Sunday, May 30, 2010

Letter to the Minister of Agriculture

Below is a letter that I just sent to the New Zealand Minister of Agriculture.

I will keep you posted if I get a response…

Hon David Carter,
Minister of Agriculture,

Dear Mr. Carter,

I read with dismay news reports of the new code of welfare for commercial slaughter which came into effect 28 May 2010.

According to the MAF web site ( ), all commercially slaughtered animals will require stunning before slaughtering.

As the minister is no-doubt aware, this will make Shechita (Kosher slaughtering) impossible in New Zealand, making New Zealand the only country in the world with a Jewish Community where kosher meat cannot be slaughtered locally or imported from neighbouring countries at a reasonable cost.

This issue has already received a lot of negative publicity globally, particularly in the Jewish and Israeli media.

As a New Zealand born Orthodox Jew who has elderly parents living in New Zealand who only eat kosher meat, I found it very distressing to hear that New Zealand, which has always prided itself on tolerance and acceptance of minorities, is now in effect making it practically impossible for people to observe the Jewish religion in the country. This will have a large impact on the daily life of my parents.

This is a sad break with the warm welcome that the New Zealand Jewish community has experienced in New Zealand for over 150 years, and is especially distressing in light of the high number of Jewish tourists or potential immigrants who will now feel unable to visit New Zealand without compromising their religious standards or being forced to adopt vegetarianism.

I realise that it is legal to import kosher beef (but not chicken) from Australia, but the Minister must be aware that the cost of imported meat is prohibitive and not a realistic option for many kosher-observant families in New Zealand.

As far as I am aware, there is no solution at all for Kosher poultry in New Zealand.

I hope that the minister will implement a clarification or solution which will safeguard the rights of the New Zealand Jewish community.

Yours sincerely,


Michael Sedley
Modi’in, Israel


Anonymous said...

Excellent letter Michael. I hope Mr Carter takes note of your points and changes his disciminatory policy.


Andrew said...

Kosher and Halal were introduced in the interests of animal and human welfare.

David Carter has made a uniform non-discriminatory regulation for the slaughter of all animals. He has done so in the interests of animal welfare. You may disagree with the evidence he used, but that is the case.

The question that I would put to believers is: Do you believe in the rules, or do you believe in what the rules are for?

Why not adopt the modern improvements?

Michael Sedley said...

Your argument misses two basic points:
Firstly if the rules were uniformly applied, how come there are exceptions for hunting and home-kill?
If the welfare of the animals was the only concern, surely that should be more important than a cruel sport like hunting.

Secondly, Jewish Kosher laws have not changed for thousands of years and there is scientific evidence that it is less painful for animals than stunning. But whether the current science is for or against shechita, Judaism regards these laws as G-d given, they aren't changed every time a government comes out with a new regulation.
So the answer to your question is that religious Jews regards the "rules" as G-d given, we believe in the rules (also known as “The Torah”), the "reason" for the rules is secondary.
There have been many "modern improvements" over the past 3000 years, but somehow the "rules" have stood the test of time.

It would be amazing arrogance to believe that these rules could be changed because of a current scientific trend.
What if next year scientists decide that stunning is not so painful after all? should we change the rules again?

Andrew said...


The uniformity is for commercial slaughter.

I guess you can only take one step at a time. I would agree that hunting should be banned and home-kill brought in line with commercial slaughter... by ending it in the interests of accountable standards.

As to never changing rules... I'm not sure I follow why its arrogant to suggest that improvements can be made.

I'm not going to argue about the non-specified scientific evidence you refer to. I could equally refer to specific studies that show pre-stunning is less distressing.

No, the real question I'm interested in is this: Why should some groups be exempt from legislation because they choose to believe something? Living in a democracy gives great freedom of expression. It does not afford us the ability to pick and choose the law of the land. Or does it?

Michael Sedley said...

Fair comments Andrew,
I agree with you that all citizens in a democracy are bound by the laws irrespective of their personal belief. However in a democracy the lawmakers have an obligation to consider the needs of minorities when making those laws.
With this in mind, the NZ Ministry of Agriculture set up a committee to investigate Religious slaughter methods to determine how the law should address these slaughter methods.
Report available here:
The conclusion of the report was that Shchita should be permitted, especially in light of voluntary steps taken by the Jewish Community within the confines of Jewish Law. This includes the way animals are handled prior to slaughter, and post-slaughter stunning.
The report indicated that to ban shechita would be in violation of New Zealand's Bill of Rights.
The Minister decided to ignore the recommendations of this report and ban shechita altogether. His basis was that the small size of the Jewish community did not justify an exception to the law.
It seems to me that this disregard for a small minority was an ill-considered and not in line with the multi-cultural tolerant society that New Zealand is.

My comments about Jewish Religious Laws not changing was trying to explain how Judaism works.
Judaism (at least Orthodox Judaism) is based on a set of ethical laws which have basically not changed for thousands of years, we believe that these laws are Divinely decreed, which means that we have no authority to change the law.
That said, these laws are regularly assessed to see how they can be applied in each age, for example, in the 16 Century it was decided that Polygamy, while technically permitted, would no longer be acceptable within the Jewish community. Similarly, there are many religious scholars who encourage steps like post-slaughter stunning, and humane handling of the animals in the hours prior to slaughter to lessen the distress to the animal in the final hours of its life.