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Shechita Q&A
| Misc |
 

What is shechita?
Shechita is the Jewish method of humanely slaughtering meat for it to be kosher (acceptable)
for consumption.

How is shechita performed?
Shechita is performed by a highly-trained slaughterer (called a shochet) who stuns and kills the
animal with a single quick cut to the throat with a special long sharp knife sharpened between
every use.

How are ‘shechita’ and ‘shochet’ pronounced?
The ‘ch’ in ‘shechita’ and ‘shochet’ is pronounced like the ‘ch’ in the Scottish ‘loch’ or the
German ‘Bach’, and not like the ‘ch’ in ‘cheese’.

Is shechita humane?
Animal welfare is extremely important in Jewish law and custom. Jewish law ensures animals
farmed for meat suffer as little as possible, being treated humanely before slaughter as well as
being slaughtered as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Shechita both stuns and kills the animal with a single cut to the neck, resulting in an instant and
irreversible drop in blood pressure to the brain, causing the animal to lose consciousness and
die.

Experts have concluded that shechita is at least, if not more humane, than other methods of
humane slaughter. Furthermore, shechita is more humane than pre-stunning (now required by
the Government) which local research has shown has a failure rate of around 9%.

How and why did the Government ban shechita?
The Government introduced the Animal Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) Code of Welfare in
2010, requiring stunning for all commercial slaughter.

The code was developed by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee which also
recommended an exemption for shechita “to allow the New Zealand Jewish community to
manifest its religion and belief (as provided for in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990)”.

The Minister of Agriculture chose not to include the exemption in the final code which was then
approved by Cabinet. The Minister has not adequately explained why he chose to disregard the
National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee recommendation to allow the Jewish community to
continue to practice shechita.

The Animal Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) Code of Welfare 2010 and the report of the
National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee are available online at:
http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/animal-welfare/codes/commercial-slaughter

What evidence did the Government rely on?
The Government appears to have relied heavily on a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry funded
Massey University study, which the international expert on the issue, Dr Temple Grandin has
criticised.

The Massey University study was flawed for a number of reasons. It did not use the same method
as shechita, trained shochets, or even the same kind of long knife. It then extrapolated results
from calves to cows, sheep, and even poultry -- even though their physiognomy is fundamentally
different.

Dr Grandin’s review of the Massey University study is available online at:
http://www.grandin.com/ritual/slaughter.without.stunning.causes.pain.html

Haven’t other countries banned shechita?
Very few countries have banned shechita. Most bans date back to the 1930s -- some to NAZI
occupation -- or even earlier. In every case, either the Jewish population is negligible or has
easy and affordable access to imported kosher meat. New Zealand is the first country to ban
shechita without a public mood of anti-semitism behind it.

What impact is the ban having?
The ban on shechita effectively bans home-grown kosher meat for New Zealand’s Jewish
community. Kosher beef and lamb can be imported from Australia but it is not widely available
and prohibitively expensive for most. Further, poultry cannot be imported due to food safety
regulations and so no kosher poultry is available at all once stocks from before the ban run out.

Can’t the exemption for home kill be used to continue supply of kosher meat?
The Animal Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) Code of Welfare requirement for stunning only
applies to commercial slaughter and does not apply to home kill. However, home kill is not a
practical option for the Jewish community because:
● shechita can only be performed by a trained shochet (often a rabbi with additional
training in shechita) with special knives
● most of the Jewish community lives in urban areas where raising livestock is not practical
and in many areas not even permitted
● home kill meat cannot be traded or sold.

Why doesn’t shechita allow stunning before slaughter?
Animal welfare is a primary consideration in Jewish law, which requires animals to be healthy
and uninjured at the time of slaughter. For example, chickens with broken bones or ligaments (a
common problem in cage raised chickens) will not be kosher even if slaughtered using shechita
methods.
Current methods of stunning -- such as brain-bashing percussive bolts, electrocution, and gassing
of poultry -- all injure the animal, sometimes painfully when it goes wrong. It is estimated that
around 9% of stunning fails in New Zealand. Stunning also delays slaughter, prolonging the
animal’s distress.

Why do Muslims allow stunning before slaughter?
Traditionally, Islam does not allow stunning before slaughter. Some authorities now permit
stunning before slaughter and all halal meat in New Zealand is stunned before slaughter.
However, other authorities do not permit stunning before slaughter and consider this meat
haram (unsuitable).

Why can’t shechita simply adapt and permit stunning?
Animal welfare is already a primary consideration in shechita. So called ‘modern’ methods of
stunning are not as humane as they sound.

Animal welfare organisations and veterinarians have complained continually about the
ineffectiveness of stunning and how the animal can regain consciousness while being killed.
Often animals have to be re-shot or re-electrocuted because the stun was ineffective first time
round, causing unnecessary suffering. (Research has shown that stunning in New Zealand has a
failure rate of around 9%.)

Shechita irreversably stuns and kills the animal in one action without any mechanical or
electrical parts to fail. Shechita may have a long history but it is not outdated.
Isn’t all slaughter inhumane?

The Government hasn’t banned all slaughter. It has only banned shechita. Some argue that all
slaughter of animals for food is wrong and should be banned. However, the New Zealand
Government has not banned slaughtering animals for food, only a particular method of
slaughter.

Since when has shechita has been practiced in New Zealand?
Jews have been amongst the earliest settlers and subsequent immigrants. The Jewish presence
in New Zealand predates the Treaty of Waitangi and includes noted prominent early settler,
trader, explorer, and cartographer Joel Samuel Polack.

Shechita has been practiced since at least 1843 with David Isaacs’ arrival in Wellington where he
served as the community’s shochet. Over the intervening years a wide range of kosher animals
have been shechtered for the local Jewish population. At the time of the ban, most local kosher
meat has been chicken and lamb, with some turkey and duck.

Who has kosher meat been supplied for?
In recent years kosher meat has been supplied exclusively for local consumption by the New
Zealand Jewish community and visitors. No kosher meat has been exported.
 

(1947)
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