted would probably have as many treifos as the ones that were schechted, that is true, but such statistical sampling, where you extrapolate to a large population the characteristics of a representative sample, has no source in Halachah. Mathematical probability is not the only requirement for רוב. There are two sources for רוב - either אחרי רבים להטות or דילמא לאו אביו הוא, neither of which allow for statistical sampling to be considered רוב.

דילמא לאו אביו הוא is the source for what we call רובא דליתא קמן which means a majority due to the default natural circumstances. The idea is not so much that there is a numerical majority but rather the default of nature. רוב בהמות אינן טריפות is a רוב like this. It means that nature produces by default kosher cows. A non-kosher cow is not merely a minority but an exception to the natural rule. As Rav Elchonon Wasserman says, even if there would be only one cow in the world, we would still say רוב בהמות אינן טריפות and assume that cow is kosher.

Statistical sampling obviously does not produce a default in nature, so דילמא לאו אביו הוא cannot be a source to consider statistical sampling a רוב.

The other source is אחרי רבים להטות, which is the type of רוב we use when we have 10 meatballs in front of us, let's say 6 kosher and 4 trief, and we assume that any meatball whose status is unknown came from the majority, kosher meatballs.

But that too would not be a source that statistical sampling qualifies as רוב, because in the case of אחרי רבים להטות we know with 100% certainly that there is a majority among the population, and we also know with 100% certainty the nature of that majority (in our example, we know with 100% certainty that a majority of the meatballs in the population are kosher).

As opposed to statistical sampling, where you do not even know for certain that there is a majority. If I have 100 meatballs, and I sample a random 30 of them, and 20 of those 30 are kosher, the odds are that 2/3 of the rest are kosher too, but there are two qualifications:

One: There is still some margin of error. So let's say that in the above case, the odds are that 66% of the meatballs in the population are kosher -- with a 5% margin of error. This is called the "precision range" of the statistical sample. It's like when they say "the survey concluded that there is a 53% chance of Romney winning the presidential election, with a 6% margin of error." The extrapolation from the sample is not exact.

Two - and this is the problem here: Not only is there a certain margin of error, but when we say there is a 66% chance that any given meatball is kosher, we are not even 100% sure of that. This is called the "confidence level" of the statistical sample. In other words, we could say something like this: Based on the sample of 30 meatballs, we are 90% certain that 66% of the meatballs are kosher, give or take 5%.

In fact, we can never be 100% sure that there is a majority of kosher meatballs, unless the kosher meatballs that come up in the sample comprise a majority of the entire population.

So statistical sampling cannot be derived from אחרי רבים להטות since in the case of אחרי רבים להטות we know 100% that there is a רוב, and in statistical sampling we do not.

In conclusion, statistical sampling cannot be derived from either of the two sources for רוב, and so we have no source to consider statistical sampling a רוב.

But it can still create a מיעוט המצוי, which would leave us with רוב בהמות אינן טריפות against a מיעוט המצוי. That is the Machlokes Rishonim I cited above, and the Halacha is לקולא.

#3 thisismyname

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 10:40 AM

My understanding is that everyone agrees that רוב בהמות אינן טריפות. In countries where they raise the cows normally (such as South America where pasture is cheap) the majority of cows are kosher and they even have something the shochtim call "superglatt" (which does not exist in America). The issue is that in America, people care about money, not cows. They do not allow the animals to graze properly, thus making most animals treifos. Now, just as with veal, if you keep an animal caged up and don't let it walk, you are doing something unhealthy to the animal which everyone knows will heighten the odds of it becoming a treifa. [I believe it might even be Reb Moshe who says that you need to check the treifa status of a calf which was used for veal.] My understanding is that is the question here: When we know people have physically done something to the animal which tremendously changes its treifa status, do we still say רוב בהמות אינן טרפות or does that rule only apply where an animal was not (ab)used in a way which very likely made it a treifa. (There are numerous achronim who discuss the shayla of Rov beheimos being treifos in their town, but as a rule, most of those achronim would be irrelevant to this shayla, because there they were not dealing with a question of: if there is an action which is known that it is not proper to do when raising a healthy animal, and that action was done to the animal and is known to cause treifos over time, AND now you see that your town has a majority treif animals, can you still say: רוב בהמות אינן טריפות? The achronim (that I recall) were never dealing with when an action was done to certain animals which was making them into treifos)
[I am going to quote some numbers which I believe were accurate a number of years ago, I don't know about the most recent history]. In America, at most, 30% of the cows available for slaughter are "glatt". Slaughter cows are the cows age 3 and younger, that is when they are in their "healthiest" years (because they still may not have grown treifos, as they grow older their odds of becoming treif just rise in America, especially considering the conditions they are milked in). Cows over the age of 3 are used for milking, [and are stored in pens which are also unhealthy] thus they are more unhealthy than the younger shechting cows.

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:03 AM

if there is an action which is known that it is not proper to do when raising a healthy animal, and that action was done to the animal and is known to cause treifos over time,


or does that rule only apply where an animal was not (ab)used in a way which very likely made it a treifa.

"Know" and "very likely" are the issue here.

In order to counteract the רוב בהמות אינן טריפות you'd have to provide Halachicly valid evidence that treating the cows in this manner makes a majority of them Treif. In our case, the only evidence you have is a statistical sample, which is not Halachicly admissible. You do not know that the majority of cows handled this way become trief. So the original רוב still applies.

#5 thisismyname

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:36 AM

Reb Moshe Feinstein (EH 92:2) seems to say otherwise regarding veal. He writes והכל מודים שרובם טריפות but it should be halachically inadmissible evidence. Similarly the shaagas aryeh siman 64 mentions the concept of rov beheimos being treifos, why didn't he say it's impossible?
My understanding is that everyone Involved with cows agrees this is unhealthy for cows and that it is obvious to everyone that this is why there is a majority of treifos in America.

#6 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:58 AM

It's Halachicly inadmissible as a רוב, but it does make a מיעוט המצוי, like by בדיקת הריאה.

Therefore, if you have the ability to check the cows you have to, even though רוב בהמות אינן טריפות. But if we cannot check the cows because they are still alive when you milk them, we then pasken like the Rashba that רוב בהמות אינן טריפות beats מיעוט המצוי when it is א"א לברורי.

#7 thisismyname

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:56 PM

In theory we can check the cows using X-rays, or more commonly there are experts who can listen to the lungs and know immediately if they are treif l'gamri.

#8 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:41 PM

Although those methods may be able to identify certain treifos, they will not be able to eliminate all treifos and say the cow is not a treifa, so it's not אפשר לברורי.

And there is no obligation to go to such lengths to be mevarer. אפשר לברורי means like by בדיקת הריאה where the lungs are in front of you. In such a case Chazal said you have to check. But there is no obligation to use X-Ray machines or to call in experts.

#9 thisismyname

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 05:30 PM

So if every cow we ever looked at (by Jewish people) in the US was treif we would still be allowed to eat the milk because there are other cows that have not been checked yet?
Shouldn't determining the Rov go by the cows which are in Jewish hands (isn't that what seforim were always discussing when they were discussing the Rov in their times)?

#10 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 04:00 PM

Yes (to your first question). רובא דליתא קמן is not based on quantitative majority versus a minority but rather the natural standard versus a deviation. Therefore, even if there was only one cow in existence from the beginning of time, we would still say about it רוב בהמות אינן טריפות, says Rav Elchonon.

Now if you would shecht an actual majority of all the cows in the world and find them trief, we could discuss that, but in our case we haven't even shechted a majority of cows in the world (or a majority of milk cows that were abused), and so the only reason you have to believe that a majority of these abused milk cows are treif is because a large percentage of the sample of cows that you shechted were trief. But extrapolating data from that representative sample to a larger population does not constitute רוב, and so we are left with רוב בהמות אינן טריפות against a מיעוט המצוי. As I cited above, that is a machlokes in the Rishonim and the majority hold like the Rashba that where you cannot verify the kashrus of the animal, you may rely on the רוב.

(There are other, more complex explanations of רובא דליתא קמן, but that it is a רוב in the טבע is the simplest and most well known, and will have to suffice for now.)