You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who will defend animal suffering as a value in itself. But few of us are animal rights absolutists—that is, who believe animals have the right not to be killed for human sustenance. Most of us are, rather, animal welfarists, who want animals to lead stress-free lives, however short, with as painless a death as possible.

Animal welfare and animal rights occasionally coincide on issues like fox hunting, fur-trapping (once a status symbol, used fur coats can be had for peanuts; wearing fur is as taboo as public smoking) and, a century ago, the commercial trade in bird feathers to adorn women’s hats. We owe the public demand for free-range chickens and grass-raised cattle to these tireless animal advocates, and more power to them.

What constitutes a “good death” for animals—for regulatory purposes in Canada—falls under the aegis of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), charged with “safeguarding food, animals and plants,” which includes oversight of Canadian slaughter processing. According to Jewish law on animal slaughter—“shechita” in Hebrew—cattle must be killed by a trained “shochet” with a razor-sharp blade in a rapid, continuous motion across the throat that severs the blood supply to the brain, instantly rendering the animal unconscious.

The CFIA does not have the power to effect a ban on shechita, as its practice is protected in Canadian law. Instead, it has been imposing restrictions that are crippling the industry.

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Iron Will

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