I suppose Neville Chamberlain might have described New Zealand as "a small, far-away country" but New Zealand's new animal welfare code could have a major effect on this side of the world.
The code requires animals slaughtered for commercial consumption to be stunned prior to slaughter to ensure they are treated "humanely and in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge". Stunning disqualifies animals from being kosher and the code is an insult to shechitah, which is at least as humane as any other method of slaughter.
It succumbs to the popular myth that shechitah is painful, ignoring ample evidence to the contrary. The code, which breaches the NZ Bill of Rights Act, also ignores the suffering caused by mishaps in the stunning process - a matter recognised by animal welfare bodies but overlooked by New Zealand's Minister of Agriculture.
Shechita UK has been called on to assist, as has Lord Sacks. We will do all we can to provide religious and legal advice and scientific evidence. The risk of other Western democracies following New Zealand's example is real.
There is much misinformation in the media about shechitah, some from sheer ignorance and some out of mischief. Integral to shechitah is a stun rendering the animal unconscious in about two seconds. Scientific data demonstrating that this process is humane is deliberately ignored by many animal welfarists, and the "science" quoted by those who introduce anti-shechitah proposals is inconclusive and often flawed. This must be made clear to the authorities in New Zealand and, more locally, in Europe.
The EU recently voted on an amendment to label meat and meat products derived from shechitah as "meat from slaughter without stunning". This will deter potential buyers and make kosher meat economically unviable. Labelling these products in isolation is discrimination. If such labelling is to be introduced, we call for all meat products to be labelled with their method of slaughter, which may include stunning by electrocution, captive-bolt or gassing. And it is only fair that consumers know if the animal was mis-stunned or re-stunned.
Shechita UK has already stemmed the tide of anti-shechitah legislation that could so easily have been disastrous for Jews in the UK, but its resources are limited and we need to engage the wider community to protect our right to eat kosher meat. The war to protect shechitah goes on. If we challenge the forces lined up against us we shall succeed.
Henry Grunwald is the chairman of shechita UK