Saturday, August 17, 2019 -
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Alleviating guilt through shechitah ban

Why do countries outlaw shechitah? Is it because of animal welfare, as they claim? Or is it xenophobia, as we suggested in our previous blog posting. The early shechitah bans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries coincided with migration of East European Jews to Central Europe, and today’s bans are in large part a reaction to Muslim migration.

But we think there’s a second reason for this spate of anti-shechitah (and generally anti-religious) measures. We posed the following question last week: Would the same person who vociferously opposes shechitah equally support a ban on hunting? If that person is an animal rights activist, the answer would be an unequivocal ‘yes’. But what about the meat eaters out there who, when the the topic turns to shechitah or halal, suddenly become overly concerned with animal welfare? As we pointed out last week, many such people are suffering from xenophobia.

But they’re also suffering from a guilt complex. People – especially those living in highly-developed, wealthy, increasingly green-centric Western European countries – feel guilty about eating meat, especially as the horrific practices of mass (factory) farming become more known. (An excellent book about this topic is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, though it’s almost exclusively about factory farming in the US.)

And therein lies a second, more contemporary, reason behind these movements to ban seemingly ‘barbaric’ rights belonging to ‘foreign’ peoples: It makes people feel better about their own lack of morality. Finger pointing is always a useful diversionary tactic.

Many meat consumers know that mass farming is a horrific experience for the animal, but abstaining altogether from the consumption of meat is a step most aren’t willing to take. So instead of confronting their own shortcoming, it’s far easier to fixate on a singular aspect, such as stunning, that enables some consumers to feel superior to others. Suddenly it’s shechitah that’s inhumane, not the average consumer’s participation in the meat industry.

Banning ritual slaughter fulfills a dual purpose: it keeps out the foreigner, while assuaging guilt for eating animals. And for many, especially in the increasingly secular societies of Western Europe, if the little matter of religious freedom gets in the way, well, then away with it.

Read our Part One of our discussion on the shechitah ban:
Xenophobia masquerading as animal welfare

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