May one slaughter kosher animals with a machine? I don't mean to ask this question about restraining animals, what I want to know is if one may use a machine to actually make the cut, to actually shecht with a machine.
Yes and no.
Surprisingly, Simlah Chadasha says (siman 7) that you may slaughter with a knife that is attached to a wheel (though only b'dieved, because of a wheel that is not כח אדם; and because it's difficult to do correctly).
However, restrictions apply:
- The machine has to be human-powered, specifically by a Jew (think handcrank); or water-powered, where the water-gate is very close to the wheel and is released by a Jew [so that it is כח גברא.
These methods may only be used when the person is actually still turning the wheel (when a person is turning the wheel), or on the first rotation of the wheel after releasing the water (or cranking the wheel and letting go, when a person turning the wheel).
- The knife (obviously) has to be moving in a way that it can slaughter correctly (back and forth motion -- if your machine is a wheel, picture train wheels).
- None of this can be attached to the ground, because a knife that is attached to the ground may not be used for shechita. See Simlah Chadasha 6:5.
Probably every mass-production kosher company read through these halachos, hoping for a way to make it work -- but the restrictions are too difficult, especially the one about not having the machine attached to the ground. So we still do need shochtim ;).