By Sam Sokol, The Jerusalem Post
Jewish organizations in Australia have expressed confidence in their government’s protection of shechita (Jewish religious slaughter) after a parliamentary inquiry began looking into the certification and labeling of kosher, halal, vegetarian and genetically modified foods last week.
On Friday, the country’s senate heard testimony regarding the introduction of kosher and halal meat into the general food supply, prompting Sen. Cory Bernardi, a Liberal Party lawmaker who launched the inquiry, to state that some people could be distressed by unknowingly eating meat slaughtered according to a religious rite or if there were “prayers being said over it,” Australia’s Channel 7 reported.
“I can only imagine the outcry if it was a priest there with holy water,” Bernardi hypothesized.
No prayers are said during kosher slaughter.
In a statement on his website in May, Bernardi railed against halal certification, calling it a “racket” and claiming that people had been coerced into paying for a certification they did not want.
Also calling it a “religious tax,” he linked such certification to terrorism, asserting that in other countries “halal certification schemes have been used to fund organizations linked to proscribed extremist organizations….
We also know it has operated effectively as a religious tariff in order for Australian products to gain entry into certain markets.”
Despite being motivated by questions regarding halal food, the government probe was broadened to include various categories of products with certification.
Some Jewish organizations were initially wary, with a representative of Kosher Australia telling parliamentarians that one client almost jumped ship due to concerns over negative publicity, according to newspaper The Australian.
Bernardi was quoted as responding that he had not intended to cause problems for the Jewish organization but rather to “establish some facts and compare and contrast between the various certification authorities.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Rabbi Chaim Ingram of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales said: “I do not believe there is any threat to kashrut in Australia. I do not believe there was any anti-Semitism motivating Cory Bernardi’s statement, though I do think his statement betrays a regrettable ignorance of the shechita process.”
Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), agreed, telling the Post that his organization did “not believe that there is any current threat” to those practicing kashrut in Australia.
“We are not aware of any further inquiries into kosher foods,” Goot said, adding that he did not recall Bernardi’s reported statement regarding prayers during slaughter.
“We are entirely confident that Sen. Bernardi, who is a good friend of the community, is not motivated in any way by anti-Semitism,” he stated. “On the contrary.”
The ECAJ submitted a lengthy document explaining the basics of ritual slaughter and kashrut to the inquiry panel, which is expected to release its conclusions later this year.