Sunday, May 30, 2010

Something’s not quite Kosher in New Zealand

Growing up in New Zealand, from time to time I would work as a Mashgiach for the schichta of chickens.

Every few months I would drive up to a large industrial chicken processing plant together with the Shaliach (who was also a shochet) and a few other individuals, and in the course of the morning we would process about 1000 kosher chickens which would serve the needs of the Jewish community for the next several months.

There were a few times that I also watched cows being processed (although not shechted) when the regular mashgiach was unavailable.

There is only a small kosher community in New Zealand (which includes my parents), however according to news reports (and in the JPost) recent legislation that just went into effect will make kosher chickens completely unavailable in New Zealand and kosher beef or lamb would have to be imported from Australia, making it prohibitively expensive (details of legislation here).

According to the reports, Shcheta will be completely banned in New Zealand, and the import of chickens will continue to be banned. There will be no exceptions, in spite of the fact that page 45 of the new regulations notes that:

NAWAC (the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee) is obligated under s. 73 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to take into account "the requirements of religious practices or cultural practices or both."

It is also agains the2001 recommendations of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (which is under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry).

There are currently very few Western countries that have banned Shechita, and the few countries with Jewish Communities where kosher meat is not available locally, such as Norway and Sweden, are able to import kosher meat from neighbouring countries at a reasonable cost.

Because of the geographic isolation of New Zealand, importing meat from Australia in the small quantities required for the Jewish community is unreasonably expensive. I cannot even imagine what the cost would be in running an event like a Bnei Akiva Shabbaton or camp, or a communal seder for the thousands of Israeli tourists who visit New Zealand each year.

That the New Zealand government would pass such legislation without considering the needs of a small minority of its citizens is nothing short of outrageous.

The New Zealand Jewish Council and the local rabbinate are currently appealing the law, I certainly hope that the government backtracks on this decision and an apology, or at least a clarification is forthcoming.

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