Sydeny, Australia - Royal Plea to PM on Ritual Slaughter
Sydney, Australia - 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.
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