Kosher slaughter in NZ gets interim reprieve

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 12th August 2010

A New Zealand judge has ruled that shechita kosher slaughter practices in New Zealand can resume until a lawsuit filed against Agriculture Minister David Carter comes to trial, most likely next year.

Justice Dennis Clifford of Wellington’s High Court confirmed to the Jerusalem Post that the Crown Law Office, who will represent Carter, had reached an agreement on the subject.

“We are pleased to report that an agreement for interim relief from the terms of the present Commercial Slaughter Code was reached in court,” an unnamed representative of the New Zealand Jewish community told the JP. “This enables the continued practice of shechitah in New Zealand until the matter comes to trial – likely to be in 2011.”

New Zealand Jewish Council chairman Geoff Levy said the interim agreement was “a positive outcome” for the 7,000-strong New Zealand Jewish community.

“Every effort is being made to get chicken and local lamb back on the table as soon as possible,” he said.

Expected legal proceedings were filed last week, after shechita slaughter was effectively banned under stringent changes to the Commercial Slaughter Code on May 28, which disallowed the slaughter of any animal without its first being stunned.

The code was prepared for the Minister by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), chaired by John Hellstrom. “The code requires all animals slaughtered commercially in New Zealand to be stunned prior to killing. This is to ensure animals at slaughter are treated humanely and in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge,” he said in a statement at the time.

The report on the Code, also issued by NAWAC, specifically recommended that there be no dispensation from the requirement that all animals being slaughtered commercially be stunned prior to slaughter for shechita producers, a recommendation supported by the Minister.

New Zealand’s Agriculture Minister, David Carter, an innovative cattle breeder with more than 30 years farming experience, has acquired a reputation as a passionate advocate of animal welfare, as expressed in a speech last year.

Currently, in Australia, kosher meats are produced by stunning the animal after the throat has been cut. This softer option was assessed in the NAWAC’s report on the code, but ultimately abandoned in favour of a complete ban, for reasons that are not made explicit in the report.

Despite its wide-reaching effects, a spokesperson from New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry told AFN, at the time of the ban, that the kosher slaughter industry in New Zealand was “quite a small market”, and described the new code as “a confirmation of existing practices”.