If you want to attack a Jewish community, target its food source

If you want to attack a Jewish community, target its food source

Richard Ferrer has become a leading voice on Jewish communal issues since becoming editor of the Jewish News in 2009, writing about contemporary Jewish life for a national audience. He edited the Boston Jewish Advocate, America's oldest Jewish newspaper and created the Channel 4 series Jewish Mum of the Year.

Richard Ferrer
Richard Ferrer

By Richard Ferrer, Editor Jewish News

The grim reality of the slaughter business is enough to make anyone crave a veggie burger.

We humans decided at the dawn of time that animals are put on earth to serve us – from food and transport to cosmetics and clothes. So the question has never been why we kill, but how.

Any moral society, led by its boffins and butchers, has a profound duty to ensure the bloody process is fast and humane.

The eternal debate about how best to achieve this recently resulted in Poland, New Zealand, Holland and Demark outlawing the sale of meat produced without pre-stunning. This move has crippled the religious practices of Jews and Muslims in these countries, whose kosher and halal meat must be killed without pre-stunning.

This week, David Cameron re-committed to defend the religious slaughter of animals in the UK after John Blackwell, the president-elect of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), called for a ban.

The Prime Minister – backed on this issue by Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – is not more concerned, as some in the BVA openly suspect, with pandering to Britain’s faiths than protecting its four-legged friends, simply because religion is incidental to the humanity argument.

While the animal rights movement doubtless sees total vegetarianism as their ultimate ideal, they should realise that far from increasing suffering, many consider ‘shechita’ (Jewish religious slaughter), to be the only method that treats animals with any compassion.

The mechanics of shechita demand a surgically sharp knife and ensures the animal loses consciousness within moments, suffering as little as possible.

Richard Ferrer
Richard Ferrer

Most recently a study by Professor Rael Strous and Dr Ari Zivotofsky in the journal Meat Science shows this individualised killing is infinitely preferable to industrialised slaughter.

Research from lobby group Shechita UK indicates that wholesale stunning by captive-bolt, electric callipers or tongs is often brutally ineffective and animals die in pain.

And stunning simply isn’t an option for the 25 million chickens slaughtered worldwide every day. Instead of having their throats clinically cut as shechita demands, they are dangled by their legs in an electric bath, thrown alive into electronic mincers or gassed.

For Jews the world over, this issue is not simply the fear of being deprived shwarma or the world’s best chicken soup – lovingly known as kosher penicillin. For them, the motto “we are what we eat” has a more profound meaning.

If you want to attack a Jewish community, targeting its food source is a smart first step. A certain vegetarian  German dictator knew this to be true. Shechita was one of the first things the Nazis banned. That’s why it was a shock to many when Poland, the 20 century graveyard of the Jews, was the first European state to outlaw kosher slaughter.

Judaism is linked inextricably with rituals of sharing kosher food. Therefore, it places immense value on animal welfare and pain prevention. Most of the book of Leviticus is taken up with the laws of kosher. It is a ‘mitzvah’ to feed your animals before yourself. And the Hebrew Torah demands that working animals be rested one day a week. Shechita is built on these exemplary foundations.

Which, of course, is the ultimate irony of the anti-shechita movement. But when did fanatics let hard facts get in the way of a sanctimonious cause?

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