Henry Benjamin • Jwire.com.auThe days of a Jewish mother making the traditional chicken soup for the family Friday night Shabbat dinner have come to an end for New Zealanders.
The country has issued a new Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code which stipulates that commercially killed animals must be stunned before slaughter…making halachic slaughter impossible. The new regulations take immediate effect.
Whereas Kosher beef will be able to be imported into New Zealand, the country clearly stipulates that the importation of chickens is banned.
Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of Sydney’s the Great Synagogue was formerly spiritual head of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation.
He told J-Wire: “There is a strong body of veterinary and animal welfare research which continues to confirm shechita as a humane method of slaughter of the highest standard.
Further, the NZ government and its animal welfare advisors have failed to answer substantial challenges by scientists of international repute to the research and the premises on which its recent determination has been made. Significantly, tests have not been done on animals under shechita conditions.
The National Animal Welfare Advisory Council (NAWAC) report on which the minister made his decision recognised “that the rights of the New Zealand Jewish community to practise its religious beliefs accorded by the Bill of Rights Act must be balanced against animal welfare considerations…”
It stated that there were alternatives short of an outright ban on shechita available to the government. Nonetheless, the minister has chosen the most extreme option.
There is no balance. A deliberate decision has made to override the Jewish community’s acknowledged rights. This is a case of misplaced values, bad science and bad legislation.”
John Hellstrom, the Chairman of the National Animal Welfare Advisory committee said: “The Code sets out general principles and recommendations for best practice, ensuring animals do not suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain and distress when they are killed.”
He told J-Wire that in New Zealand Halal meat for the Muslim community is not affected as the animal is stunned before being slaughtered.
There is no direct appeal against the decision which is effective with 24 hours of publication but there could be an opportunity for a judicial review to consider if the banning of Shecita is contrary to New Zealand’s Bill of Rights.
The chicken soup the Jewish community grew up with will be no more…at least in a Kosher format. Hellstrom said: “Whereas there is no problem with importing beef there are a couple of diseases which concern New Zealand with respect to chickens. The only chicken meat which is imported has been processed but unprocessed chicken cannot be brought into the country.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry told J-Wire that “the MAF understands that commercial Shechita of poultry has not taken place in New Zealand for some years due to a lack of interest.”
“Not true” say Sydney-based Rabbi Moshe Gutnick who is the acting President of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.
In his role as Rabbinic Administrator of the Kashrut Authority of Australia and New Zealand, Rabbi Gutnick has made many trips to the New Zealand city of Invercargill where the kosher ritual killing has taken place for years. He told J-Wire: “We send shochtim from Sydney on a regular basis and I can assure you that chickens were slaughtered as well as meat-producing animals. This decision by the New Zealand Government, one which has a Jewish Prime Minister, is outrageous. We will be doing everything possible to get this decision reversed…one of the last countries I would have expected to bring in this blatantly discriminatory action would have been New Zealand.”
David Zwartz chairs the Wellington Jewish Council. He told J-Wire: “I am sure there will objections made that this action is an infringement of the right of Jews to observe their religion.”
For New Zealand’s Jewish mothers and grandmothers who have added love to the Shabbas chicken soup with its giblets there will be only a simple and far less involved procedure. Hellstrom added: “Kosher chicken soup cubes are obviously processed so there will be no problem importing them.”
Shechita is banned in Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The article is a bit misleading. Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg permitted pre-shechita stunning. So there is a way for New Zealand's small Jewish community to have fresh meat and poultry.
That way may not be halakhicly normative, but it is halakhic, and it could be used if importing meat was not feasible.
More of this type of shechita restriction or outright banning will become more common worldwide as research shows ritually slaughtered animals feel far more pain for a longer time than previously thought.
The Jewish community would do well to promote the most painless methods of shechita – a standing pen with excellent animal handling and a schochet trained to perform his task rapidly and efficiently.
Dr. Temple Grandin has already helped set up facilities and train shochtim who do this. She told me about a schochet in Canada who could render a steer unconscious in 12 seconds.
Compare that to Agriprocessors, where it was not uncommon to find animals conscious more than one minute after shechita, and some animals were conscious for more than twice that long.
But so far the Orthodox Jewish community has chosen to defend Agriprocessors shechita and declare it humane, despite all evidence to the contrary.
This certainly won't help other Jewish communities like New Zealand's and, one day, it might not help our own.