New Zealand has banned the kosher slaughter of animals, provoking outrage and anger among the small Jewish community.
The new animal welfare code, which became effective last Friday, mandates that all animals for commercial consumption must be stunned prior to slaughter to ensure “animals are humanely killed”. This effectively outlaws shechitah, which does not allow for animals to be stunned before slaughter.
While kosher beef and lamb can be imported to New Zealand, under Kiwi law no poultry – kosher or not – is allowed into the country.
Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, the Sydney-based acting president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, was incensed by the decision by Agriculture Minister David Carter.
“We will be doing everything possible to get this decision reversed,” he said. “I’m certain it’s an administrative error that I’m sure will be rectified. This decision is something quite of the ordinary. It [shechitah] is as humane if not more humane than any of the current methods used commercially today.”
Rabbi Gutnick, who was in New Zealand this week on kashrut business, said an emergency teleconference had been scheduled between representatives of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia and local Jewish leaders to discuss ways to reverse the decision. Community leaders, including Geoff Levy, the chairman of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said the community was extremely concerned by the “lack of consultation” prior to the decision.
David Zwartz, the chairman of the Wellington Jewish Council, pointed to the Bill of Rights, which allows for freedom of religious practice.
“I am sure there will objections made that this action is an infringement of the right of Jews to observe their religion.”
Mr Carter reportedly rejected a recommendation that shechitah be exempt from the new code. The National Animal Welfare Advisory Council did recommend a dispensation for kosher slaughter in 2001, but the new code does not allow any exemptions.
Rabbi Goldstein supervised the kosher slaughter of more than 1,000 organic free-range chickens last year in what he believed was the first mass shechitah in the South Island. Less than 100 beef cattle and lambs are slaughtered annually under the laws of kashrut in New Zealand.
Shechita UK said they were dismayed and dissapointed by the decision and offered to provide New Zealand's Jewish community with religious, scientific and public affairs support.
A spokesperson said: "We believe that the report was based on inconclusive evidence derived from flimsy, agenda based science which has served only to enhance the campaign to delegitimise Shechita."
Other countries that have banned shechitah include Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.