Royal plea to PM on ritual slaughter

| 02/11/2009 | Reply

LORNA EDWARDS

November 1, 2009

PRINCESS Alia bint
al-Hussein of Jordan has appealed to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to stop
the ritual slaughter of conscious animals for halal meat in Australia.

She said its continuation would set back attempts to improve animal welfare in the Middle East.

The princess, sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, told The Age
she had written to Mr Rudd to voice her concerns that any lowering of
animal welfare standards in Australia for religious reasons would be a
blow to Australia’s reputation and undermine progress in the region.

She
said killing without stunning ”may meet the personal preferences of a
minority”, but was ”not necessary” under Islamic principles.
Australia exports 1.3 million tonnes of red meat, of which 382,000
tonnes is certified halal.

The Australian standard on ritual
slaughter for halal and kosher meat states that animals must be
rendered unconscious by electrical stunning before their throats are
cut. But under a disputed federal guideline, the Government has allowed
at least four Victorian abattoirs exemptions to kill without stunning
to fulfil Middle Eastern export contracts over the past two years.

The
Primary Industries Ministerial Council of federal and state agriculture
ministers will discuss the issue in Perth on Friday, but opponents of
killing without stunning are concerned that exemptions will be allowed
to continue, or the standard will be changed.

The previous
government ordered a review of ritual slaughter in 2007, but federal
Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke has not released the review report
and is yet to decide on the issue.

Princess Alia said she
believed Mr Rudd had a genuine interest in animal welfare and had
assisted Jordan with upgrading equipment – previously provided by
Australia – that she considered inhumane at the main abattoir in the
Jordanian capital, Amman.

Jordan imports more than a million live sheep and cattle from Australia each year.

Mr Burke said agriculture ministers would receive an update on technical details at Friday’s meetings.

”There
are a variety of views within Islam as to what constitutes halal food,
and a similar range of views in Judaism as to what constitutes kosher
food,” he said. ”It’s not for government to adjudicate over these
differences, but it is our role within the spectrum of faiths in
Australia to promote the most humane practices.”

But Princess
Alia said Muslims who believed animals could not be stunned before
slaughter for halal meat were not educated about the true teachings of
Islam.

”I say this based on several fatwas and extensive
discussions with the Islamic authorities who are qualified to pronounce
upon such matters,” she said.

Mr Burke has faced increasing
pressure over the ritual slaughter issue. A Labor backbencher, member
for Fremantle Melissa Parke, tabled a question in Parliament last week
asking why exemptions to the ritual slaughter standard were granted and
what consultations had taken place with religious groups.

Ms Parke told The Age she believed all slaughter for meat production, ritual or otherwise, should require stunning under the Australian standard.

”There
is no excuse for the mistreatment of animals, especially when ritual
slaughter for religious reasons can be – and is being – conducted in
keeping with humane animal welfare standards.”

She said her view
was consistent with Labor Party principles and that at the recent ALP
conference the party had adopted an animal welfare protection statement
stipulating that animals should be treated humanely.

Category: Australia, Halal Integrity, Middle East & Africa

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