Facts About Shechita

Nov 30, 2009

Jewish law states that, if meat is to be eaten, Jews are required to dispatch an animal in a prescribed humane way. Shechita is the only method permitted by Jewish law to enable Jews to eat meat. The procedure consists of a rapid and expert transverse incision with an instrument of surgical sharpness (a chalaf), which severs the major structures and vessels at the neck. This causes an instant drop in blood pressure in the brain and immediately results in the irreversible cessation of consciousness. Thus shechita humanely incorporates stunning as an integral part of its process, which renders the animal insensible to pain, dispatches and drains with one swift action.

The Shochet (one who performs shechita) studies intensively for many years and must have a thorough knowledge of animal anatomy, pathology and the laws of Shechita. The Shochet must be licensed by both a Local Authority and by the Rabbinical Commission for the Licensing of Shochetim, a statutory body established by Parliament and now governed by Schedule 12 to The Welfare of Animals [Slaughter or Killing] Regulations 1995. Every Shochet is examined annually by this Commission and must apply for renewal of his license every 12 months. No general slaughterman is subject to such continuous standards of personal assessment, rigorous training and supervision yet he is “licensed for life.”

Jewish law requires that an animal intended for food must be healthy and uninjured at the time of slaughter. Therefore stunning, by captive-bolt or electricity, renders an animal forbidden to Jews for food. These methods, used in the general slaughtering industry, are regarded by Jewish law as causing unnecessary injury and suffering to an animal. They have been found by animal welfare agencies including the RSPCA and FAWC to be inefficient, and the cause of unnecessary suffering to the animal. Furthermore, there is scientific evidence that demonstrates these methods of stunning only paralyse the animal, thus preventing it moving and displaying its pain.

Jewish law requires that animals be treated with consideration, kindness and respect. The Bible is the first systematic legislation prohibiting cruelty to animals and mandating their humane treatment. These laws are binding on Jews today. For example:

  • It is prohibited to cause pain to animals
  • A person is required to feed his animals before himself
  • Animals must be rested on the Sabbath day
  • It is prohibited to sever a limb from a live animal and eat it
  • One is obligated to relieve an animal’s suffering
  • An animal threshing corn must not be muzzled
  • An ox and a donkey must not be harnessed together.