Shechita UK meat labelling 'breakthrough'

Shechita UK has welcomed a major breakthrough in its campaign to fight European food labelling proposals which it says could stop kosher meat production in the UK through discriminatory laws.

During a lobbying effort in Brussels this week, the group received assurances that the European Commission intends to reject amendment 205 to proposed food legislation as "unacceptable".

The amendment would force food companies which use kosher meat by-products to be singled out for special labels which imply their products are less kind to animals.

Shechita UK campaign director Shimon Cohen, however, said he was not claiming a victory but only "a very good result in one stage of the process.

"Senior officials consider 205 unacceptable for a whole raft of reasons. They accepted our contention that it's not directly about food information, it is technically impossible to implement, and inappropriate in a food labelling bill by bringing in animal welfare issues that were not meant to be part of the legislation. They also said it will cause more harm than good to the meat industry."

Amendment 205 was provisionally passed by the European Parliament in June. But in order to become law it must receive the backing of all three European legislative bodies made up of the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the Parliament.

"The Commission does hold legislative power, but they have to listen to what the Council is saying and what the Parliament is saying. Even if the Council vote to knock out the amendment, there is still a chance MEPs in the Parliament could put it back in, which is very concerning," said Mr Cohen.

Shechita UK argues that the proposal will cause financial devastation to shechitah by discouraging non-kosher companies from using kosher meat by-products. Last week, an Irish abattoir which supplies McDonald's permanently closed its kosher meat production in response to media reports about religiously slaughtered meat entering the general food chain.

The next stage of the labelling legislation is a vote to pass amendment 205 on December 7 by agricultural ministers of the 27 members of the European Council of Ministers. This includes the UK's agriculture and food minister Jim Paice. Shechita UK said it is continuing to urge letter writing to MEPs and UK ministers to express "the strength of feeling in the Jewish community."

Communities rev up their campaign

Manchester communal leaders, Bury MP Ivan Lewis and the Manchester Beth Din met Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy on Friday as part of its lobbying efforts. Manchester's Jewish Representative Council this week said it was taking the national lead to co-ordinate the efforts of regional communities, claiming the Board of Deputies was not doing enough.

Rep Council President Lucille Cohen said: "We asked the Board of Deputies to what extent they had been pushing the campaign in the regions. We thought they needed some pragmatic help.

"The communities are all getting active; Leeds and Merseyside, Brighton and Hove are getting into gear. So are Birmingham and Newcastle - and Glasgow now has Shechita UK coming to speak to them," she added.

    Last updated: 3:09pm, November 2 2010