The Unkindest Cut

Shechita has been banned again in a European country. So what else is new?  Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland – and now Belgium!

Jews are unwanted and unloved in mainland Europe. This has been painfully obvious for some time.  Unfortunately European Jewry remains in denial.  In the same breath as its leaders bewail the bans and declare that Jewish life in these regions is in jeopardy, when asked if Jews plan en masse to leave, they reply “Heaven forbid!”   (As a British – as well as an Australian – citizen, I say TGFB. Thank G-D For Brexit!)

The European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights declares: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom – in public and in private – to manifest religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice or observance.

Thus, in view of the sizeable Jewish and Muslim communities in Belgium, it was predicted to be a foregone conclusion that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would overturn a law promulgated in that country banning religious slaughter without pre-stunning on the grounds that such a law “prevents Jews and Muslims from observing their right of freedom of religious practice”. (Actually, the Muslim community was less affected as many Muslims do allow pre-stunning.) But, as Jews have found to their cost many times before, where measures hostile to our faith are concerned there is no foregone conclusion. The ECJ voted to uphold the ban.

In explaining their decision, the ECJ produced a tortuous parody of Talmudic logic. They declared that, “in the interests of animal welfare”, it is entirely permissible, within the framework of the protections for religious slaughter, to insist upon pre-stunning since “the act of religious slaughter is not prohibited as such!”

Let us attempt to get our head around this one. The ECJ has taken it upon itself to separate the act of shechita from the requirement not to pre-stun the animal.  It has outrageously assumed the authority to state that while it respects that the act of Jewish slaughter must not deviate from authentic religious practice, whether or not the animal is pre-stunned is not critical to this and therefore it reserves the right to insist on pre-stunning!

Indeed a stunning conclusion!

The question is: how did the ECJ have the chutspa to arrive at this perverse ruling?

I have pondered this question deeply. My conclusion, though only a theory, is the only one that appears to make sense – and sadly it does have a basis.  It gives me no pleasure at all to have to articulate it.

Before I do, let me assure everybody reading this that unbiased medical and scientific evidence continues to show that shechita is the most humane method of slaughter.  The speed and expert precision of the incision with the super-sharp chalaf (shechita-knife) results in immediate loss of consciousness. Blood flow to the brain is completely and instantaneously halted.  It is, in fact, the most effective “stun” possible!  (Unlike Muslim slaughterers, shochetim have to undergo years of rigorous training and shimush, apprenticeship, before being entrusted with shechting an animal.)

 On the other hand, conventional methods of stunning by use of a captive bolt, gassing or electrocution, merely paralyse the animal and while it is unable to display outward signs of suffering, it is impossible to know whether or not it is feeling pain.  It is a fact, however, that millions of animals each year are mis-stunned through faulty stunning equipment, or its misapplication to the animal. The pain such ineffective stunning must cause the animal cannot be imagined.

 Tragically, those who have an agenda and to whom the idea of “ritual slaughter” with all its unpalatable overtones, is unacceptable, have spread their poisonous propaganda to the “enlightened” populace, including many libertarian, Left-leaning Jews. Which brings me to my unfortunate discovery.

On 8 May 2017, in a long-running column featured in the UK Jewish Chronicle, a prominent Orthodox Rabbi and an equally prominent reform rabbi (former chair of the Movement for Reform Judaism’s “Assembly of Rabbis” no less!) were asked an identical question: Is it more humane to stun animals before slaughter.

 The Orthodox Rabbi answered appropriately, just as I have done above.  The reform rabbi began his response by postulating that the inference that pre-stunning is more humane “may well be right!” He went on to posit the canard that because there is no description of the shechita process in the Written Torah, it must have been the rabbis who formulated the rules.  Whereas of course, as any serious Torah student know, the phrase ve-zavakhta …ka’asher tsivitikha “You shall slaughter ….in the way I have commanded you” (Deut 12:21) clearly indicated that Moses was orally commanded the details (Chulin 28a). Of course, the clear implication advanced by the Reform spokesman was that as it was allegedly only the ancient rabbis who made up the rules, they could be readily dispensed with or at least adapted! He concludes by saying that while “there is not yet incontrovertible evidence that [pre-]stunning is better than shechita, if or rather when (sic.) that times (sic.) comes we will need to weigh the moral principle of animal welfare against methods that might be centuries (sic.) old, but might no longer be as validly Jewishly (sic.) as before”

With “rabbinical” friends like him, I say: who needs enemies?

Sadly, he is not alone. In July 2013, Poland upheld a ban on shechita. Chief Rabbi Michael Shudrich compared the ban to that of the 1930s when Norway and Sweden, under the influence of Nazi propaganda, vetoed the practice.  World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauer called it “a bitter blow for all those who undertook …to bring about a renaissance of Jewish life in Poland”.  But the founder of the “Progressive Jewish community” had something different to say.  Some of our leaders are confused. Kosher slaughter has been subject to too many documented scandals  [What they were, he declined to say.] We Jews must behave honourably and lead to kindness to animals ……We live in the greatest scientific century; would we not rather trust a doctor in veterinary medicine than a kashrut inspector? [sic.]

It is highly likely – in fact I would say it is virtually certain – that bodies such as the EJC will have studied transcripts of these Reform Jewish leaders’ statements and no doubt a few other radicals like them, and will have drawn the sorry and erroneous conclusion that Jews themselves are significantly divided on whether Jewish ritual slaughter can proceed even with pre-stunning. Hence their brazen pronouncement that they can enforce pre-stunning and still be upholding the principle of freedom of religion!

No doubt these Reform leaders are very proud of their “enlightened” positions and how they have contributed to the growing anti-shechita trend in the guise of “animal rights” and “humane killing” within the continent that ironically has seen the most inhumane legalised butchery and attempted extermination of an entire race of human beings in the last century.

It has well been said that yet more tragic than the evil done to us from without is the harm inflicted upon us from within.

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the author of four books on Judaism and honorary rabbi of Sydney Jewish Centre on Ageing.
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments