20 Feb 1921 – 22 Jun 2013
Without Dr Michael Levien and his livestock welfare organisation, later known as LAWA, the LWCC (Livestock Welfare Coordinating Committee) would not have existed and this history not written. He was not a theoretician and propagandist so much as a compassionate and caring person and genuinely concerned about the welfare of animals.
He was practical in his approach to livestock welfare issues in so much as that he sought to understand the facts, perspectives and practicalities regarding livestock farming. He even once went so far as to accompany a consignment of sheep in wind and weather on the back of a truck from Namibia all the way to Goodwood Abattoir in Cape Town, in order to observe and experience the animals’ stress and behaviour.
As part of his agreement with Dr Jan Lombard of the Meat Board, he and LAWA had to restrain from adverse publicity, thus losing the most successful means of canvassing support, membership and donations for LAWA. Dr Levien consequently had to make significant personal financial sacrifices for LAWA to continue to make contributions to livestock welfare, also as a continuing member of the LWCC. He kept that promise to Dr Lombard and the Meat Board to the very end.
In addition, on behalf of the LWCC, he financed Dr Ebedes’ visit to Australia to investigate the sea transport of live sheep for slaughter. He, more than anybody else, had no qualms to put his money where his mouth was. He made valuable contributions to the drafting of LWCC codes and by the chairing of some of the LWCC’s work groups over time.
At an age over 70 he tackled IT, including Word processing, Excel, and the internet in between the managing of his businesses and homeopathic practice.
With the contributions of Dr Ebedes, they were able to develop the design of the upright restrainer for shechita, the use of which the LWCC was eventually able to convince Chief Rabbi Harris and the Beth Din to agree to. He, and the Kosher Work Group that he chaired, had worked extremely hard over many years to convince the Beth Din to accept an immediate post cut stun for animals that were being shechted. It failed, but till the day he died, and for the sake of the livestock, he would not relinquish this objective notwithstanding the Beth Din’s threat to prosecute him if he continued with his efforts.
His compassion for animals was matched only by his compassion for his people which included family, patients, friends and staff that worked for him. His wife and he handled their staff like friends and with concern about those families’ wellbeing. The existence and uniqueness of the LWCC as a coordinating body for livestock welfare and the enormous effect that it had on improvements in livestock welfare, he viewed as one of his nicest involvements and best achievement.