Administrator Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, of the Kashrut Authority which supervises kosher food services, said labeling [non-kosher] meat sold to the general public as kosher-slughtered would lead to "hysteria" from people who don't understand and unnecessary economic backlash.
Australian Yahoo News reports:
Australians are likely consuming halal and kosher meat without knowing it, a Senate inquiry has been told.
Halal meat for export, prepared according to Islamic law, is typically produced in separate facilities from non-halal products but anecdotal evidence suggests they occasionally need to plug shortfalls for the domestic market.
"For sure there's probably some halal meat that's getting onto the market," Australian Food and Grocery Council director Chris Preston told the inquiry into food labelling in Canberra on Friday.
But producers only need to label meat as halal if they're claiming it is halal, since there's no safety issue with people unwittingly eating halal meat.
The inquiry heard the hindquarters of cow and lamb killed according to Jewish law in Australia are also being sold unlabelled in supermarkets.
Kosher Australia rabbinic administrator [Chabad] Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick said labelling the meat would be costly.
Given there were only three kosher abattoirs slaughtering about 500 cows and 1000 lamb a week "we're talking about really negligible numbers".
Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who initiated the inquiry, said some consumers might have ethical concerns about how the animal is slaughtered or "prayers being said over it" and had a right to know if their meat was halal or kosher.
"I can only imagine the outcry if it was a priest there with holy water," he said.
Administrator Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, of the Kashrut Authority which supervises kosher food services, said labelling meat sold to the general public as kosher would lead to "hysteria" from people who don't understand and unnecessary economic backlash.
Although lamb is not pre-stunned before slaughter "it's done with a very special knife in a very special way" making a sheep unconscious within seconds, he said.
He said cows were stunned after being cut but insists the method complies with animal welfare guidelines.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said if religious freedom was weighed against the "uncertain" animal welfare benefits to be gained if kosher slaughter was banned, "the scales fall very heavily in favour of religious freedom".
"It's been banned in Nazi Germany and it's often been used as a cloak for persecution and discrimination against the Jewish community of that country," he said.
Rabbi Moshe said kosher labels were about informing Jewish consumers rather than making money - it's like the Heart Foundation Tick but it tells consumers what's good for their "Jewish heart".
Department of Agriculture assistant secretary Greg Read told the inquiry halal meat is stunned before being killed, according to Australian standards.
Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Gary Dawson expressed concern that exporters were being forced to pay for country-specific halal certification, so a meat producer needs to pay separate halal certifications for each country they export to.
Exports to Islamic countries were worth $13 billion to Australia, with processed red meat accounting for $2 billion.
Export Council of Australia director Andrew Hudson said certification was important to sell the product.
"Our government can't dictate to domestic governments in our export markets about what they should be expecting regarding certification," he told the inquiry.
"We have similar standards."
The inquiry is due to release its report by November 30.
Rabbi Gutnick and Peter Wertheim are being more than a bit misleading:
• Like all other kosher supervision (and in fact even more so) kosher meat slaughter and supervision is a money-maker for the entities providing them. If those entities are Jewish community nonprofits or for profit private companies, lots of money is made, and the vast majority of that money pays rabbis, either directly through their work as kosher slaughterers and kosher supervisors or through other Jewish communal nonprofits like synagogues and schools, which may receive some of the money made. To claim a kosher supervision mark is simply like the Heart Association's seal or the like is more than a bit disingenuous.
• Kosher slaughtered animals are rendered insensate very quickly the majority of the time – but only if the animal handling preceding and during the kosher slaughter is humane and skilled, and only if the kosher slaughter is done in a very specific highly skilled way.
But if animals are mishandled or sloppily handled, or if the shochet is not careful and skilled, it takes longer for the slaughtered animal to lose consciousness and become insensate. In especially bad cases – like, for example, the kosher slaughter at the Rubashkin family's Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, then the largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse in the world – bad animal handling and bad kosher slaughter technique can lead to slaughtered animals getting up and running away with their throats hanging out of their bleeding necks.
The Agriprocessors/Rubashkin experience has been repeated (not all the specifics, only the general problems that led to bad outcomes) in glatt kosher slaughterhouses in South America, Europe and Israel.
• As for Peter Wertheim's Nazi statement, it should not need to be said that taking actual problems with a community's behavior and using the existence those problems as justification for ethnic cleansing, genocide or simple discrimination is wrong. But just because evil people used very real problems in the Jewish community with regard to kosher slaughter and circumcision to oppress Jews doesn't mean some of the problems the Nazis cited weren't true. For example, when practiced with metzitzah b'peh (MBP, the direct mouth-to-bloody-penis sucking done by almost all haredi mohels after cutting off the baby's foreskin as an ancient erroneous health practice), circumcision had caused waves of Jewish babies to become serious ill and die, and 100 years before the Nazis, Orthodox rabbis in places like Lithuania had already begun to ban it as a result.
And at the turn of the 20th century three decades before the Nazis, as kosher slaughter went from one or two cattle being slaughtered in back of the village butcher shop once a week to large scale factory slaughter, there were shochets and rabbis who complained bitterly about the mistreatment of animals and poor shechita that often resulted from it. This even helped start a small Orthodox Jewish vegetarian movement.
The Nazis took these real problems, added their own lies and anti-Semitic propaganda to them and used them to demonize Jews. The Nazis would not have been able to that so easily if the Jewish community had fixed the real problems on its own. But it largely failed to do so.
Before the rise of the Nazis, Hungarian and hasidic rabbis made keeping MBP a totem all Jews had to agree to and fight for, and many of these same rabbis (joined, unfortunately, by many others even from more enlightened parts of Orthodoxy) fought against making animal handling during shechita more humane.
In other words, if you can argue that questioning large scale commercial shechita's humaneness is Nazi-like, you can equally argue that the peter Wertheims of this world are playing into the hands of modern day anti-Semites by denying the truth or outright lying.
The correct course of action for the Jewish community would be, I think, to admit that while properly done shechita can be humane, large scale commercial kosher slaughter can be and often is problematic. Those problems, however, can be mitigated and even removed entirely through better management of the kosher slaughter process and we commit to make the necessary changes with the help of the world's top humane slaughter experts (and within the confines of halakha, Orthodox Jewish law) to so.
Unfortunately, the spiritual (and sometimes the actual physical) descendants of the same rabbis who stopped the Jewish community from fixing these problems 100 years ago are in power in the Jewish community today, and any change no matter how warranted, no matter how simple to make, no matter how well supported by halakha, is unlikely to be made without strong governmental intervention and major economic penalties imposed by the marketplace.
That's why there are campaigns to pass meat labeling laws, and that's why these potential laws so frighten Orthodox and haredi rabbis.