Jun 7, 2010

The very disturbing news that the New Zealand government has outlawed all food animal Shechita is bound to have reverberations in other countries. The Shechita ban places New Zealand in the rogue’s gallery alongside such other “Shechita-banners” as Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Croatia, which disregard the rights of Jews in preference to animal rights.

Most of the countries listed apart from Switzerland have either no Jews or a very small Jewish population, but even those with a Jewish community do not have the required fortitude to present their case to their respective governments to allow Shechita. Switzerland, which has had a ban on Shechita for over one hundred years, allows the unrestricted importation of kosher meat and does permit poultry Shechita. The Swiss government claims that not to allow at least the Shechita of birds would be a total abnegation of the Swiss guarantee to allow freedom of religious practice and thus would be against the Swiss constitution.

New Zealand on the other hand, which now makes no pretence of allowing its Jewish citizens to have rights, has banned even the Shechita AND importation of kosher poultry. Poultry is not imported into New Zealand because of the fear of spreading such diseases as avian flu. Jews will be allowed to import red-meat from neighbouring Australia and if Jews wish to have a plate of chicken soup for Friday night, well, the government says it will permit the importation of chicken-stock cubes.

What makes the New Zealand ban particularly odious is the fact that it is the first democracy, since the Nazi Shechita ban in Germany in 1933, to place a total ban on all Shechita for its Jewish subjects; a first, for which the NZ government should be thoroughly ashamed. Its shame is all the greater since New Zealand was a founder of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights signed in 1948 guaranteeing religious freedom to all its citizens. It comes as no surprise that the “research” into Shechita was held at New Zealand’s Massey University which most recently has led the world in anti-Shechita “science”. (See Jewish Tribune report “Shechita Under Attack From New Zealand” 15 October 2009)

Until this ban was forced on New Zealand’s Jews, they suffered another interference from the government in the form of compulsory stunning after Shechita and this new and unprecedented total ban must be seen as a natural progression from the enforced post Shechita stunning. Before embarking on its route to ban shechita the NZ government did give consideration to what it was doing. There were two views. One view supported the anti-shechita findings of Massey University, with no exceptions for Jews and;
“A second view holds that the rights of the New Zealand Jewish community to practise its religious beliefs accorded by the Bill of Rights Act must be balanced against animal welfare considerations…” National Animal Welfare Advisory Council.

However, the final outcome was to ignore the Bill of Rights as far as Jews are concerned. It was decided that the “welfare of animals” overrode other considerations, especially the rights of Jews because Shechita gives them cause for concern,
“Shechita, the Jewish method, is the only commercial religious slaughter procedure which raises major animal welfare concerns… No other slaughter method required by an established religious group was drawn to NAWAC’s attention”.
National Animal Welfare Advisory Council.
The National Animal Welfare Advisory Council (NAWAC) is the NZ government’s advisor on animal slaughter.

It is relevant to consider the commercial aspect to the ban on Shechita in New Zealand. Kosher meat products are not exported from New Zealand so it is not an “export-dollar-producer”. On the other hand, Halal meat exports from New Zealand to the Moslem world of Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Iran and other counties account for millions of dollars worth of trade for the New Zealanders. Halal slaughter has not been affected by the Shechita ban. Here again is the government’s view which permits the continuation of Halal slaughter;
“Halal, the Muslim method, has been conducted commercially in New Zealand, with a pre-cut reversible stun, for many years and, therefore, meets an acceptable animal welfare standard. No submissions opposing the use of the pre-cut reversible stun were received from the Muslim community.”
And further;
“NAWAC requires as a minimum standard that all animals undergoing commercial slaughter be stunned effectively prior to the throat or neck cut. This applies to all commercial slaughter, including Halal slaughter (i.e. slaughter by the Muslim method) which already meets this minimum standard”. NAWAC

It must not be assumed that New Zealand’s Jews were not forthright in their opposition to the ban or events leading up to it. A few years ago the Government wanted to enlist the “cooperation” of the Jewish community to conduct “experiments” as to the humaneness of Shechita. The Community leaders, smelling a rat, asked for advice from the UK. The leading Shechita defence groups in the UK advised that this request for “cooperation” was just a front by the government to show that they are “consulting” with the Jewish community and in any case the government will do what it wants to obstruct Shechita with or without the Jews. Here is advice which was taken up by the brave New Zealand Jews which they submitted to the Government;
“We cannot participate or in any way assist in what you propose doing on principle. Your underlying hypothesis is that Shechita is not humane, whereas there is abundant scientific evidence world-wide that it is humane and secures in single operation a stun, dispatch and draining. Shechita accomplishes what other methods of stunning attempt, namely, immediate and irreversible abolition of consciousness until death supervenes. Moreover, it is a core value of the Jewish faith that Shechita conforms with all the requirements of humaneness. Since you do not accept these assertions (that shechita is the Jewish religious-humane method) any experiment or exercise, such as the one you propose is calculated to injure or deny completely the freedom of religious belief and practice of the Jewish community.”

Although in this round the New Zealand Jewish Community may be down, they are certainly not out. There will be world-wide vigorous protests to the New Zealand government calling on them to reverse immediately their callous and clearly racist action in removing the freedom of religious practice from its Jewish community.

Chanoch Kesselman

first published in the JEWISH TRIBUNE, London, June 3 2010