Despite a recent law change recommending it be made illegal to slaughter animals without pre-stunning, some animals in New Zealand continue to have their throats slit without first being rendered unconscious.
Under pressure on human rights grounds the Agriculture Minister David Carter has granted an exemption to the Commercial Slaughter Code of Welfare for the local Jewish community, to be able to slaughter chickens without pre-stunning. He is also under heavy pressure to continue to allow a temporary exemption for sheep and cattle, despite it contravening the code of welfare.
A new code of welfare for slaughtering introduced at the end of May 2010 now requires all animals to be stunned before commercial slaughter. Previously this code of welfare allowed the use of Shechita (kosher) slaughter, which involves the animal's throat being slit without stunning. However a legal case is presently challenging this decision and has already won the right to continue the shechita killing of chickens, because chicken products are not able to be imported into the country.
SAFE is disappointed in the Minister's allowal of shechita slaughter for chickens and, solely on the grounds of animal welfare, recommends that this ban be enforced for sheep and cattle. SAFE believes in and respects the value of religious and human freedoms in New Zealand, however this does not excuse lower standards of animal welfare, or any kind of animal suffering.
During the decision making process NAWAC (National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee) recommended an exemption be made to allow slaughtering without stunning if done for religious reasons. The Agriculture Minister decided against the exemption in the revised code, in the interests of animal welfare. At the time Mr Carter commented that the scientific evidence presented to him showed animals not stunned before slaughter ‘suffered for a considerable period of time'.
SAFE campaign officer Mandy Carter says, "SAFE campaigns against the abuse and exploitation of all animals and therefore believes a welfare code for slaughter is a misnomer as slaughter can never be humane. There are clearly inconsistencies when we look at the standards of how we kill animals that are home killed or hunted. However we acknowledge that these practices are not being reviewed in the short term and in the interim ask the public to support the ban on slaughtering without stunning."
SAFE joins with animal welfare groups around the world opposed to slaughter without pre-stunning, as studies have shown that animals killed this way suffer. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) found in its 2003 Report on the Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing that by observing brain function the "evidence shows that sheep become insensible within 5-7 seconds of the cut", and adult cattle may take between 22 and 40 seconds to become insensible."
FAWC concluded "such a massive injury would result in very significant pain and distress in the period before insensibility supervenes."
MAF says that the present slaughter of sheep without stunning "does not meet the general slaughter standard". Cattle killed by shechita are presently required to have a post stun within 10 seconds of the neck being cut, but MAF regards this as "a compromise from an animal welfare perspective".
Other organisations report similar views on the cruelty of slaughter while conscious:
"Slaughter without pre-stunning inflicts unnecessary pain and distress on animals and Compassion in World Farming believes that it should not be permitted. Whilst we respect the right to religious freedom, we do not believe this should extend to practices that inflict suffering on animals."
Compassion in World Farming
"Council considers that slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and that the Government should repeal the current exemption."
Farmed Animal Welfare Council, Report on the Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing, Part 1: Red Meat Animals. 2003
"Due to the serious animal welfare concerns associated with slaughter without stunning, pre-cut stunning should always be performed."
The EU Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) 2004
"FVE is of the opinion that the practice of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is unacceptable under any circumstances".
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), Slaughter of Animals without Prior Stunning. FVE Position Paper 02/104. 2002.
The SPCA condemns all animal cruelty and does not support the agreement to allow a small section of the community to slaughter animals without pre-stunning. The negotiated truce between the MAF and the Jewish community means at least 5,000 chickens - perhaps more - suffer during slaughter every year in the name of religious practice. Instead of being rendered instantaneously unconscious animals bleed to death, feel pain and struggle for some minutes.
RNZSPCA media statement, November 2010.
What is kosher slaughter?
Jews believe that observing dietary laws helps maintain their spiritual well being. Kosher food is food that meets these laws. According to the Torah (the primary document of Judaism), cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing mammals are kosher. Kosher meat must be derived from animals that are live at the time of slaughter.
In Judaism, animals must be slaughtered under guidelines called shechita. These guidelines require that animals are killed by a deep cut across the throat. Death occurs from lack of blood and lack of oxygen to the brain.
Whilst SAFE values religious freedom, there can be never any justification to inflict suffering on animals. Failure to render an animal unconscious before slaughter would be a terrifying experience for the animal.
Shechita slaughter is banned in Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The US Humane Society has a comprehensive article on the Jewish treatment of animals.
Religious slaughter in New Zealand
It is estimated that 15-20 beef cattle, 40-50 lambs and 5000 chickens annually are slaughtered without stunning.
Halal slaughtering in New Zealand is unaffected by the new code of welfare as pre-stunning is already used.
The Agriculture Minster, David Carter, decided to ban all commercial slaughtering without pre-stunning in the interests of animal welfare. At the time he commented that information presented to him showed animals not stunned before slaughter ‘suffered for a considerable period of time'.
SAFE is calling on caring New Zealanders to help to ensure that the ban on slaughter of sheep and cattle without pre-stunning is enforced.
IN THE MEDIA
NZ Herald Animal welfare groups slam shechita reversal
TV3 Ban kosher killing of poultry
Radio NZ (audio) David Carter talks on Morning Report
NZ Herald Jewish spokesman defends kosher poultry killing
AFN - NZ kosher ban: Trade interests?
Radio NZ Minister reluctantly allows kosher killing on chickens
NZ Herald Kosher poultry decision fairest - Carter
NZPA Kosher killing for chicken but not beef and lamb
Herald on Sunday Carter makes a U-turn
NZ Herald Jews fundraise to fight animal welfare code
Israel National News NZ bans kosher slaughtering
AFN Kosher slaughter in NZ gets interim reprieve
Radio NZ Temporary kosher slaughter exemption granted
Australian Herald New animal welfare code impacts on Jewish New Zealanders
ODT Jews win relief from pre-stunning rule at meatworks
Scoop Jewish legal challenge to slaughter code
Radio NZ Jewish community to challenge animal slaughter rule
ODT Carter apologises for upsetting Jewish community
AFN NZ's ban on kosher meats is a disgrace
Southland Times Kosher rules may pull chicken off the menu
NZPA Minister denies NZ Jews a kosher kill
What you can do?
Members of the New Zealand Jewish community are continuing with a legal case to challenge the new code of welfare, to obtain a permanent exemption from the code and continue kosher slaughter of sheep and cattle. It is expected to go to trial next year.
Please ask the Agriculture Minister to stick to his guns and uphold ban the slaughtering of sheep and cattle without stunning.
Please send an email to the Agriculture Minister, David Carter, expressing disappointment on the allowance of live slaughter of chickens in NZ. Press him to uphold his original decision to require pre-stunning for all commercial slaughter of sheep and cattle. You can use the standard form letter below or better still, write one of your own.
SAMPLE LETTER to the Minister of Agriculture, David Carter. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr Carter
I am writing because I am very concerned about the exemptions being considered for religious reasons to the Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code of Welfare.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on your original decision to ban the slaughtering of animals without pre-stunning. However, I was also disappointed to learn that slaughtering without pre-stunning is being allowed to continue temporarily, and that the slaughter of chickens without pre-stunning is to continue permanently. Please uphold your original decision and ban this cruel practice.
As you are aware, studies have shown that animals killed without pre-stunning suffer, and I fully support a ban on this method.
Please uphold the principles of the Animal Welfare Act and ensure better welfare for animals during the slaughter process in New Zealand.