MEPs reveal voting plans on shechitah

By Robyn Rosen, September 21, 2010

British MEPs who sit on a committee preparing legislation on labelling kosher meat are torn over how they will vote.

Linda McAvan, Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber and a member of the committee, has said she will vote in favour of an amendment to the provision of food information in consumer legislation. It would mean all meat products derived from animals that have been slaughtered by shechitah would be labelled as "meat from slaughter without stunning".

The amendment was passed by the European Parliament in June and will return for a second reading in December. Ms McAvan's committee has the power to remove the amendment from the bill before December.

Lobbyists Shechita UK say the amendment is "discriminatory" and could cause kosher prices to "rocket" because consumers from the non-kosher market, which sells 70 per cent of shechitah-slaughtered meat, may be put off by the labelling.

Ms McAvan said: "My position on the draft regulation throughout has been to provide the consumer with as much relevant and useful information as possible, whilst balancing this against the costs involved for producers and retailers.

"I believe that consumers will want to have this information to enable them to choose for themselves, based on religious or ethical grounds."

But Conservative London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis has said she will vote against the amendment.

"I am concerned it might have a negative effect on some groups in our society," she said.

Meanwhile, Dialrel, an EU-funded body formed to promote dialogue between faiths about religious slaughter, has been branded an "interference" and "impertinence" by Shechita UK.

Shechita UK has written to Dialrel project co-ordinator, Dr Mara Miele, and all MEPs, claiming the recommendations in its report, Main Outcomes and Recommendations to Good Animal Welfare Practices During Religious Slaughter, are "an attempt to seek the abolition of shechitah".

The Dialrel report recommends stunning or post-stunning, both prohibited by shechitah, and bans inspecting the animal after incision, which is necessary in shechitah.

Shechita UK's Stuart Rosen, who is also on Dialrel's advisory board, accuses Dialrel of being dishonest.

Dr Rosen says it has "reneged" on agreements made in meetings, including an agreement that the condition of Shechita UK's involvement was complete dissociation from any recommendations of the science and ethics reports.

Henry Grunwald QC, chairman of Shechita UK, said: "Dialrel clearly has an anti-shechitah bias. It has rapidly diverted to a pseudo-academic survey publishing agenda based untruths."

Representatives from Dialrel did not reply to requests for comment.

Last updated: 9:10am, September 22 2010