THE manager of a Perth abattoir, which until recently supplied the local community with kosher beef, this week denied that the decision to halt shechita had been prompted by the current debate over animal welfare.
Rumours have been circulating that Gingin Meatworks had stopped the practice at its plant amid calls for religious slaughter to be banned.
However, abattoir manager Adam Hill insisted the decision was taken purely on business grounds. “It was a commercial decision, we are doing a lot of bigger lines of cattle,” Hill told The AJN. “A decision was made to cease the smaller lines.”
The AJN understands kosher slaughter was carried out approximately once a month at the abattoir for decades. But Hill said, “It is not a big part of our business.”
When asked whether the decision was related to agitation around the humanity of religious slaughter and concerns about the treatment of meat for live export, Tate firmly denied there was a connection.
However Bernard Bettane, the owner of Perth’s Kosher Food Centre, said Gingin management told him the decision was linked to the recent debate. “The beef had to stop due to the Indonesian outcry,” Bettane told The AJN.
He said abattoir management told him, “We won’t do it until things settle down,” and they said “It’s too small a business to take a big risk.”
Perth Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Dovid Freilich, also head of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, said he too believed the decision was linked to animal rights concerns.
“I spoke to them, they explained to me with the sensitivity of the moment with agriculture groups – and shechita here is minuscule – they said risking the ire and anger of animal lobbyists who were watching very closely would not be worthwhile for their business,” Rabbi Freilich said.
The rabbi said he would write a letter appealing the decision to Gingin Meatworks’ management. He said the costs of setting up shechita and the long distances in West Australia, will make finding another suitable abattoir for kosher slaughter difficult.
However, Lenny Zeilinger, head of the Kashrut Authority of WA, said the search for a new facility had begun.
The community already sources kosher lamb and poultry from interstate. In the meantime, beef from Melbourne is being sold at both the Kosher Food Centre and Coles Flinders Square, which from this week will also stock kosher poultry.
Coles manager Clint Jones said the store is building its kosher range and has 65 red meat and 10 poultry products available. He said talks have also begun with a local bakery for kosher bread to be sold at the supermarket.
Shechita is legal in Australia, even though halachically, cattle and sheep cannot be pre-stunned as is required in non-kosher slaughter. Many studies have indicated that kosher slaughter is as humane, if not more so, than pre-stunning. Animal rights, particularly those of cattle exported for slaughter in Indonesia, has made headlines since an ABC program exposed inhumane treatment of Australian cattle overseas.