BLT Week 1 - Shechita

26-Oct-2013 - 10:00pm

Shimon Cohen has been actively involved in Shechita UK since 2003 and more recently Shechita EU

Any vegetarians – look away now. Shimon Cohen (formerly private secretary to the late Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits), has been actively involved in Shechita UK since 2003 and more recently Shechita EU. He was coaxed into it like many of us into various committees.

Discredit

Some in the UK have tried to discredit and ban the way in which animals are killed for Jewish and Muslim consumption, declaring it to be inhumane. However, to the contrary, Jewish law prevents cruelty to animals and Shimon gave a good description, albeit quite a recipe (excuse the pun) for becoming a vegetarian!

Slaughter of animals for the general market

English law suggests a three part process meant for the killing of livestock, stunning, dispatching and exsanguinating the animal. The way we kill our animals in one quick action covers all three processes. Finer details of the killing of various animals ‘our way vs their way’ were discussed.

Stunning

The only legal method to slaughter animals for food in this country is by severing the throat. The whole fuss is about how the animal is stunned. We stun the animal with a knife of surgical sharpness. The process of stunning for the general market had most of us speechless (no pun intended). Did you know for instance that to ‘stun’ animals in the general market, the use of a captive bolt shot for larger animals, gassing, electrocution and drowning are used. The general methods of stunning are not guaranteed to stun the animal first time round – how much more cruel could that be? Often, it takes the animal a long time to die. This could be due to a variation of size of the animal or overcrowding. The Torah view is there should be minimal cruelty to animals.

To give just a couple of statistics, in the general market, 31% of cattle and 29% of pigs are mis-stunned. Chickens are crammed into crates and then put on an equivalent of a washing line and dipped in a trough for electrocution and the stunning misses as they are not big enough. I won’t go on. You might be eating whilst reading this. Let’s just say that kosher animals are not crammed, or mis-stunned.

At the time of the BSC crisis, the kosher meat market had no problems as we could not pass any disease from one animal to the next for the simple reason that the blade we use is cleaned with each use. (In fact our street party used kosher burgers that year for the non-Jews as well as for us)!

The Board for Shechita have had to prove that the way we transport and the process to kill our animals is humane and is considerate of the welfare of the animal to the end. Shechita is a part of our religious freedom and I hate to use this term but ‘our religious right’ and was approved by British Law as far back as the 1920s. Shimon covered the entire history of our fight to retain the right to practice shechita in this country. Many other countries have not been so fortunate. There are frequent attempts to undermine shechita. Shechita UK responds that if kosher and Halal meat are to be labelled as meat slaughtered without stunning, then in fairness, much of the meat for general consumption should be labelled as having been mis-stunned. To the proposal that a veterinarian should be present when shechita takes place, the response is that this would be discrimination unless a veterinarian would be present whenever animals are slaughtered for general consumption.