New Zealand's new animal welfare code, which took effect Friday, mandates that all animals for commercial consumption be stunned prior to slaughter to ensure they are treated “humanely and in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge.”

The regulation has shocked the Jewish community.

“This decision by the New Zealand government, one which has a Jewish prime minister, is outrageous,” said Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, acting president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australasia. “We will be doing everything possible to get this decision reversed.”

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Gutnick, who travels frequently to New Zealand to oversee shechita, added, “One of the last countries I would have expected to bring in this blatantly discriminatory action would have been New Zealand.”

David Zwartz, the chairman of the Wellington Jewish Council, agreed. “I am sure there will objections made that this action is an infringement of the right of Jews to observe their religion,” he said.

Agriculture Minister David Carter rejected a recommendation that shechita be exempt from the new code.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee did recommend a dispensation for kosher slaughter in 2001, but the new code does not allow any exemptions.

The New Zealand government estimates that 15-20 beef cattle, 40-50 lambs and 1200-1400 chickens are annually slaughtered to meet the needs of the Jewish communities in Wellington and Auckland, which number about 5,000.  Moslem's are unaffected by the regulations as they are allowed to stun animals before slaughtering them.

Among other countries that have banned shechita are Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

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