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Shooting down religious freedom – The Sunday Age takes aim

June 26, 2011 – 10:03 pm46 Comments

Arguably, the only type of burger completely cruelty free is the 'meatless' burger

By Andrew Harris

It was only a few days ago, but it feels like it was in another life, on another planet, that I was watching Go Back to Where You Came From on SBS, marvelling that such a morality tale about the rights of asylum seekers and the gift of multiculturalism could only have been made in such a forward thinking, rational country as Australia. And then I unwrapped this morning’s Sunday Age.

The front-page headline of ‘Outrage grows on ritual killing'; the editorial pull quote of ‘religious freedom has its limits’– taking aim at kosher and halal slaughter is nothing new in contemporary newsmedia, but replete with a cartoon that could well have been reproduced from a lovingly thumbed back issue of Der Stürmer, today’s Sunday Age has raised the bar to terrifying new heights.

In the poorly researched Peter Munro feature, or in the sanctimonious editorial, you would have noticed a familiar line of inquisition – the apparently casual mention of ‘genital mutilation’ (read: circumcision, as practiced by Jews and Muslims since the beginning of Judaism and Islam); and of schechita as ‘profit-driven'; we can assemble the familiar picture of a bloodthirsty, money-hungry Jew who consistently fails to abide by the laws and morality of the land. The undertones read not dissimilarly for Muslims.

The real issue remains that if the The Sunday Age must throw journalistic integrity to the wind in place of attempting to a buoy rapidly sinking paper at a rapidly destabilising publisher, at least it should be done with the pretence of factual argument, and some sense of context.

Not long ago, across the Tasman, the New Zealand government put a halt on schechita. The New Zealand Jewish community’s meat supply ran empty, and it was only after it was revealed that the New Zealand Agriculture Minister had a conflict of interest that the ban was overturned.

In addition, it was found that the basis of the ban, a government-funded Massey University study, was fundamentally flawed. This was demonstrated by none other than animal ethics expert and animal rights champion Colorado State University’s Dr Temple Grandin, who is an advocate of kosher slaughter when it is  performed to the standards she has specified. Her paper, titled ‘Discussion of research that shows that Kosher or Halal Slaughter without stunning causes pain’, can be found here.

Closer to home, Australian food law expert Joe Lederman says that the assumption that penetrative captive bolt stunning reduces the pain of the animal is a myth. “Often the bolt misses the mark,” he says. “That would be the case even more so with a sheep. The bolt misses the skull, might go in the eye, and can be done again and again.”

Lederman says that there’s always been kosher slaughter in Australia, and legally enshrined recognition of kosher slaughter as a special slaughter method in Victoria and New South Wales. “It has always been accepted,” he says. There was examination and improvement in the methodology in the 1950s under the supervision of Jewish lay leadership and rabbinical leadership. “There has been continuous improvement and refinement. And there have been specific improvements to ensure that the animal is held completely immobile.”

Meanwhile, The Age has entirely missed the economic implication of its argument. Sure, Jews and Muslims may have to do without a local meat supply, but what about the jobs that would be lost in the process of this denial of religious freedom?

Daniel Lewis, general manager of Continental Kosher Butchers, a paying member of the Australian Meat Industry Council, whose chairman Terry Nolan made the inflammatory ‘profit-driven’ quote in the front-page article, utilises no fewer than three abattoirs in Victoria, and also directly employs more than 50 staff.

“You’re talking close to 120 people in Victoria,” Lewis says of the potential job losses if kosher slaughter were to be outlawed. And it’s not just the direct employees; it’s also the flow-on employment in delicatessens and supermarket meat departments, and the staff of the kashrut authority that oversees the process. If halal slaughter were to be banned, many more jobs would be lost; there are three times as many Muslims as Jews in Australia.

Lewis tells me that Western Australian abattoirs have already stopped facilitating schechita. There it was a ‘profit-driven’ issue – the kosher market is too small to argue with the publicity-sensitive meat industry.

In Victoria, he says, schechita constitutes a major proportion of a number of abattoirs’ income. The numbers of Jews are greater, and so are the numbers of Muslims. If we were going to unite to fight anything, this is it – otherwise, first they’ll take our meat, and then they’ll make us keep our foreskins. In the end, it’s all a matter of blood and knives, and that’s nothing new. Neither is the price of complacency.

Andrew Harris is a writer, editor and photographer based in Melbourne.

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46 Comments »

  • AustIsr says:

    This is an excellent and much-needed solid critique of The Age’s hysterical article.

    The Oz had a far more balanced article – http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/ritual-animal-killing-routine-in-australia/story-fn59niix-1226080205383

  • Doodie Ringelblum says:

    Andrew, you’ve written a very passionate piece, which I respect but I think you’ve overstated your criticism. The Sunday Age didn’t push the argument about “profit motive” – that was an allegation levelled by Animals Australia. It was a reasonable quote for the paper to run as part of the story.
    And it is a genuine news story – in NZ, in Europe and now here. I share your concern that there is going to be significant pressure on the legality of shkhite in coming years. But I am equally concerned that the “anti-semitism” allegation will be thrown around casually when many, many who have an issue with shkhite are genuinely concerned about animal welfare. It was a big call of Rabbi Gutnick to make (in the article)without acknowledging that for many there are sincere ethical issues.
    I have read the Grandin article you reference and many of the other articles she has written. I note that she was highly condemning of shkhite as being cruel when it was perfomed before her restraint methods were introduced – ie shkhite up till 20 years ago – but that she is very satisfied with its humaneness now. I’ve read other research which says shkhite remains cruel. I’ve never watched an animal being shekhted, nor seen an animal slaughtered, so I can’t make up my mind.
    If shkhite can be proven to be no more painful than stunned slaughtering, then obviously the animal welfare argument against shkhite is fallacious. But let me ask if the reverse is true. What would be your view of shkhite if YOU were convinced that it caused more suffering than stunned slaughter?
    I will stand alongside you opposing restrictions on shkhite coming from an anti-semitic position. But I’d like to be sure that we’re on solid ground when there are sincere concerns about tzar bala khayim and animal welfare.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    We truly must be on different planets.

    I see no overtone of anti-Semitism in either the Age Editorial or the report on the meat business. When mentioning profit, the article was reporting a comment by someone in the meat industry as to why cattle are stunned and sheep are not on the kosher meat industry. As for the article in the Australian, it carried remarks that some would object to, quoting a person from the RSPCA: “The problem is really the kosher slaughter, as we know halal widely accepts the stunning of animals prior to slaughter.” And was the cartoon really anti-semitic? I think wry is the correct word.

    I’m not at all religious, or kosher but I am accommodationist. I recognise that 1.5 billion people are Muslim and however many millions of 12 or 13 million Jews are kosher and nothing is going to change them but we can promote animal welfare..

    We can only try to reduce cruelty to animals and enlighten people who want to eat meat. If you want to eat kosher meat, then you need to pay close attention to animal welfare, otherwise, go veg. Anything to rid an animal of pain and fear is a good thing. As has been seen in some of the comments to the Rubashkin case on Galus Australis(a truly sorry case of criminal activity in the kosher meat business), some people just deny that animals do suffer pain. This is a viewpoint that belongs in pre-Enlightenment times. It’s a point of view that let Descartes carry out vivisection on criminals, because they too, were considered non-human.

    Many years ago, in another life, I worked in an abattoir counting the bodies and body parts. I saw both shechitah and ‘normal’ slaughter, both of cattle and sheep. Both are horrible things to witness. The transition to death via knife or shot bolt is not a nice thing. Given that it is possible to stun cattle at the moment of the shect — and believe me, it is faster than the blink of an eye– and they are still kosher, it should be possible to stun sheep as well. So in animal welfare terms, at least in Australia, an objection to shechitah on pain grounds. There is also a case to be made on animal welfare grounds, that a shot bolt should be applied and the cut then applied, as a ritual act. I know that many people would object to this, but on the ground of reduction of cruelty, I am sure a case can be made for ‘symbolic’ shechitah rather than sticking up for the traditional method as Rabbi Gutnick does, on the basis of ‘belief’.

    There is also an interesting discussion of how human handling should also be incorporated into the requirements for shechitah, and not just the ‘cut’ itself, reflecting the views of Temple Grandin and animal welfare activists. See http://tiny.cc/g0j4z. Suspending animals (e.g by a hind leg) is particularly cruel. See http://www.grandin.com/ritual/euthanasia.slaughter.livestock.html

    Of course, this is not the end of the story. The slaughtering issue always gets caught up with the zealotry of intolerant haters, and latterly, this has been with anti-Muslims. The QSociety (of Marrickville and St Kilda Community House fame) have been particularly fierce denouncers of halal meat on several grounds 1) cruelty 2) that non-Muslims are being duped into eating halal meat because it is also sold as general meat in their supermarkets. In their eyes, and that of other conservative Christians, eating halal meat is akin to eating a sacrifice to a false god (has ve-halilah!).

    Senator Cory Bernardi has also similar remarks about halal meat , as well as Bill Muehlenburg of the Australian Family Association and other conservative causes.

    Now, I only give it a couple of days until some of these wackos also add kosher slaughtering to their list, even though, according to Rev. Mark Durie, an anti-Muslim camaigner in Caulfield who provides theological inspiration to such people, Jews and Christians worship the same god. So perhaps Jews won’t cop quite the same degree of hatred over this, even though it will bring out a great degree of intolerance.

    For believers, there is an interesting comment made by the Conservative Rabbinate on the slaughtering issue: “…we definitely should not do anything to suggest to non-Jews that the Jewish religion requires a lower standard of morality and humane slaughter than is now commonly accepted by the rest of society and, indeed, enacted as law. Acting in any way that suggests that we abide by lower moral standards than the rest of society is a clear violation of our duty to avoid a desecration of God’s name…”

    For those with a gruesome tendency, read the many papers at http://www.grandin.com/ritual/rec.ritual.slaughter.html

  • Larry Stillman says:

    sorry, parag. 4 So in animal welfare terms, at least in Australia, an objection to shechitah on pain grounds should read–

    So in animal welfare terms, at least in Australia, an objection to shechitah on pain grounds can be dealt with in a practical way.

  • Harold Zwier says:

    Andrew,

    I very much agree with Doodie Ringelblum’s comments. I too noted the “profit motive” as being taken out of context. In fact my impression was that that phrase was being used about halal slaughter rather than kosher slaughter, though the way it was written seemed to apply to both.

    I too think that Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick’s comment that “Calls to ban (shechitah) were in part motivated by ignorance and antisemitism” don’t leave much room for those who have a genuine concern for animal welfare. I note that “in part” does leave room for voices other than the ignorant and antisemites. But that’s not the way the article will be read (nor was it the way I read the article at first). I also wondered whether Rabbi Gutnick had been quoted fairly, but that won’t change the article.

    If the debate descends into labelling those who oppose kosher slaughter as being ignorant or Jew haters, then the Jewish community will look like any self-interest group. Hardly better than the tobacco lobby.

    Perhaps some creative halachic thinking needs to be applied to the problem rather than only relying on “experts” to tell us that shechitah is a humane process.

    Disclosure: I buy and eat kosher meat.

  • Andrew Harris says:

    Austlsr, thanks for pointing me toward the Oz article.

    Doodie, Larry and Harold, thank you all for your considered commentary — Harold, I too buy and eat kosher meat.

    I wholeheartedly agree that animal welfare is of primary concern. However, I was motivated to respond the Sunday Age piece because it didn’t actually restrict itself to dealing with issues of animal welfare, and neither did the editorial.

    I referred to Temple Grandin and the New Zealand debacle, and quoted Joe Lederman and Daniel Lewis, in order to bring the discussion back to earth, and to demonstrate that with a little research, the Sunday Age could have painted a more balanced picture of the issue.

    It was the Sunday Age, not me, that conflated what should have been reportage and opinion on a purely animal rights issue into one, as per the editorial, of ‘religious freedom’.

    Nitpicking about the context of the ‘profit-driven’ quote is immaterial in the face of the overarching tone of what appeared in yesterday’s paper.

    As far as I’m concerned, this issue is either about what’s in the best interests of the animals in question, or it’s about delimiting the boundaries of what is can be acceptable behavior for Jews and Muslims in their religious lives by their Christian host society.

    In a democratic high-functioning civil society such as Australia purports to be, perception or evidence of a failure in animal welfare cannot be used as an excuse for questioning religious freedom — that’s called ‘incitement’.

    Best,

    Andrew

  • Get Real says:

    Andrew Harris, here is a video of Kosher slaughter, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAU9DD24uUk. I dare you to watch it. If you don’t but still defend Kosher slaughter you have no right to say it’s humane.

  • frosh says:

    “Get Real”,

    I don’t eat meat, be it kosher or non kosher, so I have no personal stake in this.

    However, your argument is a little spurious , as you offer no control group. The argument here is whether kosher slaughter, when done to best practice, is less humane than non-kosher slaughter, when also done to best practice.

    Please show us the video of non-kosher slaughter that will be as comfortable to watch as a video of someone picking fruit from a tree.

  • Andrew Harris says:

    Get Real,

    Kosher slaughter done badly is the same as any method of slaughter done badly.

    Skimming the issue and reacting, such as you have, without taking the entire body of evidence into account, is symptomatic of the kind of endemic ignorance and reactionary vitriol faced by many minorities in Australia.

    If anything, your video serves to illustrate my point. This is an issue of recognising and upholding best-practice slaughter methods, regardless of who’s doing the slaughtering.

    No doubt just as Four Corners uncovered gross abuses of animal rights in Indonesian Halal processing, there are some horrific videos out there of captive-bolt stunning gone wrong.

  • seraphya says:

    Any industrial slaughter of animals whether Halal, Kosher or stunned or any other type of killing will have negative animal welfare impacts. This is because the output efficiency driven by profit outweighs any vestige of a corporation’s care for the animal as a living being.

    As a vegetarian that cares about animal welfare, I am embarrassed by the way that certain animal rights groups are portraying the issue.

    However, as a Jew I am far more embarrassed about how accusations of antisemitism are so easily flung indiscriminately by Rabbis.

  • AustIsr says:

    Seraphya – You have to be fair to Rabbi Gutnick and check that he did in fact label anti-Schechita efforts as antisemitic, as well as establishing what the context was in which he made that remark if he indeed did so. I wouldn’t trust The Age (nor any other media) to report the Rabbi accurately or in context. Given the tone and biased approached of the article, it would not surprise me if they misconstrued his remarks to suit their story line.

    Get Real – I support the remarks of the commentators who have criticised you for posting that link without any reference to videos of non-schechita slaughter. I do not eat meat and I am sure that anyone who visits an abattoir would also seriously reconsider the origins of their daily meat intake as a result of watching an animal being slaughtered. Schechita is not a pleasant process to watch, nor is death by any other means. If you are sickened by the slaughter practices in the world, then give up eating meat. You’re not going to find a form of slaughter that is totally painfree or, to use the analogy of the commentator above, as easy on the eye as is picking fruit.

  • Chanie says:

    Even plants have feelings you know.

  • R B says:

    Thanks Andrew for arising this issue.

    Gradually, progressive journalists and politicians try to replace the “Freedom OF Religion” – a cornerstone of Western democracies for decades – with “Freedom FROM religion”, banning various religious practices, maybe on the way to a total ban. A relaxed and gradual version of the violent ban enforced by USSR in the previous century.

    In Melbourne they suggest banning ritual slaughter of animals, in San Francisco they demand a ban on circumcision, and the next phase is probably strict limitations, if not a ban, on religious education – for example, you can check the platform of the “Secular Australia” party.

    As the Western, secular civilisation is less confident of its ability to continue to rule the world, it tries using “progressive” and “humanist” claims against other cultures. These are not against Judaism, but against all religions and cultures, which do not conform to the standards set by some people who claim to have a monopoly on the world’s morals.

    Rather than being in conflict with the Islam because of Zionism or being suspicious towards Christianity because of historic theological debates, Jews should better cooperate with those religion against the attempt to wipe all the three of the map.

  • Andrew Harris says:

    Thank you R B, you have captured my point exactly.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I am sorry to disabuse you both of your fears, but you are engaging in strong exaggeration of the situation, with an extraordinarily simplistic conspiracy view of the relationship between humanism, secularism, politics, the media, and attitudes towards a full spectrum of religious practice.

    For example, those opposed to religious education in schools are not necessarily opposed to religion. They don’t think it should be carried on in schools (particularly with the current semi-compulsory arrangements that benefit Christian evangelism). This has nothing to do with the private, non-coercive practice of religion.

  • R B says:

    Larry,

    By referring the issue religious education, I did not mean the debate about religion classes in Australian public schools. In fact, I think that those who prefer that their kids participate in humanism classes rather than on Christianity classes, should have this option. I do not want to enforce religion on others as I don’t want religion (or anti-religion) to be enforced on me.

    My problem is with attitudes like this, taken from the Web site of the Secular Party of Australia:
    “The Secular Party believes that the religious indoctrination of children in schools violates the rights of the child. The requirement, whether by parents or schools, that children wear religious attire, is a form of indoctrination. The Secular Party therefore opposes this practice. It is the policy of the Secular Party that all forms of religious attire be prohibited in all schools.”

    This is blunt anti-religious enforcement, and harsh interfering within the rights of parents to decide upon the values and culture by which they will educate their children. True, this party is tiny, but these views and the like, as we read in The Age, are permeating into the wider public discourse.

  • Get Real says:

    Andrew Harris, sorry but last time I checked this was Australia, and in Australia we are constantly trying to improve our animal welfare standards, not trying to lower them. Which is exactly what slaughter without stunning is, lowering our standards to appease religious minorities. There is one law, and that should be the law for all, not have exemptions for cruelty.

    Abattoirs are one place were religion should stay well clear of. Both kosher and halah killings are cruel if stunning is not permitted before slaughter and should not be allowed under any circumstances. This is not the dark ages; we have the technology to humanely render an animal unconscious before slaughter. This is widely seen as the only humane way to kill animals for consumption. If any religion disagrees they can become vegetarians.

  • frosh says:

    “Get real”

    If one is generous and thus interprets your comments as if you wrote them sincerely, you seem to be under the illusion that your meat comes from an abattoir that is blissfully cruelty free.

    It is you that needs to “get real”. If you don’t want animals to face any cruelty you should be campaigning for the abolition of the meat industry (and the outlawing of non-free range eggs).

    However, you instead seem to be pre-occupied as to whether an animal dies from a quick slit to its throat vs. being “stunned” through bludgeoning.

    From my own vegetarian point of view, your pre-occupations seems ridiculous.

    Of course, perhaps you are not being sincere…

  • Andrew Harris says:

    Get Real,

    Apart from your contention being the sort of comply-or-die proclamation belonging in the ‘Dark Ages’ to which you refer, it rests on the unproven assumption that captive-bolt stunning makes slaughter any more humane than schechita.

    The entire premise on which schechita is based is one of prioritising animal welfare, and showing the utmost respect to the animal itself.

    In fact, Temple Grandin has noted that when done properly, with the painstaking rigour required by Jewish religious law, animals slaughtered during schechita “appear to feel no pain”.

    Your assertion that stunning “is widely seen as the only humane way to kill animals for consumption” is simply a reflection of populist opinion, not an empirical statement of fact.

    It may be time for you to get real yourself.

  • letters in the age says:

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/editorial/israel-should-uphold-press-freedom-20110627-1gncy.html

    I thought this age editorial would be more interesting?

  • AustIsr says:

    The ECAJ’s excellent myths & facts guide in response to the Sunday Age’s article can be viewed here: http://ecaj.org.au/news_files/110628_kosher.pdf

  • Malki Rose says:

    Get Real,
    Either you have a problem with issues of cruelty or you have issues with religion.
    You say that “religion has no place in an abattoir”. So my question to you is as follows,
    If Jewish or Muslim religion demanded that animals be slaughtered by stunning, this would be ok and religion WOULD have a place in an abattoir, yes?

  • Andrew Harris says:

    A couple of weeks prior to and in anticipation of the recent media beat-up about kosher and halal slaughter following the exposure of gross animal cruelty during halal slaughter in Indonesia, Continental Kosher Butchers received what amounted to a motion of solidarity from the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC), the meat-industry union and peak body, of which it is a paying member.

    The letter, headed ‘Australian Meat Processing Animal Welfare’, states in part:

    Our customers are assured that the meat sold in this shop has been prepared by:
    A processing facility which is committed to the highest level of animal welfare.
    Our meat processors operate under strict State and Federal animal welfare regulations.
    Our meat processors have properly trained employees who are competent in animal welfare.
    The letter then goes on to underline that AMIC does not ship live cattle to Indonesia, and nor does it support the practice, thereby making distinct Indonesian animal cruelty and kosher slaughter in Australia.

    You can view the entire letter here: http://bit.ly/lO9p1M

    This is the very same AMIC whose chairman Terry Nolan was quoted in the Sunday Age front-page feature as saying “I personally don’t believe in unstunned slaughter”.

    The document was to be printed and stuck up in the window or another prominent spot in the shop, to assure and reassure customers that the meat they would be buying was produced to the highest ethical and animal-welfare standards. Brochures to the same effect were also supplied.

    The fact that AMIC is prepared to convey one message to its direct stakeholders, and another, contradictory message in the populist media via its chairman, further demonstrates that this is not an issue of animal welfare; it is instead an issue of public opinion questioning religious freedom.

    It’s time to call a spade a spade.

  • Andrew Harris says:

    And Seraphya,

    As a Jew I am disturbed that as a Jew you are “far more embarrassed about how accusations of antisemitism are so easily flung indiscriminately by Rabbis”.

    While it may have taken up too much column space to allow Rabbi Gutnick to explain that concerns about Jews, knives and blood are as old as Christianity itself, the mere headline of ‘Ritual Killing’ (when the matter actually concerns ‘slaughter without stunning’), accompanied by a baseless, propagandistic cartoon, constitutes an archetypal form of discrimination as old as Gutenberg’s press.

    If the Age had been around some centuries ago, it may have run the same headline and a similar cartoon ‘reporting’ on the case of William of Norwich: http://bit.ly/iibEZ7

    Trying to ascertain precisely when a matter of is of sufficient magnitude to earn the feared ‘anti-Semitic’ status is a moot point, isn’t it?

  • Wolf says:

    To ‘Get Real’,

    So you think that kosher slaughter done properly, and swiftly is cruel?
    So you think that stunning an animal will take away all/most pain? That it is humane?

    I got news for you my friend, slaughtering ANYTHING, ANYHOW is never going to be humane, pain free, and ‘nice’. Let’s be honest hear, we’re talking about killing a living creature, it will feel pain and it’s life will be lost.

    I don’t see how stunning an animal takes away any problems at all. It’s just society’s way of making themselves FEEL more humane (apparently when they stun the animal they often miss the mark!). If you really don’t like the idea of animal cruelty in any way, shape or form, then I suggest you don’t support the industry at all, by being a vegetarian.

    Personally, I eat meat (only Kosher!) and I love to eat meat, it no longer bothers me (and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good thing!), but if you want to be brutally honest then ‘get real’ and face the facts, slaughter is slaughter and no matter how much we may reduce the suffering, it is by it’s own virtue, not a very nice or painless act!

  • Get Real says:

    Frosh, I am all for abolishing intensive farming methods such as sow stalls and battery cages for chickens as you rightly say. I’m also all for supporting vegetarianism, however for people that eat meat we have to make sure it is done in the most humane way possible, this should be based on science not religion.

    Also what on earth are you talking about when you say, ‘being “stunned” through bludgeoning.’ This is not at all the process, I suggest you seriously become more informed on the subject because a statement like that sounds stupid.

    Andrew Harris, Temple Grandin has also said on visiting a kosher abattoir, ‘This should not be happening in a civilized society.’ In my diary I wrote, ‘If hell exists, I am in it.’

    Not only that, the RSPCA disagrees with ritual slaughter. The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council, The Royal Dutch Veterinary Association and Compassion In World Farming also say ritual slaughter causes server suffering and should be banned immediately. In fact pretty much every animal welfare organisation in the world is against ritual slaughter.

    Even The Australian Meat Industry Council and abattoir workers alike are against it. As one abattoir manager that used to kill animals without prior stunning said, “I believe all animals should be immobilised and stunned because that is the most humane way to do it,”. So if even abattoir workers disagree with no pre-stunning, there can be no doubt it’s cruel. Especially if they are so against it because of that reason they stop doing it.

    Whether you like it or not this opinion is based on science, advancement and ethics. It’s also the opinion of all western and developed nations. I just hope that Australia will follow the likes of compassionate and sane countries like Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and soon the Netherlands and ban ritual slaughter.

    I think it’s time you get with the times and accept that your method of slaughter is outdated and unacceptable to our standards and laws.

    Malki Rose, what I mean is for example if religious people wanted the animal to have a prayer said to it or have it facing a certain way for their religion then fine do that. Because those things do not in any way affect the welfare of the animal so I have no problem with it.

    So I don’t have a problem with religion at all, except when it inflicts on the rights or welfare of people or animals. But I also do not agree with the fact that there are certain rules and laws for the majority of us Australians but some religious groups can have exemptions to these laws. What applies to us should apply to them, simple as that. Particularly if the exemption allows for harm in some way or the lowering of our standards, like this for example.

    Wolf, slaughtering is never nice, I agree, but it can be made as humane as possible, that’s why stunning was invented. There is nothing painless about having your throat cut fully conscious, I find it disturbing how you or anyone else could possibly think that’s okay.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Get Real,
    The same rules do apply to all Australians. If anyone wanted to employ Jewish methods of slaughter in Australia they are permitted to do so.

    As Andrew mentioned above you have no reason to believe that stunning is necessarily kinder to an animal short of the outcry that it is.

    I’ve had the displeasure of witnessing the horrific conditions in some abattoirs in the UK. Most animals being slaughtered were dragged around, clearly distressed, and literally wailed as they were put up for slaughter. The only moment of genuine peace I observed, as a human being – not as a Jew, was when the shochet came in and walked a cow in for Jewish ritual slaughter. The cow stood calmly as the shochet patted him, and then I had not even realised that there was a puddle of blood on the floor beneath him, the cut had been so swift and the cow had not made a sound.

    Depending on which method of stunning is used, some are remarkably fast and appear to be totally painless.

    My question, which could be seen as potentially blasphemous, is whether it might be worth implementing stunning BEFORE shechita is performed to ensure that both the law of the land and Jewish law are being satisfied?

    But I would say to you, Get Real, that Shechita practice is probably the last slaughter practice (aside from Stunning) that merits protest. There are literally thousands of animal transport and slaughter practices that beg reform and protest.

    Even if stunning is the most humane form of slaughter, Shechita would at worst be the 2nd most humane.

    So I wonder then why all the outcry. Or have Australians lost what to kvetch about?

  • Andrew Harris says:

    Get Real,

    You know as well as I do that you have taken that Temple Grandin quote out of context. The abattoir she visited and was so shocked by was widely acknowledged as grossly substandard; it was schechita done the wrong way, not the correct and peaceful way described by Malki, and as advocated for by Grandin herself.

    Bans on schechita in the countries of which you speak are not rational and sane, and nor are the countries themselves havens of rationality and sanity. Iceland banned schechita (even though it had never, and has never been practiced there) at around the time it banned Jewish immigration, back during the rise of Nazism, so that it wouldn’t have to accept Jewish refugees from Europe. The latter law was rescinded, as far as I am aware, but the schechita ban stuck — and its roots do not lie in rationality and sanity.

    I’m not going to go into detail about all the countries you listed. Suffice it to say that only Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands have sizeable, observant Jewish communities, and what’s happened in the Netherlands is disgusting — having to ‘prove’ that animals don’t suffer is like tantamount to a witch hunt; which outcome will be deemed acceptable is a foregone conclusion.

    As a side point, since you’re being so generous with your time and words, and writing increasingly in the first person, I think it’s time you shed the cloak of anonymity and actually comment using your own name. Noone else here engaging in such robust opposition is so insecure as to shy away from putting their own name and reputation behind their comments.

  • frosh says:

    Get Real,

    At the shul I attend I’d estimate that more than half of the people who are my generation who also attend at least semi-regularly are vegetarian (or pescetarian). I’d also assume that almost none of these people were brought up as vegetarians, but rather made a conscious decision to remove oneself from the meat industry.

    I have never met a single person who, sincerely concerned about the treatment of animals in the meat industry, switched from eating kosher to non-kosher meat.

    Furthermore, your contention, from an animal liberationist point of view, is as if you are proposing that mass murderer change their murder weapon (from Samurai swords to a hammers?) in order to become better people. Thus, it seems unlikely you are a legitimate animal liberationist. So as Andrew Harris has said, it seems time you reveal your true identity.

  • Wolf says:

    Frosh: “I have never met a single person who, sincerely concerned about the treatment of animals in the meat industry, switched from eating kosher to non-kosher meat”
    I Wholeheartedly agree, the real issue for ‘Get Real’ and many others is the slaughter of animals in any which way at all. It is not however popular to target all the meat eating population so they stick with schechita by pretending that stunning the animal somehow makes the slaughter entirely humane (it MIGHT make it a little less painful (or more?) but not significantly and we simply don’t know with any true modicum of certainty).

    Malki Rose: “Most animals being slaughtered were dragged around, clearly distressed, and literally wailed as they were put up for slaughter”
    Again I wholeheaterdly agree and believe that Andrew Harris’s comment “abattoir she visited and was so shocked by was widely acknowledged as grossly substandard; it was schechita done the wrong way” further describes this serious issue. Shechita is not the issue. It may be slaughter per se (which I strongly believe is the real issue for ‘Get Real’) or it may be the unethical treatment per se of animals that are to be slaughtered (in which case this issue is entirely un-shechita related, but rather a general community issue… which I believe it is).

  • TheSadducee says:

    I think the real issue was touched upon above with this statement:

    “But I also do not agree with the fact that there are certain rules and laws for the majority of us Australians but some religious groups can have exemptions to these laws. What applies to us should apply to them, simple as that. Particularly if the exemption allows for harm in some way or the lowering of our standards, like this for example. ”

    – this is not about shechita per se, rather I think it is about 2 issues, one relatively modern, one quite old:

    1. Jews/Muslims not conforming to a secular society, which increasingly believes (thanks to the strident and aggressive atheist-intellectual movement) that it is inherently superior to religious people, and

    2. Jews/Muslims being different from the majority of society by virtue of their behaviour.

    Note sure how you address these issues though, especially facing the tyranny of the democracy.

  • Wolf says:

    To ‘TheSadducee’,

    You have some interesting, yet maybe a little twisted ideas I think my friend?

    You remark that there are “certain rules and laws for the majority of us Australians but some religious groups can have exemptions to these laws”. That is by no means the case. The law is the same throughout Australia, and ANYONE can choose to eat kosher/halal/non-kosher foods anywhere. This is a free choice that one may select depending on his/her religion, ethnic grounding and belief system. It is one of the many mutually beneficial advantages of living in a great free country such as Australia.

    You write that “Jews/Muslims not conforming to a secular society”, how is that exactly? Every Jew I know in Australia conforms with secular society, we don’t live in ghettos, we abide by the same laws, do business together, and have the same equal democratic votes and rights.

    You remark that these “Jews/Muslims” believe they are “inherently superior” to other peoples/religions (this is what you meant right?). However what you don’t take into account is that EVERY religion claims to be the ‘best’ and ‘most superior’ religion. It is the fundamental basis of all religions and a reason for many religions to proseltyse (including Christianity).

    Why do you refer to the “tyranny of the democracy”? How is it in any way tyrannical? The society we live in acknowledges religious differences, but encourages mutual respect in spite of these differences. In this vain everybody works together, everyone’s a winner!

  • TheSadducee says:

    Wolf,

    I’m not sure how to address your response so excuse me if I come across harshly –

    1. I quoted a part of GetReal’s post @29 June 10.47 which is why the part starting with “But I also do not agree…” has quotation marks around it. It is not my view, nor do I subscribe to it. You should take that up with GetReal if you object to its content.

    2. It is my opinion that GetReal suggests and/or believes, in the quote that I used from them above, that Jews/Muslims are not conforming to secular society because they have exemptions in the law for religious requirements. Again, non-conformance is not my personal belief, but rather an exposition on GetReal’s views which I think explains the source of their argument.

    3. I was actually trying to suggest that secular society believes that it is inherently superior to religious people within that society and part of this belief has been fuelled by an aggressive intellectual-atheist campaign. Perhaps this was not clearly written?

    Again, I do not subscribe to this wholly, but only generally in that I believe that some religious values/beliefs/practices are inferior to secular democratic values in terms of overall impact on a society. Similarly, I believe the inverse in some instances applies as well.

    4. The tyranny of democracy reflects the fact that the view of a majority carries the day in a democratic system, and in some cases, the majority view can and is wrong and can oppress the minority. What is particularly dangerous about democratic decisions are that they are sanctified as being superior because they come from the majority, regardless of whether they are good or bad objectively.

    In this light it must not be forgotten that the rights of a minority are only tolerated by the majority. This tolerance is thus extremely fragile and apt to considerable change dependent on a whole range of factors. Religious freedom rights for a minority eg. shechitah, are at the mercy of this fragile tolerance and should a majority adopt a particular stance, could easily find itself outlawed like in the Netherlands.

  • Wolf says:

    To ‘The Sadducee’

    I completely misunderstood you, my apologies.

    Also some of what you say about the ‘tyranny of democracy’ makes a lot of sense, and I like it, I don’t think I have ever thought about it that way before, what an interesting point of view!

  • Ittay says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic Andrew. I have just read through the article and all the comments. I have learnt from this that both shechita and blot stunning can be cruel when done badly, and humane when done properly.

    I was wondering if someone reading this could post a video of best practice kosher slaughter and best practice blot stunning slaughter so that people can see how humane it is for themselves.

    Another area where I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts is on the question of whether the life of farm animals prior to slaughter (whether kosher or non-kosher) is humane.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Ittay,
    here’s a link to one short video of non penetrative stunning methods used in Argentina.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTvuwQHEc-M

    However,non-penetrative is less reliable in terms of guaranteeing a successful stun.
    Penetrative can cause damage to the rest of the meat although it guarantees a more successful stun.

    The reality of most stunning procedures, however, is that most abattoirs today stun under very poor conditions, and animals are treated badly before stunning, are chased around, scared into corners (hence Grandin’s wonderful inventions to prevent the animals being terrified and helping us treat them with respect.)

    It’s hard to find Shechita videos, as most are ‘expose’ style done by hidden cameras at locations where it is being done badly.

    But have a good around youtube and there might be one or two that demonstrate how swift and uneventful it is.

    I think the below quote demonstrates one of the reasons this has come to a head as a major issue of concern and that shechita itself is not the problem.

    “PETA’s first investigation at Agriprocessors in 2004 revealed almost 300 instances of inhumane slaughter, in which cows’ sensitive faces were shocked with electric prods, fully conscious cattle had their tracheas and esophagi ripped from their throats with meat hooks or knives, and they writhed in pools of their own blood, trying desperately to stand up for up to three minutes as blood poured from their throats.

    Rabbis, scholars, animal welfare experts, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors have all spoken out about the extreme cruelty … The world’s foremost expert on slaughter methods, Dr. Temple Grandin, told Mason City, Iowa’s Globe Gazette, “I thought it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been in at least 30 other kosher slaughter plants, and I had never ever seen that kind of procedure done before. … I’ve seen kosher slaughter really done right, so the problem here is not kosher slaughter. The problem here is a plant that is doing everything wrong they can do wrong.”

    In another interview Dr Grandin remarked
    “When the cut is done correctly, the animal appears not to feel it. From an animal welfare standpoint, the major concern during ritual slaughter are the stressful and cruel methods of restraint (holding) that are used in some plants.”

    I hope you are reading this ‘Get Real’.

  • frosh says:

    David,
    Thanks for the link. The author makes a great point about hunting.

    New Zealand not only permits hunting, but sponsors a thriving hunting business for tourists based in its 14 national parks and 20 forest parks. It also has private hunting preserves that cater to tourists seeking so-called trophy kills. No effort has been made to impede killing of animals by bullets, which often causes great suffering.

    Nothing says “goyishe naches” more than hunting trophies.

    If states are to take animal welfare seriously, the first step should be to ban all sport hunting (such as the disgusting duck hunting that happens here in Australia).

  • Andrew Harris says:

    Thanks, David, for that — Frosh, that’s exactly what struck me (like a captive-bolt pistol) when I read that article — hunting, particularly trophy hunting, is the proverbial elephant in the room if you’re talking about broadly accepted manifestations of people killing animals.

    Surely, if properly trained, licensed hunters can hunt, then properly trained, licensed schochets can schecht.

  • Andrew Harris says:

    Or should I qualify that and say that if poorly trained, alcohol-fuelled spotlighters can maim and murder kangaroos without making front-page news, schochets can continue to schecht humanely.

  • Harold Zwier says:

    David, the Spengler article sounds good, but appealing to balance is unlikely to sway minds. Just look at the attitude in the Jewish community to issues of security, and the resources invested, compared to a realistic assessment of risk. At its base is the old insurance question: “How would you feel if something happened and you’d done nothing to prevent it?”

    In the same way, people will agree that there are terrible things happening to animals out there (including hunting), “but here is something we can do that will only affect a small number of people. We can put a stop to outdated, barbaric, ritual religious slaughter. Don’t you just shudder thinking about what it must be like to have your throat cut?” (somewhat on the spectrum of the male reaction at a brit at the seminal moment)

    The question that needs to be resolved is whether shechitah causes the animal less suffering, more suffering, or about the same as modern killing processes. Temple Grandin seems to be quoted on both sides of the argument, so that suggests she has credibility. But even if a swag of independent studies find that shechitah is no worse than other methods of killing, the idea that an ancient religious method of killing could possibly be on a par with “modern humane methods” is a formidable argument to overcome.

    Maybe the resources of the Community Security Group (CSG) would be better directed towards this issue…

  • You are welcome to come here about it “straight from the horse’s mouth” (couldn’t resist), when experienced shochet Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant discusses the issues http://www.jbd.org.au/events/how-to-kill-an-animal-humanely

  • Malki Rose says:

    I think the only non-biased and world recognised ‘horse’s mouth’ is Dr Grandin, as mentioned above in my post.
    If you can’t take it from her, then you can’t take it from anyone.

    There is no issue with Schechita. Only with people who don’t do it right.

  • Get Real says:

    Malki Rose, so if I walked into your country and demanded that all animals be killed via boiling to death as this is how it’s done in my religion, that would be okay? And if you don’t do as I say I will call you racist, would that also be okay?

    The same rules do not apply to all Australians because if our abattoirs were to kill animals in your barbaric way it would be illegal and they would be prosecuted, and rightly so. So why the hell should we allow cruelty exceptions?

    As well as that if virtually all animal welfare, rights and veterinary organisations as well as meat councils and abattoirs workers themselves are against it that’s a pretty strong indication that ritual slaughter is cruel.

    Just as you point out stunning is better than the animal being conscious when cut, which you only need a bit of common sense to work that out in the first place.

    Andrew Harris, the worst images that come out of abattoirs are always the ones where the animal is conscious when it has its throat cut and is seen writhing in agony, often trying to get up and escape in terror after it had its throat cut, much like that video of kosher slaughter I showed. The only way to fully prevent that is stunning. Because stunning animals gives the single biggest and best animal welfare outcome during slaughter.

    How can you possibly say otherwise when organizations like the RSPCA, The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council, British Veterinary Association, The Royal Dutch Veterinary Association and Compassion In World Farming and meat councils and abattoir workers alike are disgusted by it and stop doing it? I note that you ignored that point in your last post…

    This is a cruel non-European custom so those countries have every right to ban it, as does Australia which soon hopefully it will given the intense response after live export. I can’t imagine what people would do when they find out that Australia is allowing such a brutal, outdated practice.

    I find it quite bizarre that you want to know my name, why? How does it make a difference in the discussion? Very strange…

    Wolf, the slaughter is not the issue for me, have you not read anything properly? Wake up, I’m saying I do not agree with ritual slaughter without stunning.

    Studies into unstunned slaughter, including by the federal Department of Agriculture, have found the practice causes pain, distress, terror and panic in animals. Most sheep remained conscious for up to 20 seconds after their throats were cut, it takes minutes in cattle.

    This is appalling and completely unacceptable, how dare we allow this. It makes me shudder to know we do and everyday some poor animal is being put through this barbaric practice that should never have been allowed past the 21st century.

  • Andrew Harris says:

    Get Real,

    Malki Rose and you live in the same country. She has no other country.

    I have found and watched appalling videos of pre-slaughter stunning online. I refuse to play a video-against-video gross-out game. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that poorly executed schechita is as awful as poorly executed stunning. Your insistence on me partaking of what amounts to a trial by Youtube is petty, immature, and not at all constructive.

    The RSPCA, The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council, British Veterinary Association, The Royal Dutch Veterinary Association and Compassion In World Farming — why should I care what they have to say when there has been no empirical evidence to suggest that schechita is any worse than the alternatives, and when they’re all toeing the same supremacist line as yourself? It’s kind of like asking me to support the BDS program because of the big names involved.

    Oh, but wait, it’s a “cruel non-European custom”; much crueller than cruel European customs, like roo-shooting, pig-sticking and duck-hunting, because it’s perpetrated by these sweaty non-whites. Shame on them, hey? No, Get Real, shame on you.

    Declaring your name is tantamount to you truly owning your contribution to this discussion. If I were to meet you in the street, would you have the nerve to speak like this to my face?

    Your views are hopelessly outdated, and your contentions are in line with populist ‘lefty’ views that consistently express outrage without substance. You continue to add nothing more to this than bitterness, intolerance, and a self-righteous rage entirely out of place in the open, accepting, multicultural society that forms an integral frame around which the society of your country, and Malki’s, is built.

  • Get Real says:

    Andrew, okay so if I go into any other predominantly Jewish country and demanded that all animals be killed via boiling to death as this is how it’s done in my religion that would be okay? And if you don’t do as I say I will call you racist, would that also be okay? Although if you support animals having their throats cut fully conscious I suppose boiling an animal alive seems relatively fine.

    So you think you know better than the most respected and biggest veterinary and animal welfare associations in the world? Wow that’s a great argument; however there is one group you cannot argue with. That being abattoir workers, so what do you have to say about that? If even the people that are doing the killing do not want to kill animals in that way and stop it that proves it’s cruel once and for all. Because as much as you would like to ignore studies and vets, you cannot ignore them, the very people who do the killings every day.

    Also there have been studies as I mentioned before by the federal Department of Agriculture, have found the practice causes pain, distress, terror and panic in animals.

    In no way do I agree with roo shooting, pig sticking or duck hunting. This is obvious if I’m against ritual slaughter I would be against all those things too since they are all animal cruelty.

    Even your own Jewish people or supporters of this have said on here that stunning is more humane than cutting a fully conscious animal, so are you going to dismiss them too?

    I would have absolutely no problem in the world talking to you like this and giving you a reality check. But then again I prefer not to associate with those who support barbaric religious practices and who force it on countries that do not want to practice it.

    You are the one in support of brutal slaughter that dates back to the dark ages when we now have humane alternatives but I’m outdated? You’re a joke. I think now maybe you are starting to feel guilty about this as you are now realizing the true brutal nature of this vastly outdated practice. So it’s only natural you would make yourself feel better by drawing the racist card. But like I have said before I have no problem with religion, except when it infringes on the rights or welfare of others, like this for example.

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