A Green Light on Kosher Slaughtering in the Land of the Red Light District
by Rebecca Borison
Who doesn’t love a kosher deli? Well, apparently not the Dutch Animal Rights Party. Last December, the Dutch party, “whose highest priority is animal welfare and the respectful treatment of animals,” set out to enhance Dutch slaughtering laws to protect the welfare of animals. For them, this translated into forcing slaughtering houses to stun every animal before slaughter, a practice that is banned in both Muslim and Jewish slaughtering.
Coming to the rescue of kosher- and halal-observant residents of Holland, Dutch Agriculture Minister Hans Bleker signed an agreement last week with Jewish and Muslim leaders that will make an exception for ritual slaughtering, which does not require pre-slaughter stunning provided the animal is unconscious within 40 seconds of the start of the slaughtering.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. Since when is shechita, kosher slaughtering, bad for animals? Maybe it’s just me, but I remember learning that it was actually the opposite and that shechita was extremely careful in terms of the welfare of animals. Why was this even an issue to begin with?
And it’s not just the Netherlands we’re dealing with. Shechita is outright banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Why the uproar?
According to Shechita UK, it comes down to misperception and lack of understanding. Yes, shechita is different than typical slaughtering, but in reality it is even more humane.
Warning: Those who get queasy at the mention of blood might want to skip this next paragraph.
The idea behind stunning an animal is to render it unconscious before the slaughtering, ensuring that the animal feels no pain. In conventional slaughtering, the animal is shot in the head, rendering it unconscious; the throat is then cut and the animal bleeds out. In actuality, the animal sometimes regains consciousness between the stunning and the slaughtering, totally defeating the purpose of stunning. In shechita, on the other hand, the incision itself renders the animal unconscious, allowing the stunning and slaughtering to occur at the same time, and preventing the animal from regaining consciousness. So in reality, shechita is more humane than conventional slaughtering.
For those who skipped the last paragraph, all you need to know is that you can continue to eat your kosher meat worry-free. And if any of the members of the Dutch Animal Rights Party happen to be reading this, listen up: shechita is actually better for the welfare of animals.
Nobody’s perfect, of course–the AgriProcessors scandal taught us that much–but if kosher slaughterhouses actually stick to the rules of kashrut, there’s no reason to be worried about animal welfare. Dr. Stuart Rosen of Imperial College, London, wrote in his paper “Physiological Instincts Into Shechita” that “shechita is a painless and humane method of animal slaughter.”
So if you are one of us remaining few non-vegetarians, rest assured that, if all is as it should be, your kosher meat was acquired in an entirely humane process.