Reform Jewish movement under fire for opposing kosher slaughter

Shechita UK blasts report presented to Reform Movement leaders which called for pre-stunning of animals, as opposed to traditional slaughter.

By World Israel News Staff

A report by the Reform Movement in Britain came under fire last week after it suggested traditional Jewish slaughter be replaced.

The row began after the UK-based Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors issued a report endorsing the pre-stunning of animals before slaughter, a step which would effectively render the slaughter not kosher.

In an opinion piece published by The JC, the chairman of the committee behind the report, Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue, suggested that traditional slaughter may be inferior to modern techniques, adding that the time may have come for Jews to integrate pre-stunning into their meat-production process.

“Shechita — involving the use of a razor sharp knife by a trained expert — is certainly very good, but not as good. For centuries, shechita was better and the problem for Jews today is which method to prefer, given this change,” Romain wrote.

“The report concludes that — looked at objectively — pre-stunning is almost certainly better for animals. If rabbis refuse to adopt it, then Jews who value both pre-stunning and the practices of traditional kashrut have to make a choice: stick with non-stunned certified kosher meat or opt for pre-stunned meat from a permitted animal (and, ideally, organic).”

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“Those who wish both to reduce as much pain as possible for animals yet remain within the traditional framework of Jewish food face a dilemma. At present, it is simply impossible to do both. We each have to weigh up those competing values.”

“As methods of pre-stunning increasingly improve, so will demands to adhere to it from inside and outside the government. Rabbis of all groupings need to consider how best to adapt to the legal and moral challenges that will come our way,” he wrote.

Shechita UK, a joint effort of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the National Council of Shechita Boards, and the Campaign for the Protection of Shechita, slammed the report and demanded its immediate withdrawal.

Shimon Cohen, director of Shechita UK, castigated the report, calling it “potentially dangerous” and a “reckless disgrace.”

“The woeful ignorance displayed in this article, which has attempted to take a definitive stance on a complex and conflicting body of scientific evidence, is a potentially dangerous interference and is frankly a reckless disgrace”.

The Reform committee behind the report, Cohen continued, “made no meaningful attempt to engage with experts, to study the science or understand the political landscape in order to understand any of these issues. This article is a cheap and destructive media gimmick or at best a shocking display of ignorance and political pandering. In no way is it a serious engagement around animal slaughter or freedom of religious practice. We call for its withdrawal.”

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Members of the committee which drafted the report downplayed its significance, saying that it did not represent a change in the Reform Movement’s official policy vis-à-vis kosher slaughter.

“We talk through a whole range of issues throughout the year and the paper referred to was but one of a number of discussion documents we review from time to time,” committee members rabbis Kathleen Middelton and James Baaden wrote in a letter to The JC. “We do not plan to change our current position on shechita.”