SYDNEY, Australia (Jan. 20)
The Jewish community in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, has pledged to “do everything possible” to stop the introduction of a law to outlaw shechitah, the kosher slaughter of animals.
Professor Graham de Vahl Davis, public relations chairman of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, said a report on cruelty to animals issued by the state government’s Agricultural Ministry, which recommended shechitah be banned following the example of “several European countries,” was wrong in its interpretation of how to humanely slaughter animals.
The Jewish community has reacted angrily to the recommendations contained in the report, which was prepared by a team led by Professor John Egerton of the New South Wales Animal Welfare Advisory Council. It insisted all animals be electronically stunned prior to slaughter.
Animals that have been physically harmed by stunning are not regarded as acceptable for kosher consumption.
In 1992, the Australian Jewish community successfully blocked efforts to have shechitah outlawed on a national level, arguing that shechitah was not only humane but that to outlaw the practice would constitute an infringement on the human rights of kosher consumers.
However, each state government has the power to regulate its own farm industry, and the New South Wales report specifically concluded that the welfare of animals should take precedence over religious beliefs.
The number of people in New South Wales who observe kashrut is in dispute, with the state government estimating 3,500 to 4,000 people would be affected by the change. But the Jewish Board of Deputies says that as many as half of the state’s 40,000 Jews “observe kosher food laws strictly.”
Michael Marx, president of the Board of Deputies, said he had written, to state Premier John Fahey to express the community’s concerns and that a meeting with the government was currently being scheduled.
The recommendation was contained in a comprehensive discussion paper which called for a series of changes intended as amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.