Vegetarians need not read this.
Queasy meat eaters absolutely should.
Rabbinic tradition dictates that until God tells Noah, ‘Every moving thing that lives, shall be food for you' (Gen 9:4) humanity was vegetarian.
The truth is that eating meat requires animals die. As neat and tidy as some butchers make chicken escalope appear, they once came from a live, feathered chicken. Judaism, I believe, wants us to encounter this truth, not hide from it.
And now there is an amendment before the European Parliament which, if passed, would mean that meat originally intended for Kosher consumption, but subsequently found to be not Kosher, but nonetheless suitable for human consumption, would be ladled ‘meat from slaughter without stunning.’ The suggestion, of such a label, is that Shechitah is cruel in a noteworthy way. The suggestion is that animals stunned before slaughter die in a sweet and cuddly way, while animals Shechted suffer terribly. The fear is that if this legislation is passed non-Jewish butchers and abattoirs will stop taking the healthy non-kosher meat because they won’t be able to sell this meat on the open the market. The fear is real, but the suggestions are fallacious.
Shechted animals become unconscious in a matter of seconds. They are stunned at the point of slaughter. Meat stunned before slaughter is usually rendered immediately unconscious, but sometimes isn’t. Sometimes the captive bolt driven into the brain of sheep or cow misses, or fails to function perfectly. Sometimes the electrical charge used to stun poultry is set too low, or the chicken dodges being dipped into the fluid used to stun it. Sometimes the animals regain consciousness after stunning. In all these, disturbing, cases the animal continues on its journey towards slaughter and there is no suggestion that meat from such a carcass should be ladled ‘ineffectively stunned.’ More importantly, for those of us who care about animal welfare, is the environment around the point of slaughter. In well designed, well run abattoirs, sheep will indeed ‘go like lambs to the slaughter.’ In poorly designed, poorly run abattoirs or in the hands of poorly trained slaughterers, animals will become distressed and there are no plans to label meat in a way that will allow a concerned consumer to know if an animal suffered distress in this way. Animals don’t die for our consumption sweetly, whether stunned or not.
I don’t claim the proposed EU regulation is driven by anti-Semitism, I suspect anti-Islamism is a more likely source of this invidious deceitful attempt to associate Shechitah with suffering. But regardless of intent this proposal is a threat to the economic sustainability of Shechitah in this country. Something Shechitah opponents understand all too well.
I encourage, urge, all members who are concerned about the continued possibility of Shechitah in this country (and across Europe) to take this opportunity to communicate with the MEPs who will decide if this proposal will be tabled before the Parliament. Their names, a suggested form of words and a great deal more information is available at www.shechitahuk.org. I am delighted that Henry Grunwald of Shechitah UK will be our guest at New London later in the year, but I, again, urge members to write immediately as important decisions will be being taken at a European level before Henry will be joining us.