Me vs The European Court of Justice

Cow sits in a field (Jewish News)
Cow sits in a field (Jewish News)
The European Court of Justice has ruled that a regulation in parts of Belgium that animals have to be pre-stunned before they are slaughtered, is legal. This makes shechita illegal in Belgium, as it is, for example, in Switzerland
Now it hardly behoves me to question the European Court of Justice. It’s hardly a level playing field, but I would refer them to Tommy Openshaw FRS, a surgeon at the London Hospital, who took the trouble to observe no less than 40 examples of both kinds of slaughter. He concluded that “Poleaxing is by no means a quick and painless death. I am absolutely in accord with the statement that to charge the Jews with cruelty in this matter, i.e.. the killing of animals, is grossly unjust.”
I agree that Mr. Openshaw said this is 1904, but there are a string of non-Jewish experts, over the last 100 plus years, who have studied the subject in depth and come to the same conclusion. A professor in America has looked at hundreds and agrees.
When I talked to the Veterinarian Association some years ago, they couldn’t come up with scientific evidence to the contrary. They are welcome to do so now if they can, but DEFRA, the government body responsible for animal welfare today in this country, have seen no reason to ban shechita. The House of Lords voted in its favour in the 1960s. This argument has run and run.
I think the European Court should be consistent, however. The ruling doesn’t apply to Deer, Wild Boer, Hares. Rabbits, Foxes, Pheasants, Partridge, Pigeons, Ducks and Geese. These can still be shot in Belgium if you’ve got a shooting licence. The fact that your shot may only wound the animals, who may then die in agony days later, doesn’t seem to worry the Court.
It’s no use suggesting that the ban on shechita only needs to apply to animals we eat. We can eat pheasants if we cut their throats – the Rothschilds put out nets on their estates in the 19th century to capture the pheasants and then did cut their throats. We can eat ducks and geese too. Non-Jews eat deer (venison) wild boer (pork) and pigeons, partridges and rabbits. There are any number of recipes in Escoffier using these animals to revitalise jaded palates.
So, in the name of animal welfare, why doesn’t the court ban the shooting of these animals? Now, if you want a shooting licence in Belgium, you need to contact the Royal Saint-Hubert Club of Belgium which handles about 65% of the licences. Benoit Petit is the president of the Club and is listed under the Seigneurs des Ardennes, which sounds very important. The Hasidic community in Antwerp is led by Rabbi David Moshe Liebermann, who is a Talmud chochom and very highly regarded.  He is also blind, but Antwerp is often called the last yeshivah in Europe. Their members are likely to be seriously affected.
I’m not sure that the views of M. Petit and Rabbi Liebermann are likely to agree. It does seem likely that M. Petit would have a bigger clout with the Belgian government, but then the Royal Saint-Hubert Club does have the royal appellation and I doubt that M. Petit has his own yarmulke like Prince Charles; I could be wrong, of course.
The argument about the humanity of shechita has been going on in Britain since at least Victorian times. A number of the officers of the British Veterinary Association also want shechita banned, but I haven’t seen them campaign for a ban on hunting. Again, I could be wrong, but upsetting rural England does not seem good public relations. Vets are widely used by farmers and farmers hunt. The RSPCA has also tried in the past to have shechita banned.
The main problem with justifying shechita is that the rules were laid down in the sixth centry. To admit that the Jews got it right 1,500 years ago, and that the modern vets haven’t improved on our laws is really tough. But then, as I‘ve said before, the Talmud can be shown, without questions, to have been that far ahead in any number of instances.
It’s highly likely that we’re going to have to defend shechita in the future, but fortunately we are organised to do so and with a Brexit deal at last, we don’t have to take any notice of the European Court of Justice.
About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book
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