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New Zealand Jewry Wins a Battle for Ritual Slaughter

NZ's Jewish community has won an interim battle in the international war for shechita, as court suspends ban on kosher slaughter.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 8/10/2010, 4:36 PM / Last Update: 8/10/2010, 6:26 PM

The small Jewish community in New Zealand has won an interim battle for themselves and for kosher consumers around the world: A court has ruled that the country’s ban on kosher slaughter has been suspended until the issue comes to trial sometime next year.

New Zealand introduced a new regulation ten weeks ago requiring all slaughter of livestock to be carried out only after the animals are first stunned – effectively banning kosher slaughter, which requires that the animal not be unconscious or in any way diseased at the time of slaughter.

Representatives of the Jewish community filed legal proceedings against Agriculture Minister David Carter last week, and a Wellington court then ordered a temporary exemption on stunning for Jewish slaughter.

Six weeks ago, Israel National News reported that representatives of New Zealand’s Jewish community met with Prime Minister John Key and told him that if the ban was not repealed, they would have no choice but to take the matter to court. Jewish sources said at the time that the ban violates the principles of freedom of religion and discrimination, as well as New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act, which states that animals’ rights do not override religious rights.

New Zealand’s Jewish community numbers less than a fifth of a percent of the total population - 7,000 out of 4.1 million. The ban affects the shechita-slaughter of several thousand chickens in New Zealand, as well under 100 cattle and lambs, each year.

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick of Australia, who supervises kosher certification of products in New Zealand, called the ban “outrageous,” noting that the country permits recreational hunting of deer and ducks.

Four other countries ban ritual Jewish slaughter: Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. In addition, the European Parliament voted earlier this year to back a proposal to label kosher meat as “meat from slaughter without stunning” – rendering it less attractive on the general market and driving up prices. The proposal must still be approved by the European Union Commission before it becomes binding.

In the United States, the Humane Slaughter Act (7 U.S.C. section 1901) specifically allows Jewish ritual slaughter.