Shechita – ECAJ responds

June 27, 2011 by J-Wire
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has issued a statement following reports in the media relating to shechita – the ritual slaughter of animals.


Their report entitled “KOSHER SLAUGHTER OF LIVESTOCK IN AUSTRALIA – MYTHS AND FACTS” has been sent to major mainstream media was signed off by ECAJ President Dr Danny Lamm.

On June 26, The Age ran a front page story by Peter Munro (‘Outrage grows on ritual killing’) which was backed up by an editorial in similar vein.  The story also appeared in the Sun Herald.  These pieces conflated Kosher slaughter with other forms of ritual slaughter and repeated many of the myths about Kosher slaughter of livestock which have circulated over the years, and some new ones.

MYTH number 1: The horrific mistreatment of animals in Indonesia shown by the 4 Corners program on 30 May 2011 is somehow related to Kosher slaughter.

FACT: There is no organized Jewish community – and therefore no Kosher slaughter – in Indonesia.  The shocking practices revealed by the 4 Corners program would violate the most fundamental principles of Kosher slaughter.  All of the animals shown in that program would be unfit for Kosher consumption because of their mistreatment.  The Jewish community supports the government’s decision in effecting change in Indonesia to the practices revealed by 4 Corners, and any other inhumane treatment of livestock.

MYTH number 2: Australian religious slaughter abattoirs are like those in Indonesia.

FACT:  Australian religious slaughter abbattoirs   are highly regulated by government and only the best animal welfare practices are endorsed.
MYTH number 3:   Animals linger in pain after kosher slaughter.

FACT: The nature of kosher slaughter in Australia is such that before the animal is able to register pain after its neck is cut the animal is either rendered insensible or is stunned.

MYTH number 4:  Kosher slaughter of animals is cruel and inhumane.

FACT: Kosher slaughter is based on the animal’s welfare.  A cardinal principle of Kosher slaughter of livestock is that the animal must be sound and healthy in every way, without injury or impairment of any kind, at the moment its neck is cut.  This means that Kosher slaughter requires that the animal must not be mistreated before it is slaughtered.  The slaughter-man must be well trained and highly skilled.  The knife that is used must be long and span the neck of the animal.  It must be honed to razor sharpness before each separate use, to ensure a quick, clean, single cut and rapid loss of consciousness by the animal.  The knife is carefully checked by a supervisor before each kill to ensure there are no nicks, damage or other signs of imperfection.
MYTH number 5:  Kosher slaughter involves bleeding an animal to death.
FACT: The cause of death with Kosher slaughter is exactly the same as with non-Kosher slaughter – loss of consciousness through lack of oxygen.  Whilst Jews are absolutely forbidden to consume any kind of blood, most of the bleed out occurs after the animal is dead or has lost consciousness.  In the case of sheep, correctly slaughtered  by the Kosher method, this occurs between two and eight seconds after the neck is cut, not twenty seconds.

MYTH number 6:  Kosher slaughter requires an animal to suffer.
FACT: The opposite is true.   In Australia, if an animal is in obvious distress, it is pronounced unfit for Kosher consumption by the supervisor, resulting in a financial penalty (loss of income) by the owner of the animal.   The whole process of Kosher slaughter as practised in Australia is intended to kill the animal as quickly and painlessly as possible without injuring it beforehand.

MYTH number 7: Stunning is a humane way to kill an animal.
FACT:  Stunning does not necessarily kill the animal.  Captive bolt stunning (the most common form of stunning used in Australia) involves delivering a heavy blow to the animal’s head – like being struck on the forehead with a steel hammer – before its throat is cut.  When done properly the animal is instantly rendered both unconscious and paralyzed.  Sometimes the stunning is botched and the animal undergoes unnecessary suffering.  Jewish law does not permit pre-stunning and requires that the animal must not be injured or mistreated in any way before it is slaughtered.  At the moment its neck is cut, it must be whole, healthy, uninjured and unimpaired.

MYTH number 8: Kosher slaughter is alien to the Australian way of life and our humane values.
FACT:  Kosher slaughter has been occurring in Australia since the mid-nineteenth century in accordance with Australian laws and has nothing to do with the horrific scenes shown in the 4Corners program.  Like all animal slaughter in Australia Kosher slaughter is subject to strict government regulation and inspection. Kosher meat is processed in Australia by Australians and meets the high standards we all expect in this country.


MYTH number 9: Maybe Kosher slaughter was once the most humane way to kill livestock but it has been rendered obsolete and unnecessary by modern scientific methods.
FACT:  The techniques of Kosher slaughter, properly conducted, have been endorsed by Professor Temple Grandin, who was interviewed in the 4 Corners program.  She is arguably the world’s foremost authority on the humane treatment of livestock.  (She is not Jewish).   In the April 2010 edition of Meat and Poultry magazine (at page 82) Professor Grandin comments favourably about the humaneness of Kosher slaughter.


MYTH number 10: Scientific tests conducted in New Zealand (the Massey study) prove that animals killed by Kosher slaughter suffer more than animals which are stunned before their necks are cut, or immediately afterwards.

FACT:  Some of the flaws and short-comings of the Massey study are discussed by Professor Grandin in the aforementioned article.  Briefly, the conditions of the experiments conducted in the study did not replicate those of Kosher slaughter, especially as regards the knife’s size, sharpness, and smoothness, and the training and skill of the slaughter-man.  The Massey study extrapolated information from calves to cows to sheep and even poultry, even though the physiology of each is fundamentally distinct.  Whatever the scientific studies show, no one can truthfully claim that Kosher slaughter is not a humane method of slaughter, as Professor Grandin acknowledges.  There is no absolutely ideal and totally painless method for slaughtering an animal, and therefore a variety of acceptable methods, which seek to effect the kill as quickly and painlessly as possible, can all coexist.



6 Responses to “Shechita – ECAJ responds”
  1. Get Real says:

    Emes, stunning animals gives the single biggest and best animal welfare outcome during slaughter. Both kosher and halah killings are cruel if stunning is not permitted before slaughter and should not be allowed under any circumstances. This is not the dark ages anymore; we have the technology to humanely render an animal unconscious before slaughter. This is widely seen as the only humane way to kill animals for consumption. If any religion disagrees they can become vegetarian.

  2. Victor g says:

    How sensible of the ECAJ to produce this. But will shock jocks and screaming newspaper writers take any notice? I think a prolonged PR campaign will be necessary to protect Kosher slaughter after the Four Corners program and resulting widespread outrage

  3. Shlomith says:

    I have always been greatly disturbed by the killing of animals, even though I have eaten meat on occasion.

    According to chazal, and the Torah, humans are supposed to eat a purely vegetarian diet, as dictated by HaShem to Adam and Chava in Gan Eden. The eating of meat was a ‘concession’ made for Noach after the flood, when there were no plants to be eaten until new crops were grown.

    But we are not in that situation anymore – there is an awesome abundance of food available to us now, without killing any animals. Therefore it, koshe would be ideal if all animal slaughter were banned, kosher and secular.

    Having said that, if meat must be eaten, then I trust the wisdom of our Sages, the greatest minds in history, when they tell us that shechilta is the least painful way for an animal to die. Our Sages never made decisions lightly, but with great care and concern for all the implications and consequences.

  4. Morrie Finberg says:

    Kol hakavod Danny!

    We now await a strong response from our rabbinic colleagues.

  5. Emes says:

    Get Real – your accusation that Jews have “no sense of compassion” is a blatantly antisemitic canard.

    Shechita has been a mainstay of Jewish ritual practice for over 3000 years and rabbinic commentators and scientists throughout the centuries have repeatedly proclaimed the practice one of the most humane methods of slaughtering animals.

    Additionally, Judaism preaches “tzar baalei chayim” – avoiding inflicting pain on animals. There are many laws involved in this category, which space does not allow me to enumate.

    By all means avoid eating meat if you want to avoid inflicting any pain whatsoever on animals, but do not accuse Jews of lacking in compassion for animals.

  6. Get Real says:

    I can’t imagine why we are even discussing this. The practice is outrageous, we know it, they know it, the government knows it and yet Australia is trying to worm its way out of its responsibility to animals to accommodate people who seem to have absolutely no sense of compassion or respect for the killing of a cow or a sheep. I am utterly tired of all excuses, nonsensical traditions and religious veneer for a complete lack of basic human tendencies not to inflict suffering on any animal for any purpose.

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