Six Jewish representatives of New Zealand’s Jewish community met with Prime Minister John Key last week to discuss the country's recent ban of shechita [ritual Jewish slaughter of cattle, lambs and chickens]. They told him that if the ban was not repealed, they would have no choice but to take the matter to court – where many in the Jewish community feel they could win.

The move leaves New Zealand’s Jews without kosher chicken, as the country forbids chicken imports. Kosher beef is permitted for import from Australia.

Jewish sources say the ban could be attacked on grounds that it violates the legally-accepted 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.

The ban on shechita was announced a month ago, when Agriculture Minister David Carter annulled all exemptions to the country’s new commercial slaughter code, which requires stunning prior to slaughter. Carter cited concerns for animals’ suffering – and even said that though “we may have upset a relatively small religious minority… frankly I don’t think any animals should suffer in the slaughter process.” He later apologized.

New Zealand Jewish Council chairman Geoff Levy said in a statement that legal action “may be the only course open to us.”

New Zealand’s Jewish community numbers less than a fifth of a percent of the total population - 7,000 out of 4.1 million. reports that several thousand chickens were shechita-slaughtered in New Zealand each year. The ban also affects a small number of cattle and lambs, less than 100 each year.

The website also quoted Rabbi Moshe Gutnick of Australia, who supervises kosher certification of products in New Zealand, calling the ban “outrageous.” He said, “Hunting is still permitted for deer and ducks, and that is certainly not humane. The government, using flawed science, institutes a new code and the only people affected by this are the Jews. People are wondering what their real motivation is.”

The chairman of Shechitah UK, Henry Grunwald, wrote in the Jewish Chronicle that the ban “succumbs to the popular myth that shechitah is painful, ignoring ample evidence to the contrary.”

Just this month, the European Parliament voted to back the proposal to require special labeling on meat produced by Jewish ritual slaughter. According to the new resolution, which must still be approved by the European Union Commission, the meat would be marked as “meat from slaughter without stunning” – rendering it less attractive on the general market and driving up prices.