Rabbis, meat watchdog stand by kosher practices


Melissa Singer

RABBINIC authorities and Victoria’s meat industry regulator have given reassurances that shechita (kosher slaughter) is carried out in full accordance with government regulations.

“All [kosher] slaughter conforms 100 per cent with Australian standards,” Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, Kosher Australia’s rabbinic administrator, said this week.

His statement followed an announcement by Federal Agricultural Minister Peter McGauran of an immediate investigation into ritual slaughter in Australia, after animal-welfare groups received complaints about alleged practices at a Victorian export abattoir, Midfield Meats, which has an exemption to slaughter meat without stunning.

According to Rabbi Gutnick, no kosher slaughtering is or ever has been conducted at Midfield Meats.

“The abattoirs where kosher meat is processed are all under the control of state or federal inspectors that continually ensure adherence to the official protocols applicable to each abattoir ... We have always operated kosher slaughtering in accordance with the applicable government protocols and regulations. There has never been any suggestion that applicable laws and standards are not being followed.”

PrimeSafe, the Victorian meat industry regulatory body, confirmed this week that three Victorian abattoirs are licensed to conduct ritual slaughter. Two of them, Hardwick’s in Kyneton and GA Gathercole in Carrum, supply the domestic kosher market.

Chief executive Brian Casey said most abattoirs under PrimeSafe’s supervision, including those conducting ritual slaughter, are audited four times a year.

“All aspects of [abattoir] operation are subject to the PrimeSafe system of regulatory management,” he told the AJN.

He said the same industry standards have been in place since 2001.

“The Australian standard requires stunning if the slitting of the throat does not render the animal unconscious.”

Rabbinical Council of Victoria president Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, who has worked as a shochet for nearly 20 years, said he had witnessed regular audits by PrimeSafe.

“Halachically, shechita has to be humane,” Rabbi Kluwgant said. “The halacha clearly requires that the laws of the land be respected and obeyed ... It is true to say that we will not accept anything that is pre-stunned, but it is not true to say that we act outside the boundaries of Australian law and standards.”

But Rabbi Kluwgant rejected claims in an article in The Age last Saturday that cattle are ritually slaughtered at two Victorian abattoirs without stunning. He said all kosher beef is stunned after the shechita is carried out.

Kosher meat is currently exported from Australia to Hong Kong, Singapore, Fiji, New Zealand and Thailand.

A number of export markets, including Israel and Malaysia, will not accept kosher or halal meat that has been stunned. Currently, Australia does not export kosher meat to Israel.

McGauran said in a statement that the review would examine “the science concerning the welfare aspects of livestock slaughter without stunning”, to determine whether changes ought to be made to the Australian industry standards.

According to Jewish law, animals must be slaughtered by a single cut to the throat. Stunning before the slaughter compromises this halachic requirement because it is more difficult to ascertain whether the stunning or the slaughter was the cause of death.
(Australian Jewish news)