←Go back to RSPCA

RSPCA Australia knowledgebase

RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase

Search:     Advanced search

What is Kosher slaughter in Australia?

Article ID: 117
Last updated: 02 Oct, 2014
Add comment
Views: 36266
Comments: 0

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):

  • For cattle, stunning is still required but this occurs immediately after the throat is cut. Two separate slaughtermen must be present: one to perform the cut (which must sever both the carotid arteries and jugular veins) and one to perform the stunning.
  • For sheep, no stunning is not required except where the animal is distressed or does not rapidly lose consciousness, in which case they must be immediately stunned.

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
Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption


This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person's unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
Add comment
Also read
document What do we mean by humane killing or slaughter?
document What is Halal slaughter in Australia?
document RSPCA Policy G1 Humane killing
document Is religious slaughter legal?
document How are animals killed for food?
document What is the standard of animal welfare at Australian abattoirs?
document How do I contact the Minister for Agriculture to ask for improvements in farm animal welfare?

Prev   Next
What is Halal slaughter in Australia?     What is mastitis in dairy cows?