Joint Jewish Body Conducts Study of Modern Pre-shechita Methods in U.S.
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Joint Jewish Body Conducts Study of Modern Pre-shechita Methods in U.S.

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A research study, sponsored by American Jewish communal and religious agencies, is underway to determine whether modern methods of pre-handling food animals for slaughter in the United States are humane, it was disclosed today.

The study, sponsored by the Joint Advisory Committee of the National Community Relations Advisory Council and the Synagogue Council of America, is part of an overall program to protect Shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter, in the recent wave of federal and state efforts to pass humane slaughter legislation.

A Federal measure became law on August 27, 1958. Since then, usually under sponsorship of local Humane Societies, humane slaughter bills have been introduced in 16 state legislatures and passed in three–California, Minnesota and Washington. Local Jewish communal and religious organizations testified before legislative committees in opposition to such legislation, except in the State of Washington, where the Jewish community was caught napping and the bill was passed without testimony from local Jewish groups.

The Federal measure and most of the state proposals specifically declared Shechita to be humane but in almost all cases, the problem of pre-handling has been treated in such a way as to carry a threat of making Shechita impossible. None of the three states which have passed humane slaughter measures have created such pre-handling problems, but the threat continues. The Joint Advisory Committee therefore undertook the study, noting that the Talmud bans cruelty to animals in all circumstances, including both pre-handling and slaughtering.


Joint Advisory Committee officials pointed out that traditional Jewish pre-handling of animals for Shechita was manual and designed to insure that the animal did not suffer in being prepared for Shechita. Modern automation in packing houses has been applied to pre-handling in such forms as hoisting and shackling for both regular and Jewish ritual slaughtering.

The Joint Advisory Committee officials pointed out that it has never been established whether such methods of pre-handling are painful to the animal. The research study was undertaken to determine this. It is being made by independent scientific research agencies, universities and engineering institutes and firms to determine the most humane practical methods of restraining animals for slaughter.

It was explained that if this scientific study–which is being financed by organization members of the NCRAC and SCA–finds more humane practical forms of handling animals for slaughter, then the Jewish organizations will recommend the alteration of present methods. If existing pre-handling methods are found to be humane, then the Jewish organizations will urge, as in the case of Shechita, that such methods of handling also be recognized as humane in Federal and state legislation.

Officials of the two agencies said that the essence of the problem was the safeguarding of religious liberty.

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