May 2, 2011

Schechita Debate Reverts to Stunning, This Time by the EU

New York… The year was 1956 as the US Congress was listening to arguments to exempt kosher slaughter (schechita) from new humane slaughter laws. It was the late Dr. Isaac Lewin, a leader of the worldwide Agudath Israel movement that had testified before a Congressional committee on the humaneness of kosher slaughter. He and others were able to prove that the Jewish method of slaughter, a sharp and instant cut to the throat immediately rendered the animal unconscious. The European Union recently passed an amendment to a new food labeling bill that would require kosher slaughtered meat to be labeled “unstunned before slaughter.” The bill will come before the entire European Parliament for a second reading and vote in July. The stunning amendment was previously rejected by the parliament on the bill's first reading in December 2010.

Schechita UK has taken a lead role in lobbying EU ministers to vote against the bill. What irks many Jewish activists is that the new initiative is based on “old beat-up arguments” that have never been proven to be true, as one rabbi put it. In fact, Dr. Temple Grandin, considered the world’s foremost expert on humane welfare issues in an article reprinted in the Forward (May 6, 2011) dismisses the significance of stunning in kosher slaughter. For example, in the slaughter of kosher poultry, she writes: “Poultry can be slaughtered easily with a sharp knife and there is no need for stunning.” She makes the same case for other animals. Animal rights extremists continue to target kosher slaughter throughout the world. They were successful in New Zealand, which Dr. Grandin points out relied on faulty research that was based on a machine sharpened knife “that may have been too short.” The Dutch Parliament also seems close to banning schechita, which will affect the country’s 45,000 Jews. In a phone conversation with KosherToday, a leading rabbi called the efforts of the animal rights extremists as “simply another form of anti-Semitism since they chose to ignore the scientific data that clearly shows that kosher slaughter is the most humane form of the slaughter of animals.” He said that the new proposed bans would create enormous hardships on the Jewish communities of Europe in not only directly impacting the supply of kosher meat and poultry but even for abattoirs to sell the “non-kosher parts of the animal,” which can account for 70% of the sale.