This seems to be my week for being very unhappy with the Government. This story actually offends me even more than the electoral finance changes. the electoral finance changes were at least made for the right reasons – to get bipartisan agreement on electoral law.
Readers may recall that earlier this year the Government banned certain methods of killing animals, which included shechita – the traditional Jewish method, which is necessary to have food as “kosher”.
I’d not commented on the issue previously as I felt a bit conflicted. I don’t believe in religious beliefs trumping laws, but I do think it is desirable to try and allow communities to practice traditional beliefs – within limits.
If it was purely an issue of animal welfare. I was content to leave it to the Government to find that balance between animal welfare and traditional practice. I’m not an expert on either.
But the article reveals:
A farming company part-owned by a Cabinet minister was able to give him a briefing about how the Government could protect its lucrative trade with Muslim countries by banning Jewish slaughtering.
This is where my blood boils. That it appears it was not animal welfare, but appeasing foreign Governments, that was part of the motivation for the law change. Now the Minister can’t control what people who lobby him say in their submissions to him, but what is disappointing is that he then referred to those concerns in documents to other Ministers.
Carter was being sued by the Auckland Hebrew Congregation for changing the law in May to make traditional Jewish slaughter of animals illegal. The case was set to begin in the High Court at Wellington tomorrow – until an embarrassing backdown by Carter who on Friday overturned the ban he asked Cabinet to support.
The practice of shechita on poultry was declared no longer illegal while the Government also agreed to negotiate the ban on sheep. New Zealand Jews will still have to import beef from Australia, where shechita is allowed.
Good to see a compromise. But my concern is not whether there is a ban or not, but about what was driving the ban.
Carter did not respond to requests for an interview.
In a statement he said: “Claims that business interests determined my decision on the Commercial Slaughter Code of Welfare are totally baseless. Animal welfare was the primary consideration in making this decision and I have said many times that animal welfare is a priority of mine.”
There is considerable wriggle room between trade interests “determining my decision” and “animal welfare was the primary consideration”. That does not rule out that trade interests were a strong secondary factor which influenced the decision, even if not determining it.