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Cruel to be kind?
December 12, 2010 6:19 PM   Subscribe

In May 2010, New Zealand introduced a new Animal Welfare Code effectively banning the kosher slaughter of animals, or “shechita”. Agriculture Minister, David Carter, rejected a recommendation from advisers that Jewish ritual slaughter of livestock be exempted from animal welfare rules under the Bill of Rights - which provides for freedom of religious practice. The new welfare code had a requirement that all commercially slaughtered animals first be stunned, and forbade the importation of raw kosher poultry. Carter argued the Code was required on humane grounds, citing a study that said the animals suffered pain. A study which Dr Temple Grandin has subsequently criticised. Jewish law prevents stunning on the basis that this is, in fact, cruel to animals. Halal meat in New Zealand is stunned prior to slaughter. The Jewish community contested the Code through the courts as a direct attack on the freedom to practise Judaism in New Zealand. Bans on ritual slaughter inevitably raise the ugly spectre of anti-Semitism. In November, immediately before the case was due to be heard, Carter made an abrupt u-turn. The practice of shechita on poultry was declared no longer illegal while the Government also agreed to negotiate the ban on sheep. New Zealand Jews will still have to import beef from Australia, where shechita is allowed. The reversal raised the ire of animal rights groups, and raised questions about Carter's motivations in considering the ban. Previously.
posted by szechuan (75 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christ, what an asshole.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:30 PM on December 12, 2010


How can modern people still follow such nonsensical rules? Kosher slaughter is cruel and unnecessary, why haven't they (whomever makes kosher laws) made up new arbitrary rules that fit in with modern science/ethics yet?
posted by thylacine at 6:33 PM on December 12, 2010


why haven't they (whomever makes kosher laws) made up new arbitrary rules that fit in with modern science/ethics yet?

The Guy who made the rules has been strangely silent on these issues for millennia...
posted by Jimbob at 6:38 PM on December 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Different but related: a municipal law in Hialeah, FL intended to ban the ritual sacrifice of animals in Santeria was found to be an unconstitutional infringement of First Amendment religious rights by the U.S. Supreme Court.
posted by escabeche at 6:40 PM on December 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


> Kosher slaughter is cruel and unnecessary, why haven't they (whomever makes kosher laws) made up new arbitrary rules that fit in with modern science/ethics yet?

Prove that kosher slaughter is worse than a "modern" factory meat packing plant. You don't know how the animal feels after a few moments of being bled out versus being stunned or shot with a bolt gun, nor has there been any conclusive evidence.

Kosher and halal meat tastes great!
posted by Burhanistan at 6:43 PM on December 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


How can modern people still follow such nonsensical rules? Kosher slaughter is cruel and unnecessary, why haven't they (whomever makes kosher laws) made up new arbitrary rules that fit in with modern science/ethics yet?

Well, the Ayatollahs certainly found a way to change the rules, but I don't think it had anything to do with science or ethics.
posted by auto-correct at 6:43 PM on December 12, 2010


thylacine, just think of it this way: Trying to change laws is an incredibly difficult process. In many states in America, there exist blue laws that are based on societal mores that are radically different from the values we have today, but changing those laws is ridiculously difficult.

Trying to, say, change rules in American Football? Dear lord, that might even be worse than trying to change laws. Trying to get the owners and the players in the NBA to agree on a new bargaining agreement to avoid another lockout? That might not happen, no matter how disastrous the last lockout was.

And those are all secular issues. Add god, faith, and three thousand years of tradition*, including a strong resistance by an influential faction to modern science/ethics, and you might begin to understand how it's not going to happen overnight.

From Moses to Sandy Koufax
posted by Ghidorah at 6:45 PM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Has it been proven that kosher slaughter is inhumane? According to Dr. Grandin they didn't do the study using actual kosher procedure, so it didn't really prove anything.
And why is halal slaughter prohibited?
posted by amethysts at 6:47 PM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


And why is halal slaughter prohibited?

It isn't.
posted by pompomtom at 6:53 PM on December 12, 2010


amethysts, halal slaughter isn't prohibited in New Zealand because the animals are stunned first. However, some halal authorities think stunning makes the meat "haram" (unsuitable), so there is even disagreement here.
posted by szechuan at 6:58 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that the issue is that stunning is acceptable (but maybe not preferred?) in halal practice but not in kosher practice, and the feeling is that Muslim countries would be offended if an explicit exemption were made for Jews but not for Muslims. Which frankly sounds a bit convoluted, but whatever.

I dunno. On the one hand, it's total bullshit. On the other hand, it doesn't deliberately target Jews, and there's no law that says that you have to eat meat to be Jewish. I guess that observant Jews in New Zealand could just go vegetarian.
posted by craichead at 6:58 PM on December 12, 2010


Proponents of kosher slaughter believe that when the carotid arteries, esophagus and trachea are severed immediately with a knife with no notches or nicks, the animal dies instantly with almost no pain due to the sudden loss of blood pressure and the inability of blood to reach the brain (though obviously there is no way to prove this). The laws of kosher slaughter require years of training to become a ritual slaughterer, so as to get every detail right - all with the goal of not causing any unnecessary pain to the animal.

Correctly stunning an animal in a way that leads to unconsciousness requires a fairly precise shot to the head with the stunning gun. If not, the animal is demonstrably in more pain, and requires multiple bolts before it succumbs. This is largely because in most slaughterhouses (at least in America), this is an extremely low-value and low-paid job, and is therefore done by workers who receive minimal training (often in a language they don't speak) who can report for duty and begin aiming the bolt at the 2-ton animals' heads within the same day.

Until there is actual proof of how much an animal suffers when it is stunned, its throat is slit, it is shot, or any other method of slaughter, they should all be assumed to be equal - if the goal is to not cause any pain at all, then the only option is to outlaw killing animals for meat, period.

However, as Jews represent less than a half a percentage of the entire world's population, with the number of Jews who keep kosher perhaps a tenth of that, making the percentage of animals affected almost negligible compared to the vast number regularly slaughtered and consumed in a country, this is an easy way to act as if animals are being protected from "barbarism" by demonizing a group and a practice that is not understood, at the cost of no votes from the greater population. And if your goal is to stop all animal slaughter, as is the goal of most animal-rights activists, then it's a very convenient thin edge of the wedge to set precedents.
posted by Mchelly at 7:10 PM on December 12, 2010 [28 favorites]


There's a story I've always liked about shechita that seems relevant.

The Talmud commands that the sharpest possible knife be used for shechita, for the sake of efficiency and to help the animal suffer as little as possible. And in that quirky Talmudic way, the rabbis specify the qualities of the "sharpest" knife: it must not have serrations or imperfections; it must be smooth.

The problem is that the process of sharpening a knife on a whetstone involves creating little tiny serrations. If you've ever sharpened a knife, you know what I mean. Those little notches are what gets it all sharp again. But this doesn't square with the Platonic/Talmudic "sharpest knife" ideal, so the shochet's job involves sharpening the knife to the highest possible point and then smoothing the blade down (and thus rendering it a bit less sharp) with a polisher.

I feel like this kind of legalistic thinking is what's at work here rather than antisemitism or anything like that. Killing animals is inherently cruel to some degree (I say this as a non-vegetarian) whether the animal is stunned or not. Whatever you legislate, people will still find a way to follow the letter rather than the spirit of the law.
posted by saturday_morning at 7:12 PM on December 12, 2010


How can modern people still follow such nonsensical rules? Kosher slaughter is cruel and unnecessary, why haven't they (whomever makes kosher laws) made up new arbitrary rules that fit in with modern science/ethics yet?

You're obviously trolling, but your "modern science/ethics" (a dangerous conflation of two things) are, in many ways, just as arbitrary and "nonsensical" if you were approaching them afresh. Just ask, two-year-old style, "why?" about anything until you get to "BECAUSE THAT'S THE WAY IT IS" for an at-home demonstration.
posted by Electrius at 7:14 PM on December 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Using the wrong type of knife for the study means the study was not using actual kosher methods. It is not a medically objective study. Interestingly most export lamb from New Zealand has been slaughtered by halal methods. This is because a lot of the lamb exported from New Zealand goes to the Middle East, principally Saudi Arabia. I think stunning is more barbaric, also hanging animals up by one leg, what us up with that?
That is as bad, if not worse than the bullfights. With both kosher and halal slaughter the animal is on it's feet, someone thanks God for the animal, (just as Native American people do.) done correctly it is over quickly. I think if you are not going to be a vegetarian, this is not so bad. And what Burhanistan said.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:16 PM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Saying that observant Jews would have to be vegetarian amounts to excluding them from a free diet and a free life. It's discrimination and it's reprehensible.

I don't see why kosher slaughter is especially inhumane. It's a very fast process where the animal's throat is cut through with an extremely sharp knife.

However, a method of killing involving a knife appears more violent. This is the same reason that we have faulty multiple-drug lethal injections as capital punishment in the U.S. instead of something more old-fashioned and foolproof. It's hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, hunting is permitted in New Zealand. So one can presumably shoot an animal (not stunned, obviously) to death, however long that takes. But no kosher slaughter there.
posted by knoyers at 7:18 PM on December 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Saying that observant Jews would have to be vegetarian amounts to excluding them from a free diet and a free life. It's discrimination and it's reprehensible.
I'm not sure it is. I mean, I think this rule is stupid and arbitrary. But I also think that there are things that trump the right to "a free diet", and I think it's defensible to argue that animal welfare is one of those things. I don't think that my right to eat whatever I want trumps an animal's right not to be tortured.
posted by craichead at 7:28 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again? Temple Grandin is not the only person who criticizes this (though she does it very well) and advocates for measures which will materially improve the lot of the bovine
One thought, stunning, with cows, distributes brain matter/cerebro-spinal fluids; brain material passing to the lungs via the jugular veins. This does not go well with the level of testing occurring at any levels for mad cow.
It has been known for some time that, in humans, severe brain trauma can be
followed by disseminated intravascular thrombosis due to the coagulating effects of
microscopic brain emboli (Ogilvy et al., 1988). In cattle, it has also been shown
that 'marker' bacteria applied to a captive bolt gun can be recovered from spleens,
and from spleens and muscle tissue when applied to a pithing rod (Mackey &
Derrick, 1979).
(fascinating EU Health Commission examination of CBT, blood, regulation, BSE and more [PDF])
The arbitrary position (research wise) is that the 'ancient' methods cause more suffering.
Save the concern here for humans. If you feel animals are being mistreated, there are many ways to advocate for them which will cause much more actual reduction of animal suffering. The suffering reduction reasoning don't measure up. Even the "high-tech" "alternatives" (they aren't alt's as they have draw-backs equal, and more cruel than current Bolt methods; which aren't exactly ethical, and certainly aren't without risks). It isn't cheaper, it isn't safer, it isn't healthier, it isn't more ethical, it isn't magically humane, and it isn't Science. This is ethnocentric xenophobia writ legislative at best.
posted by infinite intimation at 7:29 PM on December 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Saying that observant Jews would have to be vegetarian amounts to excluding them from a free diet and a free life. It's discrimination and it's reprehensible.
I'm not sure it is. I mean, I think this rule is stupid and arbitrary. But I also think that there are things that trump the right to "a free diet", and I think it's defensible to argue that animal welfare is one of those things. I don't think that my right to eat whatever I want trumps an animal's right not to be tortured.
posted by craichead at 7:28 PM on December 12


I personally think of animal rights issues as being unimportant relative to human rights issues, if animals can be said to have rights at all.

But even if I am wrong, is it fair that free citizens should eat freely, with the exception of a religious minority that is effectively singled out and prohibited from eating meat?

In practical terms, as far as I can tell there is no reason that kosher slaughter should be defined as torture, unless the slaughter of animals is, as a whole. So the rule is arbitrary discrimination, in any case.
posted by knoyers at 7:37 PM on December 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Given that our current prime minister, and thus Carters boss, is Jewish (albeit non-practicing) I think the anti-semetic angle is going a bit far.
posted by scodger at 7:37 PM on December 12, 2010


"This is ethno..." that would be in the effects of the legislation, not you craichead, sorry I wasn't more well specific, no offense intended. Your belief that we need to keep an eye on the ethical basis for our systems of food production is a good point; I would however suggest that there are 'secular' practices that are equally, if not far beyond the religious practices in terms of mistreatment of animals destined for food use. But this isn't a "who's more worse game", so your suggestion is correct, if we are in a wealthy position where we have such luxury, we ought to consider the ethical implications of our food gathering methods.
posted by infinite intimation at 7:39 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Given that our current prime minister, and thus Carters boss, is Jewish (albeit non-practicing) I think the anti-semetic angle is going a bit far.

To say the very, very, very least, the relationship between non-religious people of Jewish descent and Orthodox Jews is ... complicated.
posted by escabeche at 8:34 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was reading the Wikipedia article of CS Lewis recently and came across this
Lewis continued to raise Gresham's two sons after her death. While Douglas Gresham is, like Lewis and his mother, a Christian,[33] David Gresham turned to the faith into which his mother had been born and became Orthodox Jewish in his beliefs. His mother's writings had featured the Jews, particularly one "shohet" (ritual slaughterer), in an unsympathetic manner. David informed Lewis that he was going to become a ritual slaughterer in order to present this type of Jewish religious functionary to the world in a more favourable light.
Kudos to Mefi for all the accurate info on this thread...It's hard for me to think of a logical way to condemn kosher and not condemn all methods of slaughter.
posted by melissam at 8:40 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there is no anti-Semitism here. The motives and possible motives seem to be largely in the open now, and much simpler.

This seems to be a case of a political system working as intended. An interest group pushed for some legislation that would financially advantage them. Legislators listened and thus paid insufficient attention to wider ramifications. Another group complained that the legislation would disadvantage them. Legislators amended things to accommodate the problem.

In the USA, that last step would never happen.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:41 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the USA, that last step would never happen.

Though obviously this particular attempt at legislation would have been a non-starter in the USA because a far more significant portion of the electorate would have been affected negatively. It would be akin to if the USA made a law change that adversely affected resident Lithuanians - it's easy for a legislator to assume it's no big deal until the small number of Lithuanians organize and make themselves heard.

posted by -harlequin- at 8:47 PM on December 12, 2010



Of course, the least cruel method is to not slaughter them in the first place.

But I suppose that makes too much sense.
posted by bukharin at 9:17 PM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The issue that particularly vexes me -- I'm an atheist very loosely affiliated to the Jewish community here -- is that Jews are being held to a different standard than other citizens. So-called "home kill" (ie on-farm slaughter for private consumption) is still legal, as is hunting. Typical home kill methods and hunting do not meet the welfare requirement bar set for shechita.

The issue about the independence of the cabinet minister responsible has unfortunately been buried in local media coverage, while talkback hosts are spouting forth about the cruelty of throat cutting.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:35 PM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Ba'al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, was a shokhet -- the one who slaughters cattle. There is a story told about his replacement. He was sharpening the blade with a whetstone, wetting it with water. A Gentile, observing this, shook his head. "You're doing it wrong," he said.

"How am I doing it wrong?" the new shokhet asked.

"The last guy used to wet it with his tears."

The Jewish standard for ethical treatment of animals is very high. We are forbidden from hunting, as an example. The rules about how to slaughter animals are not from the Bible -- they are Talmudic, which means Rabbis came up with them. They were, at the time they were written, based on the idea of being as humane as absolutely possible. If this method is not humane, the laws can be changed. This is not some cave people blindly following a law they think was handed to them by a strange, distant God. These were people of reason trying to figure out how to prevent animals from feeling pain.

I am a vegetarian, as are a lot of Jews. I think any pain at all is too much. But I have yet to see evidence that shekhita is worse than the many awful ways we kill animals for food here in America. It's certainly a great deal more humane than hunting, where you injure an animal and let it bleed as you track it over miles and miles.

The focus on Jewish slaughter may not be intended as antisemitism, but making rules that specifically target Jews? And the thing it is supposed to cure is undemonstrated, and worse things go unaddressed? It functions as antisemitism, whatever its intention.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:44 PM on December 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


The laws of kosher slaughter require years of training to become a ritual slaughterer, so as to get every detail right - all with the goal of not causing any unnecessary pain to the animal.

So for years, the slaughterer-in-training is butchering (so to speak) the unfortunate animals that he is practicing his craft on?

That really doesn't sound like the strongest argument in favour of kosher slaughter.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:54 PM on December 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Orthodox Judaism doesn't jibe particularly well with vegetarianism, especially among more traditional/less modern Orthodox people. There are some fairly strong entrenched beliefs (that some people basically see as law) about the necessity of eating meat on Shabbat and holidays. I got very large amounts of flak for being a vegetarian when I was Orthodox. Yes, one can argue that vegetarianism is compatible with Orthodoxy, or is even a good thing (and I have made those arguments to people), but that's not how most Orthodox Jews and communities see things.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:02 PM on December 12, 2010


It's hard for me to think of a logical way to condemn kosher and not condemn all methods of slaughter.

So true. Meat is not just a package in the grocery store; death hurts. How can anyone who does not do their own killing of animals for food (or at least stand by while someone does it for them) point fingers at people who do?

And ... it is interesting that the majority of the comments here are about Hebrew ritual killing. Islam is even more strict about Dhabiha. I'd say they've given the subject of humane treatment of animals a lot of thought.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:05 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


anyone = *any carnivorous human"
posted by Surfurrus at 10:10 PM on December 12, 2010


While I think in this case the NZ government acted wrongly, I think it's important to note that freedom of religion should not allow religious law to arbitrarily trump secular law. See for example forced polygyny and FLDS, or "faith healing" (in complete stead of medicine) and various Christian denominations.
posted by kmz at 10:34 PM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The issue that particularly vexes me -- I'm an atheist very loosely affiliated to the Jewish community here -- is that Jews are being held to a different standard than other citizens. So-called "home kill" (ie on-farm slaughter for private consumption) is still legal, as is hunting.

I think this interpretation is wildly incorrect. From what i can make out, Jews were not being held to any different standard and were welcome to use shechita methods under the home-kill exception, like anyone else. What no-one, including Jews, were allowed to do, was run a commercial meatpacking business using home-kill-allowable methods that failed to meet the spec for commercial operations. Making an exception to allow shechita for commercial operation was the issue.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:45 PM on December 12, 2010


A former roommate ran the Heeb'n'vegan blog. As an observant Jew, he truly believed that the only way to keep kosher was to be a vegan, that the halachic laws were written in a way to preclude any animal consumption in modern society. I will certainly ask him about his opinions on this when I get a chance - I wouldn't dare divine his opinions. Yet I can tell you this: it's a mistake to present an attack on some forms of kosher butchery as an attack on Jews. When it comes to understanding kosher laws, Jews are not monolithic nor is there a singular understanding of what modern practices can be considered Kosher. While there may be a loose confederation of butchering practices that have been blessed by certain strands of modern Judaism, there is hardly consensus or agreement.

So it is a mistake to consider this an attack on Jews, in practice. Such a law may be motivated as an attack on Jews, and anti-semitic animus may have played a significant role in the minds of those who advanced the policy. Misguided laws with prejudicial roots are deeply problematic - whether or not they succeed in their purpose. But as a Jew who does not eat meat, banning ritualistic slaughter is not an attack on me - or my conception of kashrut laws.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:54 PM on December 12, 2010


making rules that specifically target Jews

Erm. Having written my previous comment, I feel I need to point out that they don't per se target Jews -- it's more that Jews are the only group affected by this particular change.

Although you've just made me realise that the local Orthodox Jews need to wind up the stricter Muslims, who are just as affected in theory (some Muslims' interpretation of halal slaughter also forbids stunning).

/me goes to send email to local Jewish mailing list, inter-ethnic relations council etc to see what's what.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:22 PM on December 12, 2010


-harlequin- -- I guess the issue is whether you see kosher Jews as a community of interest parallel to, say, famers and hunters. One must ask why those groups basically get an animal welfare pass and other groups don't. The obvious reasons are "it's practical for farmers not to have to stun" and "hunting would be impossible" and that both those groups are substantial voting blocs, unlike the tiny kosher Jewish minority, which is probably a few hundred urban households at best.

"Commercial" implies a large scale slaughterhouse operation, but the reality is a handful of kills per year. Yes, the meat goes through a chain of intermediaries that makes it commercial in a legal sense, but the reality is that it's a hobby-scale affair.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:30 PM on December 12, 2010


The issue about the independence of the cabinet minister responsible has unfortunately been buried in local media coverage,

This is the bit that troubles me most. To the degree one can divine any anti-semitism, it would be rather indirect, in that the minister appears to be taking the advice of people who think it will make some of their customers happy if New Zealand Jews have a harder time of it.

I think it's important to note that freedom of religion should not allow religious law to arbitrarily trump secular law.

And, yeah, this. Religious traditions are routinely outlawed, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
posted by rodgerd at 11:55 PM on December 12, 2010


The new welfare code .... forbade the importation of raw kosher poultry.

Not quite. All raw chicken is forbidden due to biosecurity regulations which have nothing to do with animal welfare regulations.

I think the anti-semetic angle is going a bit far.

That part seems to have come from David Zwartz, who is well known for being a vocal Israeli apologist. In 2004, when Mossad agents were caught attempting to fraudulently gain NZ passports, he basically launched a godwin against the entire parliament.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 12:10 AM on December 13, 2010


"Orthodox Judaism doesn't jibe particularly well with vegetarianism, especially among more traditional/less modern Orthodox people. There are some fairly strong entrenched beliefs (that some people basically see as law) about the necessity of eating meat on Shabbat and holidays. I got very large amounts of flak for being a vegetarian when I was Orthodox."

First time I've heard of this. My orthodox cousin and her husband are vegetarians and the former Rabbi of the largest synagogue in South Africa (and probably the southern hemisphere at the time) was a known vegetarian.
posted by PenDevil at 12:32 AM on December 13, 2010


who is well known for being a vocal Israeli apologist

He is the honorary consul (or he was at the time). It was his job. The desecration of Jewish cemeteries at almost exactly the same time was an unfortunate coincidence.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:32 AM on December 13, 2010


Apropos the desirability of eating meat for the Orthodox: I well remember one seder in my provincial New Zealand home town when a couple of visiting Chabadniks attended. One of these young men explained to me that the vegetable kingdom "glorifies" the mineral kingdom by consuming it, that the animal kingdom glorifies the vegetable kingdom by consuming it, and that in consuming meat we likewise glorified the animal kingdom. I asked him how carnivorous plants fit into this model, to which the scholar in question replied "what is a carnivorous plant?"
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:35 AM on December 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


That part seems to have come from David Zwartz,

Actually, I'm going to need a citation for that please. I know David and am in correspondence with him right now. I have googled David's media statements and I have not found any claim that this is motivated by anti-semitism. I don't think it's special pleading to claim that the Jewish community is singularly affected.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:39 AM on December 13, 2010


the tiny kosher Jewish minority, which is probably a few hundred urban households at best.

Yeah, I think that's likely the reason. It was assumed they were too few to matter. They showed otherwise :-)

Yes, the meat goes through a chain of intermediaries that makes it commercial in a legal sense, but the reality is that it's a hobby-scale affair.

For what it's worth, I'm a bit uncomfortable with this - I have a feeling that hobby-scale affairs that go through a chain of intermediaries are "higher risk" and over-represented in food contamination cases, than larger ones. Perhaps not higher risk on average, but a spread that reaches further out at the ends of the bellcurve - some are much better than average, some are much worse. I would think that the orthodox Jewish community may be just as effective in ensuring good practices as laws and inspections, but in terms of whether hobby-scale industries overall should be regulated as strongly as full-scale, some of the food safety laws I've read about (in the USA, not NZ) seem to have been made necessary purely by small-scale and hobby operations running on fringe ideas that ignore or run contrary to proven safety methodologies.

In this day and age, you can still pay money to visit a uranium mine for the therapeutic breathing of radon gas. Small-scale operators are sometimes the craziest. It's nice to have the freedom to choose to breath radon, but when food is sold, it's not always clear to the buyer whether the magic ingredient is radon, so to speak, unless the selling is regulated. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 12:49 AM on December 13, 2010


So for years, the slaughterer-in-training is butchering (so to speak) the unfortunate animals that he is practicing his craft on?

That really doesn't sound like the strongest argument in favour of kosher slaughter.


Had any operations recently? How do you think surgeons are trained?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:05 AM on December 13, 2010


For what it's worth, I'm a bit uncomfortable with this - I have a feeling that hobby-scale affairs that go through a chain of intermediaries are "higher risk" and over-represented in food contamination cases, than larger ones. Perhaps not higher risk on average, but a spread that reaches further out at the ends of the bellcurve - some are much better than average, some are much worse. I would think that the orthodox Jewish community may be just as effective in ensuring good practices as laws and inspections, but in terms of whether hobby-scale industries overall should be regulated as strongly as full-scale, some of the food safety laws I've read about (in the USA, not NZ) seem to have been made necessary purely by small-scale and hobby operations running on fringe ideas that ignore or run contrary to proven safety methodologies.

That's one huge pile of straw you've attacked there. No one here wants to make kosher meat processing completely unregulated.

We're talking about one small detail that happens to have nothing to do with "proven safety methodologies". It's all about humane treatment of animals during slaughter. In fact, both the new law and kosher law have the same objective, they just arrive at it through a different means. And it happens that there is no way shechita can be performed in accordance with the new law.

i_am_joe's_spleen is just pointing out they they made an exception for two large groups: home farmers and hunters. It would take no effort to make an exception for the smaller group of orthodox jews so they can follow their dietary laws.

This whole thing is, IMHO, the worst kind of feel good legislation. It claims to do something about the suffering of livestock when it really just tweaks a little part with how we end their misery. Look at us, we're all such carrying people now!
posted by sbutler at 1:22 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


He is the honorary consul (or he was at the time). It was his job.

It was his job to suggest that expelling spies when they're caught is evidence of anti-Semitism?
posted by rodgerd at 1:31 AM on December 13, 2010


Religious traditions are routinely outlawed, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I would, personally feel my way of making this statement, and history seems to be on this side,


Religious traditions are routinely outlawed, and that's necessarily a bad thing.
History follows the pattern that where there is willingness to legislate life (and as here, alimentary) details, there is an increased societal willingness to go further, to dehumanize to a greater degree by degradation, denigration. The behavior of a state trickles down, and in the day to day lives of people; a state that legislates arbitrarily (were there, say, some new evidence that animal suffering when killed by a human is beyond the level caused by 'accidental' death, or death by other animal, or if there were a collective agreement that all people on earth would not be eating meat, or meat related products, for the unethical nature of meat use) but to legislate on differences such as these, there is, behind this a potential force to change the mentality of the many towards a low and closed mentality towards differences attitudes antithetical to a cosmopolitan state.

Every example of oppression in historic time begins with a denigrating of one way of seeing, and pedest-aling others belief or life-way as superior. Regardless of whoever is on whichever side (as people in opposition [which is ok too] to religious forms will point out, religious forces have participated in this behavior). There will always be anchor points; the so-called-barbarism of a Talmudic practice, next banning Islamic practices for Halal slaughter, or the banning of a symbol, as in Minarets, next Indigenous food hunting.
This is the age of bio-politics, the legislation upon bodies is to be expected, non?

In the first world food system lived in by these laws, there is no excuse for *first* legislating upon the minority in such a fashion, especially in setting a precedent that could widen gaps in access to human rights.

Now, I wonder how this case will outcome? I refer to this case of an Ottawa area man arrested for distributing meat.

It is so bizarre, now science (or the juridico-legal bodies of it's action) itself has again been invoked in another effort to legislate morality (petal, Kot). Multiple partner partnerships are evil, and so is eating (ethically) by ways of ones traditions, and so saith science?, it is just so bizarre to see science! invoked for oppressive purposes. Not really, this is no historical anomaly either, but it also is no reason to throw out science, science is fixable. People are flexible. Just like with the four anchor points Foucault studied in his History of Sexuality, these points of discourse, (ex, OMGMinarets, OMGUnethicalSlaughter, OMGTheyHateFreedom) serve to provide for the creation of a Way, and a Lacking Way. The presence of 'society', and the 'absence' of a society.
In reality the totality of positions, human practices, and ways of achieving their own vision of a Good life are myriad and varied as all of the special snowflakes that fall in all of the winters in all of the planets. At any moment each of those individuals can change, alter, grow, shrink, succeed, fail, fall down or anything in between. This is a lot of potential states for our universe to be in. Particularly with each potential choice leading to a chain of potential outcomes, each mitigated by a series of achieved or unachieved potential choice points. In this case no practices are infringing on anyone elses rights to live as a free person with rights, so why should the state impose such a baseless infringement and imposition (everyone isn't being asked to forgo meat and take up vegetarianism [and if everyone must take up this way, then that discussion must be had, and since this really doesn't seem like an act that is aiming to 'clean up the food industry', I'd wonder how it fits with the goals of an international cosmopolitan state).

We have laws that deal with trafficking in underage multiple brides by kidnapping, we have laws that protect against abuse of animals, we have laws that preempt murder, mass murder, and murder for a political purpose, we have laws that protect employees from having to work in risky environments, and we should have laws regulating full disclosure of ingredients and processes involved in food production. we have names for these things already, yet we re-create them for a particular 'enemy' somehow it becomes ok to the masses when it is a 'minority' life way. People often denigrate tribal people as being 'ethnocentric', willing to fight a neighbour, for seemingly simple reasons, first, despite appearance, the reasons are not simple, but in reality our western cultural ways are often in practice more effectually ethnocentric than any. Animals only have rights insofar as they are instituted by people (rights being a semiotic conceptual convention created by human minds) So to begin taking them from people, you actually undermine the whole system that allows for our namby pamby system with ANIMAL rights( /dennycrane) rights, now I happen to appreciate animal rights as a feature of human civilization, but to my mind it undermines the very historical basis for animal rights if we achieve them through removal of human rights.
posted by infinite intimation at 1:42 AM on December 13, 2010


sbutler: It's not a straw man, and it's not a criticism of kosher meat processing, nor an assumption that joe was suggesting no regulation, it's an aside. His view that the NZ kosher meat suppliers are technically and legally commercial but "in reality" something else, is an intuitive and common-sense view, but one that I thought doesn't reflect the reality or the goals food-chain regulation.

It's not merely a legal technicality that makes kosher production fall under the same commercial definition as ginormous industrial slaughterhouses, even though intuitively it feels wrong because they are clearly very different affairs. If the law needs changing, then that point needs to be understood.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:52 AM on December 13, 2010


Given that our current prime minister, and thus Carters boss, is Jewish (albeit non-practicing) I think the anti-semetic angle is going a bit far.

His mother was Jewish but he's actually an agnostic who attends church with his wife and kids. Not that this has anything to do with anything, because Prime Ministers aren't like Presidents. They can be and are replaced when they lose the support of their party or coalition. In John Key's case, he leads a coalition of three parties and losing the support of any of these would likely lead to his replacement. His actions are far more likely to reflect his political analysis of the situation than to be based on any prejudice - not that I think any exists in this case.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:19 AM on December 13, 2010


Joe's Spleen, Mr. Zwartz was a regular contributor to the Letters to the Editor of the Dominion and Evening Post (and possibly other publications) prior to his honourary appointment, always covering the same subject. I've always assumed that was the main reason he was offered the position. He really seems to have a one-track mind, just a few months ago he was denouncing cartoonist Tom Scott for drawing the Prime Minsters nose a bit larger than the Minister of Maori Affairs.

the FPP link .."a direct attack on the freedom to practise Judaism in New Zealand." goes to the opinion column written by Mr. Zwartz.
...New Zealand Jews see the ban as a direct attack on the freedom to practise Judaism in New Zealand....
Which makes it sound like the whole thing is an anti-semitic attack.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 2:30 AM on December 13, 2010


Had any operations recently? How do you think surgeons are trained?

I thought they played that Operation game when they were kids. They've got a Pavlovian fear of making the patient go BZZZZTTT!!!
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:50 AM on December 13, 2010


No. Special. Rules. Or. Exemptions. On. Religious. Grounds.

None. At all. Ever.

The religious are not special people, their beliefs are most definitely not special, and it is a moral disgrace that they demand, and get, special treatment under the law.

That is my opinion, and it's mine, and what it is too.
posted by Decani at 3:39 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Decani, I'm glad that it's your opinion, and even though I'm not religious (in any way, shape, or for) I'm incredibly grateful that the decision is not up to you whether or not religious people should, or should not, be allowed to practice their faith.

There's a whole lot of baby in the bathwater you just tossed out.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:59 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rodgerd wrote: Religious traditions are routinely outlawed, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I don't think they're routinely outlawed except in totalitarian societies. And I disagree with your assertion: it is a bad thing when we start categorising people's choices and preferences as being spontaneous (good) or religious (bad). To use the example above, any prohibition on hunting would be based solely on its merits: is it a good or a bad thing to allow hunters to freely exercise their preferences? Shechita is treated differently because it's tagged with the term "religious", but it's really just another example of people exercising their preferences.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:04 AM on December 13, 2010


So for years, the slaughterer-in-training is butchering (so to speak) the unfortunate animals that he is practicing his craft on?

That really doesn't sound like the strongest argument in favour of kosher slaughter.


No, until a person is trained, they are not allowed to touch an animal for the purpose of slaughter. An animal killed by a schochet who has not been approved to slaughter would not be kosher, putting that animal's death in the same category as hunting - forbidden by Jewish law. Only when the trainers and rabbi involved are absolutely certain that a shochet is ready will they be allowed to take up the knife, and the first kills are done under serious supervision -- not only because of the very real religious prohibition against harming the animal unnecessarily but because, let's face it, the price of kosher meat is so high.
posted by Mchelly at 4:29 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


In John Key's case, he leads a coalition of three parties and losing the support of any of these would likely lead to his replacement.

Eh, not really: he's the leader of the National Party; if he lost their support, he'd no longer be PM. I guess it's theoretically possible that ACT or the Maori Party could state that they could no longer work with him, and demand his resignation as the price for their continued support. But whether National would go along with this is doubtful (and National could govern with support of either ACT or the Maori Party; and could probably even run a minority govt as long as ACT gave them confidence and supply).
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:30 AM on December 13, 2010


...New Zealand Jews see the ban as a direct attack on the freedom to practise Judaism in New Zealand....
Which makes it sound like the whole thing is an anti-semitic attack.
What? He didn't say it was anti-semitic. He said it was an attack on the freedom to practice Judaism. And you know, if you outlaw kosher slaughter, a lot of Jews are going to see it as an attack on the practice of Judaism. You're outlawing a Jewish religious practice that predates the founding of the modern state of Israel by centuries and that plays a pretty large role in most observant Jews' daily lives. It might be defensible to do that in some situations, but you can't really blame people for feeling like it threatens their religious freedom and way of life.

It's handy, though, how you managed to work Israel into a discussion that has absolutely nothing to do with Israel. It really has become an all-purpose way to silence and discredit Jews, hasn't it?
posted by craichead at 5:10 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really like the idea of shechita, but I can entirely understand the desire for secular governments to make laws regulating it.

I recommend reading this: http://www.jewishveg.com/media11.html

This particular story is set in the USA, but it underscores the ways that kosher slaughter can be substantially crueler than non-kosher. The problem is that all slaughterhouses, kosher or not, are out to make a profit and competition will assure that more often than not the welfare of the animals will come second to the bottom line. Which is why it is important to have laws pertaining to the ethical treatment of livestock. In the US, the USDA oversees these laws for all non-kosher slaughterhouses and the Orthodox Union oversees the kosher slaughterhouses. This leads to a large disparity in the degree to which the oversight is applied as well as the degree to which the slaughterhouses pay heed to the warnings and sanctions of the overseeing body.

I would rather see a single body of law that went to lengths to specify various humane treatments with the intent, if possible, of accommodating every established set of religious and ethical requirements. I do believe that governments should do everything they can to avoid unnecessarily making legislation that conflicts with religious edicts, but I also don't think that any given practise should receive a free pass on the grounds of being religious if it is otherwise determined that it should be illegal.
posted by 256 at 6:14 AM on December 13, 2010


To clarify my point:

Generally bad or at least highly questionable: laws specifically targeting religious practices. See for example the ridiculous minarets thing in Switzerland or the anti-Santeria law referenced above.

Not necessarily bad and should be evaluated on secular, not religious grounds: general laws which might happen to proscribe various religious practices. See for example laws against rape which mean Warren Jeffs should rot in jail even though his religion says it's OK, laws against child neglect which mean parents can't ignore doctors and only use prayer to heal their children (apparently there actually are religious exemptions to child welfare laws in many US states, and this is abhorrent to me), and your personal religious beliefs shouldn't mean you get to dictate others' medical choices, i.e. pharmacists better be ready to dispense any and all pills they have available.
posted by kmz at 6:20 AM on December 13, 2010


Erm. Having written my previous comment, I feel I need to point out that they don't per se target Jews -- it's more that Jews are the only group affected by this particular change.

Like saying that a law against rosaries doesn't target Catholics

When it comes to understanding kosher laws, Jews are not monolithic nor is there a singular understanding of what modern practices can be considered Kosher. While there may be a loose confederation of butchering practices that have been blessed by certain strands of modern Judaism, there is hardly consensus or agreement.

So it is a mistake to consider this an attack on Jews, in practice. Such a law may be motivated as an attack on Jews, and anti-semitic animus may have played a significant role in the minds of those who advanced the policy. Misguided laws with prejudicial roots are deeply problematic - whether or not they succeed in their purpose. But as a Jew who does not eat meat, banning ritualistic slaughter is not an attack on me - or my conception of kashrut laws.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:54 PM on December 12 [+] [!]


Um, kosher slaughter has been going on in a certain way for thousands of years and is more than a "loose confederation of butchering practices." It is not an undefined tradition that can possibly be adapted to this type of law.

This is certainly an attack on Jews "in practice" if it prevents them from eating meat "in practice". Whether eating meat is a good thing or not is irrelevant to this question.

Your choice not to eat meat may make you immune (good for you) but I can hardly imagine what would be an attack on kashrut if not this.

I recommend reading this: http://www.jewishveg.com/media11.html

This particular story is set in the USA, but it underscores the ways that kosher slaughter can be substantially crueler than non-kosher.


AgriProcessors (probably the biggest scandal in the history of kosher meat) was a bad apple that did not even comply with kosher rules. This does not make kosher slaughter, done correctly, any worse than non-kosher.

I hardly need mention that comparable ordinary slaughterhouses have been accused of all kinds of cruelty on many more occasions.
posted by knoyers at 7:08 AM on December 13, 2010


From wikpedia: "There are those who feel that it is forbidden to have the animal in an upright position during shechita due to the prohibition of pressing. They feel that the animal must be on its back, lying on its side, suspended upside down by a rope or chain, or - as is done in most commercial slaughter houses - placed in a barrel like pen that restrains the animal's limbs while it is turned on its back for slaughter."

Certainly sounds humane to me. And if they make some mistake in the ritual through a slip of the knife, no problem, they just sell the meat to Gentiles. Folks and their pagan rituals LOL.
posted by JackFlash at 7:23 AM on December 13, 2010


AgriProcessors (probably the biggest scandal in the history of kosher meat) was a bad apple that did not even comply with kosher rules. This does not make kosher slaughter, done correctly, any worse than non-kosher.

I hardly need mention that comparable ordinary slaughterhouses have been accused of all kinds of cruelty on many more occasions.


Oh, I don't contest any of those points at all. I was just saying that AgriProcessors is an example of a situation where, if there were more secular laws regulating kosher slaughter, harm might have been avoided or at least more easily dealt with when discovered.

Personally, I would love to see all slaughterhouses more heavily regulated, including much heavier oversight, with the attendant costs either passed directly to the slaughterhouses or levied in the form of a tax on meat.

My main point is that, while I think legislators should consider religious practices when drafting laws, I don't think that those religious practices should be exempted from well-considered legislation.

And to be clear, I'm also not saying that I think the law in New Zealand was well-considered.
posted by 256 at 7:43 AM on December 13, 2010


Certainly sounds humane to me. And if they make some mistake in the ritual through a slip of the knife, no problem, they just sell the meat to Gentiles. Folks and their pagan rituals LOL.

I know you're making a joke here (though I'm not sure who the target is), but improperly slaughtering an animal is a violation of Jewish law regardless of who the meat is eventually sold to.
posted by 256 at 7:45 AM on December 13, 2010


I know you're making a joke here ...

I'm not making a joke. Porging is a very tedious and labor intensive procedure in which the hindquarters must be processed in a precise way to remove organs. Instead, to simplify things they just sell the easier forequarters to Jews and the unclean hindquarters to Gentiles. Everyone wins!
posted by JackFlash at 8:08 AM on December 13, 2010


Cite?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:12 AM on December 13, 2010


There's a whole lot of baby in the bathwater you just tossed out.

Could be that some of us just think the baby sucks too, and it should all be chucked.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:43 AM on December 13, 2010


No. Special. Rules. Or. Exemptions. On. Religious. Grounds.

None. At all. Ever.

The religious are not special people, their beliefs are most definitely not special, and it is a moral disgrace that they demand, and get, special treatment under the law.


The problem here is that not having some kind of process for acknowledging religious practices can lead to tyranny of the majority.

Say, for example, anti-headscarf laws. The majority can just say we don't like them, we ban them, and it is done. No special rules. Whatever their justification for the ban is becomes more important than the freedoms of the scarf wearers.

Meanwhile, people's right to wear what they want is harmed. Without a religious justification, these people probably would have no voice.

The truth is, on the other hand, that you are right for a different reason. We really shouldn't be making laws that have anything to do with religion or religious practice in the first place.
posted by gjc at 8:59 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Could be that some of us just think the baby sucks too, and it should all be chucked.

I await the meaningful contribution you have to this discussion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:24 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whackparsethis: Which makes it sound like the whole thing is an anti-semitic attack.

I think, you should pardon my saying so, that depends on you parsing it a particular way.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:09 AM on December 13, 2010


256 wrote: In the US, the USDA oversees these laws for all non-kosher slaughterhouses and the Orthodox Union oversees the kosher slaughterhouses.

I'm pretty sure this is not the case. The Orthodox Union is only one of a number of bodies that certify kosher food producers. Why would they supervise kosher slaughterhouses that supply their competitors? Furthermore, their skills lie in kosher food certification, not the civil laws relating to slaughterhouses in general. Finally, why would the USDA cede control to a religious body? It would be both a dereliction of duty and contravene the separation of Church and State.

A bit of Googling found this article about Agriprocessors, now closed. It says that the Agriculture Department did have its own inspectors there - ten of them - but that they were ineffective. I don't suppose federal inspectors at other slaughterhouses are more diligent or less likely to be suborned, so I presume that similar problems may exist at any slaughterhouse, kosher or non-kosher.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:21 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


craichead - It's handy, though, how you managed to work Israel into a discussion that has absolutely nothing to do with Israel. It really has become an all-purpose way to silence and discredit Jews, hasn't it?

Knock it off, no one is discussing the State of Israel here, I'm talking about Zwartz. The guy is a vocal activist, and his past statements are such that I consider him to have no credibility.

i_am_joe's_spleen- ...that depends on you parsing it a particular way.

Certainly you could read it as a softer statement, but I don't think he deserves that benefit of the doubt.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:38 PM on December 13, 2010


Decani, I'm glad that it's your opinion, and even though I'm not religious (in any way, shape, or for) I'm incredibly grateful that the decision is not up to you whether or not religious people should, or should not, be allowed to practice their faith.

There's a whole lot of baby in the bathwater you just tossed out.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:59 AM on December 13 [1 favorite +]


Okay, so you're one of those people who believe that mad people should be indulged. Noted without comment. Seriously though, please feel free to elucidate the details of the bathwater that's thrown out by exempting people with mad beliefs from the rules that apply to people without mad beliefs. I think I'd enjoy seeing that.
posted by Decani at 4:37 PM on December 14, 2010


Decani, it took me about half an hour to reply to your earlier post, because I had that hard of a time trying to decide if it would do any good to reply. The thing is, the way you're framing it (that all religious people are crazy) tells me there's absolutely no way to have any sort of discussion on this. As I said, I'm not religious, so I'd like to think I'm not (according to you) crazy, but then again I don't consider belief systems to be a sign of mental illness. Is there some stuff out there that I don't agree with? Yes, there is. On the other hand, I do agree with the idea of not forcing Quakers to go to war. I also wouldn't serve pork to a Jew, a Muslim, or a vegetarian, for that matter, because they would prefer not to eat it. I support the systems that allow people to practice their religion freely as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.

And "Noted without comment." Just stop that. If it was true, there'd have been three words in your post.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:59 PM on December 14, 2010


And "Noted without comment." Just stop that. If it was true, there'd have been three words in your post.

You appear to be struggling with the concept of an "in joke"
posted by Decani at 5:01 PM on December 14, 2010


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