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Submitted by Sardar Ravi Ranjan Singh 'Bharat Panthi' (India), Apr 15, 2010 at 10:49

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Mid-East princess in plea to Rudd on halal slaughter

LORNA EDWARDS

02 Nov, 2009 05:43 AM

THE King of Jordan's sister has appealed to the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to stop the ritual slaughter of conscious animals for halal meat in Australia, saying it was not necessary under Islamic principles.

Princess Alia bint al-Hussein of Jordan, who is the sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, said she had written to Mr Rudd saying that any lowering of animal welfare standards in Australia for religious reasons would be a blow to the country's reputation and undermine progress in the Middle East.

"Contrary to some claims, killing without stunning is not necessary under Islamic principles," she said.

The Australian standard on ritual slaughter for halal and kosher meat states that animals must first 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.

"Reducing [Australia's] standards to permit animals to be slaughtered while fully conscious may meet the personal preferences of a minority but it is not an example that will inspire positive change, nor encourage the acceptance of pre-slaughter stunning in the Middle East," she said.

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

The previous government ordered a review of ritual slaughter in 2007, but the present 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.

The Prime Minister's office had no comment yesterday.

Mr Burke said agriculture ministers would receive an update on technical detail on the issue 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 [the] 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 uneducated 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."

The Australian Meat Industry Council's veterinary counsel, John Dorian, said the council did not have the technical or religious expertise to make value judgments on ritual slaughter.

"Our position is that we will comply with the Australian standard and we expect the people who write the Australian standard and the policymakers who direct the standard basically to get it right," he said.

"Obviously as an export industry in Australia, we are always cognisant of the rest of the world's view of what we do and we try to do it the best way we can."

Princess Alia has been at the forefront of efforts to introduce stunning to Jordanian abattoirs, and her intervention has led to the bulldozing of an inhumane slaughterhouse and the closure of illegal abattoirs.

A foundation established by her this year has sought advice from the animal welfare group Animals Australia, which has been protesting against mistreatment of livestock in the Middle East and Australia's live export trade.

Australia exports 1.3 million tonnes of red meat, of which 382,000 tonnes is certified halal.

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