Human beings have engaged in animal husbandry and have slaughtered animals for food for thousands of years. During the majority of that time most societies had no animal welfare regulations that governed the care or slaughter of animals. Judaism is a notable exception in that from its earliest days it has included such rules. Among the Jewish dietary laws is a prohibition to consume meat from an animal that dies in any manner other than through the rigorously defined method of slaughter known as shechita. In recent decades more and more attempts have been initiated by governments around the world to either outright ban or to control and modify the practice of shechita. This paper presents the requisite background about shechita and then analyzes the ethics of some of the recent legislation. The analysis includes a rebuttal of the assertion that shechita is an inhumane method of slaughter. It further presents the consequences on the Jewish community of legislation to impose pre-slaughter stunning and explains why such legislation is unethical. The actual effect of labeling laws is discussed and it is shown why such laws are also un-ethical.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
In Poland such a ban was enacted in 1936 and then subsequently in each region as it fell to the Nazi war machine: Danzig in 1939, Belgium, Slovakia, and Luxenburg in 1940, Alsace in 1941.
Literally hundreds of pages in tens of volumes have been written to explain the two sides of this issue. This includes over 200 pages in the first volume of Weinberg’s Sridei Eish. A short summary of the issue can be found in: Sassoon (1955).
What is being discussed is the actual slaughter method. Pre-slaughter handling and restraint methods are not being discussed and it is possible that there are kosher slaughterhouses in which those can be improved from an animal welfare perspective.
Some groups, such as The Federation of European Veterinarians, have expressed strong opposition to shechita. But that must be seen in the context as being in opposition to their preferred method which includes pre-slaughter stunning. It is inconceivable, if they are honest, that they view properly done shechita as a “bad” method of slaughter. Of course, they may not have made the effort to see properly done shechita!
Unlike stunning laws, labeling should have little impact on kosher poultry of which very little is sold on the general market.
Bager, F., Braggins, T. J., Devine, C. E., & Graafhuis, A. E. (1992a). Onset of insensibility at slaughter in calves: Effects of electroplectic seizure and exsanguination on spontaneous electrocortical activity and indices of cerebral metabolism. Resaerch in Veterinary Science, 52, 162–173.
Bager, F., Braggins, T. J., Devine, C. E., & Graafhuis, A. E. (1992b). Onset of insensibility at slaughter in calves: Effects of electroplectic seizure and exsanguination on spontaneous electrocortical activity and indices of cerebral metabolism. Research in Veterinary Science, 52, 162–173.
Gibson, T. J., Johnson, C., Murrell, J., Chambers, J. P., Stafford, K. J., & Mellor, D. J. (2009a). Components of electroencephalographic responses to slaughter in halothane-anaesthetised calves: Effects of cutting neck tissues compared with major blood vessels. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 57, 84–89.
Gibson, T. J., Johnson, C., Murrell, J. C., Hulls, C. M., Mitchinson, S. L., Stafford, K. J., et al. (2009b). Electroencephalographic responses of halothane-anaesthetised calves to slaughter by ventral-neck incision without prior stunning. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 57, 77–83.
Gibson, T. J., Johnson, C., Murrell, J., Mitchinson, S. L., Stafford, K. J., & Mellor, D. J. (2009c). Electroencephalographic responses to concussive non-penetrative captive-bolt stunning in halothane-anaesthetised calves. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 57, 90–95.
Gibson, T. J., Johnson, C., Murrell, J., Mitchinson, S. L., Stafford, K. J., & Mellor, D. J. (2009d). Amelioration of electroencephalographic responses to slaughter by non-penetrative captive-bolt stunning after ventral-neck incision in halothane-anaesthetised calves. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 57, 96–101.
Golinkin, D. (Ed.). (1996). The Responsa of Professor Louis Ginzberg (pp. 146–150). NY: JTS Press.
Grandin, T. (1994). Euthanasia and slaughter of livestock. Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, 204, 1354–1360.
Grandin, T. (April 2010). Getting religious with slaughter. Meat & Poultry, 82. http://www.meatpoultry.com/Writers/Dr%20Temple%20Grandin/Getting%20religious%20with%20slaughter.aspx.
Grandin, T., Regenstein, J. M. (1994). Religious slaughter and animal welfare: A discussion for meat scientists (pp. 115–123). Meat Focus International.
Gregory, N. G., Wenzlawowiz, M. V., Alam, R. M., Anil, H., Yesildere, T., & Silva-Fletcher, A. (2008). False aneurysms in carotid arteries of cattle and water buffalo during shechita and halal slaughter. Meat Science, 79, 285–288.
Levinger, I. M. (1995). Shechita in the light of the year 2000: Critical review of the scientific aspects of methods of Slaughter and Shechita. Jerusalem, Israel: Maskil L’David.
Mellor, D. J., Gibson, T. J., & Johnson, C. (2009). A re-evaluation of the need to stun calves prior to slaughter by ventral-neck incision: An introductory review. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 57, 74–76.
Munk, M. L., & Munk, E. (Eds.). (1976). Shechita: Religious and historical research on the Jewish method of slaughter. NY: Gur Aryeh Publications.
Rosen, S. D. (2004). Physiological insights into Shechita. The Veterinary Record, 154, 759–765.
Sassoon, S. D. (1955). A critical study of electrical stunning and the Jewish method of slaughter (shechita). Letchworth, Herts.
Weiss Y. Y. (1978). Minchat Yitzchak [Hebrew]. Jerusalem.
Zivotofsky, A. Z. (2006). Legal-ease: What’s the truth about … Nikkur Achoraim? Jewish Action, 67(1), 58–62. http://www.ou.org/pdf/ja/5767/fall67/58-63.pdf.
Zivotofsky, A. Z. (2010). Religious rules and requirements—Judaism: DIALREL final report. Available at http://www.dialrel.eu/images/dialrel-wp1-final.pdf.
The author is grateful to Professor Joe M. Regenstein and Dr. Richard Reynnells for helpful suggestions on early drafts of his paper.
About this article
Cite this article
Zivotofsky, A.Z. Government Regulations of Shechita (Jewish Religious Slaughter) in the Twenty-First Century: Are They Ethical?. J Agric Environ Ethics 25, 747–763 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-011-9324-4
- Animal welfare
- Government regulations
- Religious slaughter