Stun animals before kosher slaughter, rabbi says

Posted: Mon, 18 Jul 2022

Stun animals before kosher slaughter, Jewish group says

A rabbi has recommended that animals slaughtered for kosher meat be stunned first to reduce suffering.

An internal report from Reform Judaism concluded "on balance, pre-stunning is better" for animal welfare when slaughtering animals according to the shechita (traditional Jewish slaughter) method.

The findings are in line with the government guidance on animal welfare at time of slaughter. Legislation requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter to minimise suffering.

But exemptions are granted for religious communities to meet Jewish and Muslim religious dietary preferences for kosher and halal meat.

No kosher certification authorities in the UK currently accept meat from animals stunned before slaughter.

Rabbi Dr Romain: 'Animals suffer less if they are prestunned'

The report was produced by a working party set up by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors to explore the issue of non-stun slaughter as it is increasingly questioned by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, who chaired the working party, said in The Jewish Chronicle: "It quickly became clear that the vast majority of scientific opinion has no doubt that animals suffer less if they are pre-stunned.

"Shechita — involving the use of a razor sharp knife by a trained expert — is certainly very good, but not as good."

Dr Romain said if rabbis refuse to adopt prestunning, Jews who wish to reduce animal suffering but keep a kosher diet "face a dilemma" because at present, "it is simply impossible to do both".

He argued that Jewish authorities now accepted the ban on hoisting cattle upside down for slaughter, despite initially resisting the practice and insisting it was essential.

He said most Muslim imams had shown "religious flexibility" and accept halal meat from stunned animals despite some Islamic teachings being opposed to prestunning.

He added that it would be a "mistake" to suggest the campaign to end non-stun slaughter is led by antisemites, when the motivation for most people "is to lessen the pain felt by animals being killed for our benefit".

Dr Romain's article was condemned by religious slaughter lobby group Shechita UK, who called for its withdrawal.

NSS: 'Time for religious slaughter to be brought in line with animal welfare laws'

The National Secular Society welcomed the report's findings.

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "It is encouraging to see non-stun shechita slaughter coming under increasing scrutiny within the Jewish community.

"As Dr Romain has acknowleged, religious practices evolve with the times. This is particularly important when those practices come into conflict with science, law, social attitudes and the welfare of others – including animals.

"It's therefore time for religious slaughter to be brought in line with animal welfare laws.

"We hope these findings will prompt kosher authorities to accept meat from animals that have been stunned before slaughter, and so meet the UK's slaughter standards as well as a rising demand for ethically-sourced kosher."

Notes

  • Reform Judaism is a national umbrella organisation of 43 synagogue communities.
  • The government's advisory body the Farm Animal Welfare Council has said animals slaughtered without pre-stunning are likely to experience "very significant pain and distress" before they become unconscious.
  • RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming and the British Veterinary Association all support an end to non-stun slaughter to improve animal welfare at the time of death.
  • A 2015 YouGov poll found almost 80 per cent of the UK wants an end to non-stun slaughter.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

End religious non-stun slaughter

We want an end to religious exemptions from animal welfare laws.

Tags: Religious slaughter