Kosher describes what is ‘fit and proper’ for people of the Jewish faith to consume. Kosher food laws are based on interpretation of the Bible and the Torah, the Judaic scriptures, and set out a range of beverages and foods (including meat) that are acceptable to drink and eat.
For meat to be Kosher, the animal must be slaughtered in a particular way, so the Rabbi in a Kosher abattoir is a specially trained religious slaughterer. The animal must be killed so it feels little pain. A very sharp knife is used to cut the oesophagus, the trachea, carotid arteries and jugular veins in one smooth action. There must be no pause during the action nor excessive pressure on the blade. Failure to meet these specific requirements renders the animal unkosher.
The national standard for meat production in Australia is that all animals must be effectively stunned (unconscious) prior to slaughter. Kosher slaughter does not comply with this standard.
Exemptions from pre-slaughter stunning requirements
There are a small number of abattoirs in Australia that have been granted permission from the relevant State or Territory food authority to conduct religious slaughter without prior stunning – for Kosher or Halal purposes (although the vast majority of Halal slaughter includes prior stunning). These ‘approvals’ are effectively exemptions to standard Australian slaughter practice. The proportion of animals slaughtered under these exemptions is very small, but nevertheless that any animals are slaughtered without stunning is of concern to the RSPCA.
For cattle and sheep, the requirements for religious slaughter without prior stunning are set out in a nationally adopted guideline Ritual Slaughter for Ovine (Sheep) and Bovine (Cattle):
The requirements for cattle and sheep are different because cattle take longer than sheep to lose consciousness as they have an extra blood supply to the brain at the back of the neck running along the vertebrae.
A small number of specialised poultry processors conduct Kosher slaughter without stunning to produce Kosher chicken.
The RSPCA is concerned there are much greater risks of an animal suffering during slaughter without stunning than for conventional slaughter. Slaughtering an animal while fully conscious requires additional handling and restraint and means that the animal will experience pain associated with the throat cut and subsequent bleeding out. For these reasons, the RSPCA is strongly opposed to all forms of slaughter that do not involve prior stunning of the animal.
What you can do to help
It is the state/territory food authority that provides abattoirs with special permission to conduct religious slaughter without prior stunning. If you are opposed to slaughter without prior stunning, please contact your state/territory Minister for Agriculture to make your views known.
For further information see:
Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Livestock at Slaughtering Establishments
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