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Jewish Dietary Laws (Kashrut): Ritual Slaughter - Shechitah

Shechitah is the Hebrew term for the ritual slaughtering of animals under the laws of kashrut.

Shechitah slaughtering strives to minimize the pain experienced by the animal before dying and must be done "with respect and compassion" for the animal by a trained and certified religious Jew called a shochet.

An extremely sharp knife - challef - is used to slit the animal’s throat, severing the trachea, esophagus, carotid arteries, jugular veins and vagus nerve, in one swift action causing the animal to immediately lose all consciousness.  According to Jewish religious sources, after this cut is made the animal is insensible to pain and exsanguinates in a prompt and precise action. The blood is then drained in accordance with the biblical injunction to not benefit from the blood of an animal. Likeise, the blood may not be drunk because of its symbolic nature with man.

If the process of shechitah is not done perfectly according to the rules, the slaughtered animal is not kosher to eat, also known as treif. Any animals killed by hunters cannot be considered kosher since the method of killing is not in accordance to the biblical laws of kashrut.

Sources: Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004; Kolatch, Alfred J. The Jewish Book of Why/The Second Jewish Book of Why. NY: Jonathan David Publishers, 1989; Wigoder, Geoffrey , Ed. The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia. NY: Facts on File, 1992.