It has been difficult times for the meat production industry in Australia. On the back of a TV documentary showing animal abuse in Indonesia of livestock that had been exported from Australia, the Government immediately halted an industry that is a very significant contributor to the Australian economy. The flow on effect of this shotgun reaction (no pun intended), has yet to be felt.
Today the issue of religious slaughter (kosher and halal) was the lead story of Melbourne’s newspaper, the Age. Coverage on this issue can be found on Galus Australis. In the linked article you can see a quote from one of the three major kosher butchers in Victoria. It reads “Western Australian abattoirs have already stopped facilitating schechita. There it was a ‘profit-driven’ issue – the kosher market is too small to argue with the publicity-sensitive meat industry.”
Indeed this is the case. It is nothing to do with regulation; kosher shechitah is entirely legal in Western Australia at this point in time. However it would appear that rather than have any questions asked it is easier for companies to disassociate themselves from religious meat production.
Without local facilities, the community is left with no option but to obtain imported meat. There are two local sources of kosher meat production now strangleholed by the decision of a company to no longer continue to provision kosher abbatoir facilities, and it could be some time before local shechitah is again available, if at all.
This is a matter of concern for Perth Jewry, albeit that to date no public discussion on the matter has been facilitated within the community itself. It should not be cause for alarm. In fact it could be simply a matter of finding the right business opportunity for a meat producer. At a communal level, perhaps it is time to reinvest in infrastructure for kosher food production, in the same way that the community invests in the provision of other facilities.
One thing the local Jewish community must continally assert is that it is a religious freedom to practice shechitah, as much as it is a religious freedom to practice religious prayer, religious burial, and brit milah.
The community must also be prepared to educate the critics of kosher slaughter, particularly regarding the matter of stunning. I have had the opportunity to participate in shechitah and to see first hand how much care and attention is directed towards the concerns of the welfare of the animal. Even the laws of shechitah themselves require an intensive conditioning of the shochet to be both mentally and physically prepared to carry out his task. Any association between shechitah and animal brutality is entirely false and unjustified. Click Here to view the ECAJ fact sheet.
It is not “mission critical” for Perth Jewry to have locally sourced shechitah, however it is convenient, cost effective, and, in the longer term, important to the overall mix of facilities within our community. Here’s hoping that new solutions can be found and that the shechitah trade will again be locally provisioned.