Parliament debates kosher and halal slaughtering methods

By Marcus Dysch, November 4, 2014
MPs want extra labelling of kosher and halal meat

MPs want extra labelling of kosher and halal meat

More animals slaughtered for food in Britain should undergo stunning before they are killed, an MP investigating kosher and halal practices has urged.

Neil Parish said the government must continue its research into shechita and other religious meat production procedures during a debate in Parliament.

The Westminster Hall session followed the publication in August of a report conducted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beef and Lamb. It studied the slaughter of meat in accordance with religious rites.

Group chairman Mr Parish said he would also be seeking discussions with religious authorities over the possibility of introducing post-cut stunning to the shechita process.

Any request for such stunning is likely to be met with strong opposition from kosher authorities.

The Conservative MP said there was a “deficit in understanding shechita” and urged the government to continue its research into the method.

Mr Parish said he wanted labels to focus on whether meat had been stunned or not, rather than to point out whether the product was kosher or halal.

“There is a danger that an outright ban on religious slaughter would not improve animal welfare,” he said.

“We conducted the inquiry in a calm and cool way. I hope our points will be taken on board. It is a serious piece of work.

“We have to find a way forward so that more animals are stunned before slaughter.”

MPs also discussed the possibility of introducing compulsory CCTV cameras to all slaughterhouses to ensure better observation of killing procedures.

A number of Jewish MPs, and those representing constituencies with a large number of Jewish residents, spoke in defence of shechita.

They included Conservatives Jonathan Djanogly, Lee Scott, Matthew Offord and Mike Freer, and Labour’s Louise Ellman and Shabana Mahmood.

Ms Ellman said a ban on kosher meat production would be a “gross infringement” of the Jewish community’s civil rights.

Meanwhile Shechita UK, which works to defend the practice, has accused the British Veterinary Association of misleading consumers over the issue of labelling.

The BVA said nine out of 10 vets believed that labelling which explained the method of slaughter would help shoppers make an informed choice about meat purchases.

But Shechita UK director Shimon Cohen said: "The BVA position on labelling assumes that consumers understand exactly what industrialised mechanical stunning involves.

“It is on that basis that they continue to promote a rudimentary and incomplete approach to labelling.

“Consumers have every right to know if an animal was asphyxiated by gas, electrocuted, shot with a steel bolt gun or indeed mis-stunned, leaving the animal in terrible distress."

Last updated: 1:05pm, November 4 2014