“You may slaughter from your cattle and sheep…as I have commanded you.” (Devarim 12:21)
Shechita is the Jewish religious, humane method of slaughtering permitted animals and poultry for food. It is mandated in the Torah – the source of all Jewish Law. It is the only method of producing kosher meat and poultry allowed by Jewish law. The source is the above verse in this week’s portion. The precise method has been handed done, by Oral Tradition, since Moses, as conveyed in the above verse.
Shechita is performed by a highly trained Shochet. The procedure consists of a rapid and expert transverse incision with an instrument of surgical sharpness (a chalaf), which severs the major structures and vessels at the neck. This causes an instant drop in blood pressure in the brain and results in the irreversible cessation of consciousness. Therefore, Shechita renders the animal insensible to pain, and dispatches and exsanguinates in one swift action.
English and European law requires an animal to be stunned before regular slaughter. The mechanical methods that are used are captive bolts for large animals. The animal is shot in the head by a steel bolt that renders it unconscious. Smaller animals are stunned by gas or electric calipers. Poultry are first shackled upside-down and then receive an electric shock by immersing their heads in a water-trough through which a voltage is passed. These methods are not perfect and there is a percentage of times where the stun or electric shock has failed and the animals suffers in pain before the bolt-gun is reloaded, or the electric tongs reapplied.
A kosher animal/bird must be healthy and uninjured at the time of shechita. All the mechanical methods outlined above are forbidden in shechita because they cause injuries to the animal or bird before slaughter. It must also be definite that the animal has been slaughtered by shechita alone and its death is not caused by, or in conjunction with, another method.
The law in the UK recognises that these “conventional” stunning methods are not permitted for kosher food and legislates for shechita to be exempted from such stunning, provided the animal is “shechted” by a duly licensed Shochet. As mentioned above, when the shechita incision is made, it severs the major organs, arteries and veins, thereby causing a massive and immediate drop in blood-pressure in the brain. At the moment that blood-flow to the brain is lost, all awareness ceases and there can be no recovery from unconsciousness. Thus, although shechita is not a conventional stun, it provides the equivalent.
We make no claim that shechita is the most humane method of slaughter. It is, however, a humane method and justly protected in law. For further information: https://www.shechitauk.org/