Expensive fight for just 2,000 chickens

By Dan Goldberg, December 2, 2010

Chicken soup – the sine qua non for Jews worldwide – is still on the menu for New Zealand's small Jewish community after Agriculture Minister David Carter backed down from his controversial ban on shechitah last Friday.

At face value, it's a victory for all diaspora Jewish communities against those who are trying to ban shechitah on the grounds of animal rights. But because the court case never happened, the case for kosher slaughter is no more robust – and no more humane, for that matter – this week than it was last week.

If anything, the "test case" was bungled because it now transpires that Carter was caught in an apparent conflict of interests: it is alleged he was influenced by the impact of not banning shechitah, namely that it would adversely affect trade with Muslim countries, which may have been irked that the Jews were receiving preferential treatment, especially since New Zealand mandates that animals slaughtered under halal must first be stunned.

There have been some upsides for Kiwi Jews, however. As Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, a former rabbi of Auckland Hebrew Congregation, which was listed as the first plaintiff in the case, said: "The bringing together of the local community with Shechita UK, with scientific experts in America and with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, means that we are much better equipped to respond to these attacks than we were a year ago; we are on alert."

New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman says it wasn't so much about animal rights, but human rights.

On the downside, however, is the fact that the small community was traumatised by the experience, claiming its "religious, cultural and social future was under threat".

Plus, it cost more than £143,000 to defend the case. As one insider put it: "It was a very expensive fight for 2,000 chickens."

Last updated: 10:08am, December 3 2010