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Jewish community takes food inspection agency to court over slaughter guidelines

A group of Kosher meat certification agencies are in court today to ask for an injunction against Canadian Food Inspection Agency guidelines for the ritual slaughter of animals. An Orthodox rabbi checks the quality of poultry meat in a Kosher slaughterhouse in Csengele, Hungary on Jan. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)

OTTAWA — A group of agencies that certify Kosher meat took the government to court Wednesday to ask for an injunction against Canadian Food Inspection Agency guidelines for the ritual slaughter of animals.

Kosher meat calls for animals to be slaughtered without being stunned.

While the Kosher method of slaughtering animals for meat is allowed in Canada, the food inspection agency posted guidelines in 2021 outlining how abattoirs must determine if an animal is unconscious and can no longer feel pain.

The Kosher groups argue that achieving the criteria is seriously slowing down production to the point abattoirs no longer want to provide the service, and has reduced access to Kosher meat in Canada.

"There are abattoirs that have ceased Kosher slaughter altogether because the risk of them being decertified as meat processing operators," said Shimon Koffler Fogel, president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Kosher beef production has dropped significantly and Kosher veal production has almost stopped completely, he said.

CIJA and the Kosher certifiers have asked for the court to suspend the guidelines on the basis that they violate the Charter Rights of Jewish Canadians.

"Canadian Jews’ access to essential kosher meat products is in jeopardy," the groups said in their court submission.

They also argue that the government has the science wrong.

The guidelines require abattoirs to repeatedly test for rhythmic breathing, eye movement and blinking, as well as check tongue movement, the animal's posture, and sounds the animal makes.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the government's website indicates the intention is to protect the animal's welfare.

"The licence holders who choose to conduct ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning at the establishment must fully understand all the associated animal welfare risks that can occur during the process and their responsibility in recognizing and controlling these risks," the guidelines state.

Jewish ritual slaughter practices are similar to Islamic practices for Halal meat, though Halal Monitoring Authority Canada hasn't seen a drop in the production.

The key distinction is that Halal practices allow the animal to be stunned after the initial cut if necessary. Still the group supports the Kosher certifiers' court action.

"We stand behind the Jewish community," said Shaykh Omar Subedar, a spokesperson for Halal Monitoring Authority Canada.

A Montreal court is scheduled to hear two days of arguments before it makes a decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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