New Zealand Bans Kosher Slaughter

posted by: Mac McDaniel
June 11, 2010

New Zealand Bans Kosher Slaughter

The Orthodox community of New Zealand is outraged that the Agriculture Ministry has de facto banned the practice of "shechita", Kosher slaughter.

In the interest of promoting a somewhat more humane method of slaughter, Minister David Carter has implemented new commercial standards for the slaughter of livestock. The new standards include requiring that an animal be stunned before it is killed. The practice of shechita requires that an animal be killed by bleeding out through the throat and doesn't allow for pre-slaughter stunning. By most analyses this means a considerably more painful death for the animal.

The Jewish community in NZ has issued a lot of criticism of the government including remarks by Moshe Gutnick, the president of the Rabbis Organization of Australasia that banning shechita was normally characteristic of anti-semitic countries, although he did state explicitly that New Zealand is not an anti-semitic country.

There is no method by which animals can be slaughtered en-masse that is kind, or pleasant, or tidy, but the use of a stunning device (usually a captive bolt gun) to incapacitate an animal prior to actually slaughtering it is one of the smallest and most basic pieces of compassion that is offered to animals who are raised for food. Captive bolt guns are prone to jams and malfunctions, and aren't guaranteed to be effective even when they are operational.

As an animal rights activist I don't like to make compromises; I don't like to say that one form of killing an animal is more acceptable than another because it leads to grading levels of animal suffering and I am not comfortable with that. As a Vegan I don't believe in killing animals for any reason or making them suffer for any purpose, but there is still part of me that can't believe that anyone for any reason would be so passionately opposed to the smallest, faultiest, and most flawed bit of kindness and compassion for an animal that is going to be killed.

I have always believed strongly that the government has no place limiting free speech or the free practice of whatever moral or spiritual beliefs a person may have. It is one of the founding freedoms established in America and while its practice has been inconsistent, it is the single greatest and most important freedom to be guaranteed by any nation. But as the old saying goes, your right to swing your fist stops at my snout, er, nose.

As I have read the news articles surrounding the issue I've struggled with my feelings because the issue isn't really animal rights vs religion. If the Jewish community was up in arms because the government had banned all slaughter of animals then I would know exactly where I stood.

But as an activist looking at the larger picture it seems like another compromise that doesn't effect real meaningful change. Animals will be slaughtered one way or another so what does it matter if they are incapacitated or not? I want to be uncompromising and draw a line in the sand.

But as a Vegan I can't help but empathize with individual animals, and the thought of a single cow bleeding to death without the meagre amount of compassion it would take to knock her senseless first just seems so horrifying.

The difference between the use of a captive bolt gun or the lack thereof doesn't seem like a big issue in the grand scheme of things but it can mean excruciating pain for an animal and that is hard to turn a blind eye to.

So where do we go from here? Can we even imagine a world where animals aren't killed or tortured for food without imagining a world where we're going to have to step on some peoples' traditions? How do we bring people with traditions like Halal or Shechita into the fold of Animal Rights? Because we certainly can't change the world while marginalizing such large groups or waiting for them to disappear or pretending they don't exist. Many groups have changed or adapted or modified their traditions over the centuries; is there a way to suggest that without being labeled as prejudiced?

Part of trying to do the right thing means admitting that you don't necessarily have all the answers, and effecting meaningful change means having a dialogue with people if you really want them on board with your cause.

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