Livestock cruelty allegation forces exports probe

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September 7, 2012

Livestock exporters are being investigated after allegations that Australian sheep are being illegally sold and slaughtered in an inhumane way at a notorious Kuwait market.

It is the second major Agriculture Department investigation since strict new animal welfare rules were implemented after last year’s cattle slaughter controversy in Indonesia.

A photo taken at the Kuwait market. Photo: Animal Australia

Animals Australia lodged the complaint after the animal protection organisation’s Kuwaiti investigator discovered exported sheep were being sold in non-approved markets and killed in makeshift abattoirs, with slaughtermen ignoring international killing guidelines.

The case has again raised concerns from activists, Labor backbenchers, the Greens and independents that the new rules rely too much on self-regulation by the industry.

Exporters now must comply with rules that assure high animal welfare standards from farm to slaughter. All animals are tracked so officials know that animals are slaughtered in approved facilities.

Exporters must have supply chains independently audited, with the audit results given to the Agriculture Department.

The investigation has heightened fears over animal welfare with the upcoming Muslim festival of sacrifice, Eid al-Adha less than two months away.

Animals Australia lead campaigner Lyn White warned the festival was the peak period of animal suffering across the region and called on the government to implore exporters to have staff in every market place to ensure animals are not sold into non-approved facilities.

‘‘Animals being bought en mass for sacrificial slaughter by families and individuals. We hold grave concerns that Australian exported animals will continue to find their way into markets, in breach of regulations,’’ Ms White said.

Many in the industry are also worried about the potential for more cruelty in October.

Labour backbenchers Melissa Parke and Kelvin Thomson have led a vocal campaign against the trade with both seizing on the latest revelations as evidence the industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate.

Ms Parke, and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, backed calls for Australian officials to be in the Middle East to monitor welfare during the festival.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the new system was working but was ‘‘not perfect’’ conceding there would be slip-ups.

‘‘But we now have the provisions in place to act on those slip ups and hold exporters accountable for their actions and supply chains,’’ Senator Ludwig said.

The department of agriculture is currently investigating alleged breaches of strict new animal welfare The celebration of Eid al-Adha in the Middle-East involves a slaughtering of an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat, to commemorate Abraham’s act of faith to sacrifice his son. The festival runs from the evening of October 25 to the next night.

Animals Australia has previously uncovered cruelty during the festival, including sheep being dragged along the ground and stuffed into car boots.

Ms White said hundreds of Australian sheep were sold last month at the non-approved Al-Rai market in Kuwait City, the market where she uncovered cruelty in 2010.

Describing the killing of a sheep, she said: ”With the buyer and [his] family crowded into the room to observe, the handling of this sheep included dragging it over and placing it next to and then on top of other just-slaughtered sheep … to prepare it for the throat cut.”

She said the slaughter-man used a knife that was too short, with a fast sawing action, not the quick ”sticking” of the neck required by international rules.

Ms White said the offences were ”critical non-compliances” that could lead to criminal sanctions, adding that the fact that hundreds of Australian sheep were seen at four different sites on two days showed a ”systematic and deliberate breach”.

”The government will no doubt again say that this shows the system is working but how can that be the case when breaches are only being reported by Animals Australia.

Emanuel Exports and its sister company International Livestock Exports are the only businesses currently exporting to Kuwait. Emanuel Exports would not comment until the investigation was finished.

Earlier this year two exporters were found to have breached the rules in Indonesia after Animals Australia investigations.

Mr Thomson said he would raise questions about the case when Parliament resumes next week.

”The selling and slaughter of animals outside approved supply chains is a serious breach of the new system and exporters who allow it should have their export licence taken off them,” Mr Thomson said.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie will introduce a bill in Parliament on Monday to mandate pre-slaughter stunning of all Australian animals overseas.

He said this case made a ”mockery” of the government’s efforts to clean up the trade.

An Agriculture Department spokesman said the investigation would take weeks.

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EU: Polish attorney general wants probe into halal, kosher slaughter

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Polish Attorney General Andrzej Seremet has asked the Constitutional Tribunal to review whether halal and kosher ritual slaughter violates the country’s animal treatment laws, local media reported Friday.

Seremet said the Agriculture Ministry violated the constitution when it allowed halal and kosher slaughter houses to kill animals without stunning them first, as is required by Polish law.

Animal rights activists asked Seremet to review the issue, saying the methods were cruel and caused animals unnecessary pain.

Muslims and Jews kill animals for meat in ritual slaughter with a single quick cut to the throat that they believe minimizes the animal’s pain and suffering.

There are some 20 slaughter houses in Poland that kill animals using halal and kosher methods to provide meat for the country’s small Muslim and Jewish communities and for export to countries like Turkey and Israel, TVN 24 reported.

President Bronislaw Komorowski has spoken up against Dutch plans to outlaw the practice, which he said “targets the Muslim and Jewish community.”

European Union laws require animals to be stunned before they are killed, but make an exception for ritual slaughter.

Meanwhile, according to Polskie Radio today, in Poland, the country’s attorney general, Andrzej Seremet, has submitted an application to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal after a number of non-governmental organizations claimed that the Ministry of Agriculture had “exceeded its legal rights” in creating an exception for ritual slaughter from the requirement that animals be stunned before they are slaughtered.
In May, Poland’s Agricultural Minister Marek Sawicki

Kosher and Halal slaughter unconstitutional in Poland?

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Poland’s Attorney General says the practice of Kosher and Halal ritual slaughter violates the nation’s animal protection act.

Andrzej Seremet has now submitted an application to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, a supervisory judicial body that resolves disputes in the country’s laws, so that the matter can be reviewed.

Seremet was requested to investigate the matter by a number of non-governmental organisations including the Viva! Animal Rights Foundation.

According to Polish law, animals must be stunned prior to being slaughtered.

However, when butchering animals to create halal meat, Muslims traditionally follow the rite of killing the animals with a single cut to the throat, with no stunning beforehand.

The same process is applied by Jews so as to create kosher meat.

Although Polish law holds that animals must be stunned before being slaughtered, an exception in the law allows this to be waived where ritual slaughter is concerned.

Robert Hernand, spokesman for the Attorney General, told the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily that the Ministry of Agriculture had “exceeded its legal rights” by adopting this exception.

Nevertheless, during the Conference of European Rabbis in Poland in 2011, President Bronislaw Komorowski appeared to defend the practice by speaking out against Dutch plans to outlaw ritual slaughter.

Poland’s head of state said the Dutch bill “targets the Muslim and Jewish community” and represents “a crisis of tolerance” in Europe.

At present, an EU directive on animal slaughter calls for stunning prior to the kill, but the directive allows for exceptions where ritual slaughter is concerned.

Sweden has banned outright kills made without the animal being stunned beforehand, as have non EU states Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Holland has yet to pass legislation on the matter. 

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Dutch Senate ratifies deal allowing shechitah

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“And just how are we to know that said animal lost consciousness within 40 seconds?? Seems a bit late to stun them after their throat has been slit…as soon as that knife touches skin, they will feel the pain!! Sorry I don’t agree with this at all! Is the meat going to be labeled as such??”

The Dutch senate voted to approve a deal to allow ritual slaughter in the Netherlands.

Tuesday’s vote came after leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities in the Netherlandsigned off on a compromise with the government.

File photo of packaged kosher meat.

The agreement signed on June 5 allows ritual slaughter if the animals lose consciousness within 40 seconds of their throats being cut. After that, they must be stunned – rendering them non-kosher and non-Halal.Representing the Jewish community at the signing was NIK, the Organization of Jewish Communities in The Netherlands – an umbrella group. The organization’s representatives signed the agreement with Dutch Agriculture Minister Hans Bleker.

The European Jewish Congress welcomed the ratification of the agreement.

“This is a momentous agreement and we hope this will serve as a paradigm and precedent for all countries in Europe and the European Union,” Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said Wednesday.

In December, the leader of the Dutch Animal Rights Party, Marianne Thieme, withdrew a bill that would have required stunning of all animals before slaughter. The measure had passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June 2011. A majority of senators had expressed their objection to the ban before its withdrawal.

Dutch law requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes an exception for Muslim halal and Jewish shechitah. The Animal Rights Party says that more than 2 million animals are ritually slaughtered each year in the country.

The European Union requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter. Nevertheless, ritual slaughter is banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

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Netherlands: compromise on ritual slaughter

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After years of heated argument and increased polarization, the parties sat down in front of invited journalists to sign a carefully agreed covenant. The Jewish and Muslim representatives shook hands and, relieved, signed their names to the document.

A new covenant aims to allow Jews and Muslims to continue to perform ritual slaughter of animals while answering the broadly supported call to prevent animal suffering.

In this case, Jews and Muslims were on the same side. The covenant they signed, along with Deputy Minister of Agriculture Henk Bleker, is a compromise that will allow Jews and Muslims in the Netherlands to continue the practice of ritual slaughter.

Strictly observant Muslims and Jews believe they can only eat meat from animals which have been slaughtered according to strict rules. For instance, the animals cannot be stunned prior to the slaughter, and they must be killed by having their neck cut with a knife. Defenders of animal rights believe animals slaughtered in this way suffer unduly.

Earlier this year, the lower house of the parliament passed by a wide majority a law introduced by the Animal Rights Party (PvdD) that would have banned ritual slaughter in the Netherlands outright. Passage of the law was seen as a milestone in the burgeoning animal rights movement. But this week, the Senate was set to reject the proposed law.

That a majority in the Senate are against the ban was met with great relief in the Muslim and Jewish communities. But it did not solve the issue. Since the law had passed the lower house by such a wide margin, the Senate’s imminent rejection is seen as obstructionist, an uncommon interference by a body of the government which is not directly elected. It would have thwarted the public will. The Deputy Minister of Agriculture promised to find a compromise which would satisfy the objections of the Senate (that the ban infringed on the right to religious freedom) while meeting the will of the lower house to limit the suffering of animals.

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The struggle to protect their rights as religious minorities has also brought the Jewish and the Muslim community closer together. Both have been pleased with the cooperation. Assuming the ritual slaughter compromise holds, religious communities of all stripes would be encouraged to join together in protecting their rights as minorities in a broadly secular society

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Vet outraged by ritually slaughtered meat served at National Conference

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The Australian Veterinary Conference was held at the National Convention Centre in Canberra during May this year.

For one vet the conference ran smoothly up to the final day, when a Muslim delegate complained that they were not able to eat the meals because they were not halal. The Management of the National Convention Centre proceeded to reassure the delegate that the National Convention Centre only served halal meat and he could have eaten the meals.

Dr. Melville-Smith said the response from the management of the National Convention Centre left him in a state of shock. “When I heard that I had been served with ritually slaughtered meat (halal), without the food being labelled or being informed that I would be served with halal meat.”  He said

“This is a National Conference of Veterinarians whose core beliefs and concerns are for animal welfare and we are served ritually slaughtered meat.”

“It is outrageous.” “To be halal, the Koran says an animal must have its throat slit whilst still alive and conscious (not stunned) to ensure it ‘properly’ bleeds to death. The Australia Veterinary Associations policy (15.16) on humane slaughter of animals is: “Regardless of religion or cultural beliefs, animals must be humanely rendered unconscious prior to exsanguination.”

“Only a Muslim slaughterman may slit the throat of the animal and he must do so whilst facing Mecca and reciting a short prayer: “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar

“I, like most Australians, do not subscribe to these medieval beliefs and I strongly object to intrusion of Islamic rituals into my food.

“The Muslim community makes up less than 2% of the Australian community, so any food prepared to cater to their religious requirements should be clearly labeled ‘Halal’ .

“The rest of us should be able to assume that their meat is not halal unless clearly labeled to the contrary.

“The fact that the Australian National Convention Centre in Canberra covertly fed Australian vets ritually slaughtered meat, is a disgrace.”

The RSPCA definition of humane killing is: ‘an animal must be either killed instantly or rendered insensible to pain until death supervenes’. When killing animals for food, this means they must be stunned before slaughter so they immediately become unconscious.

The RSPCA policy on ritual slaughter is clear: ‘slaughter without prior stunning is inhumane and completely unnecessary’.

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Dutch groups agree on ritual animal slaughter reforms

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THE HAGUE – Dutch Agriculture Deputy Minister Henk Bleker signed an agreement with religious leaders Tuesday to make ritual slaughter more humane, including stunning animals after 40 seconds.

“The agreement states that animals have to be unconscious 40 seconds after a cut to the neck has been performed,” Bleker’s ministry said in a statement, adding: “if not the case, the animal has to be stunned.”

The agreement also insisted the cut “had to be done with one fluid uninterrupted movement.

Plans by the Dutch Lower House for a law requiring animals to be stunned before halaal or kosher slaughter suffered a setback late last year when parliament’s Upper House, which has the final say, gave it the thumbs down, urging a compromise solution.

Bleker then met Dutch Muslim and Jewish representatives for a solution.

He said Tuesday’s accord was “a good balance … between religious freedom and the improvement of the welfare of animals.”

A scientific advice committee has also been set up to answer any questions about the agreement, which comes into force on Wednesday.

Dutch law requires animals to be stunned before butchering but makes an exception for ritual halaal and kosher slaughter.

In June last year, the Dutch Lower House voted in favour of an amended proposal by the country’s Party for the Animals (PvdD), which holds two seats in the 150-seat Lower House, for a law that all animals should be stunned.

The plan drew outrage from both the Muslim and Jewish communities, whose representatives insisted ritual slaughter respected the animals’ welfare and that those doing the slaughtering were expertly trained.

More than two million animals – mainly sheep and chickens – are ritually slaughtered in the Netherlands every year, according to the PvdD. Muslim groups dispute the figure, saying it is closer to 250,000

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