Shechitah under fire in EU

By Robyn Rosen and Esther Voet, April 14, 2011
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Marianne Thieme, leader of the Dutch Party for Animals, is the driving force to ban shechitah

Marianne Thieme, leader of the Dutch Party for Animals, is the driving force to ban shechitah

The Conservative MEP accused of discrimination after he made new attempts to label kosher meat has withdrawn the plan.

Struan Stevenson, who represents Scotland in the European Parliament, has pulled an amendment to the food information bill calling for kosher meat to be labelled "this product comes from an animal slaughtered by the shechitah method", and the equivalent for halal.

The lobby group Shechita UK last week branded the amendment the "21st century equivalent of the yellow star". Shechita UK then met Mr Stevenson for talks before his decision to withdraw the amendment.

They claim it could cause kosher prices to increase greatly because non-kosher consumers, who buy 70 per cent of shechitah-slaughtered meat, may be deterred by the labelling.

Mr Stevenson, a farmer, said he had dropped the amendment after the British Veterinary Association (BVA) confirmed that 80 per cent of animals slaughtered by halal were in fact pre-stunned.

He said: "The RSPCA, the BVA, the Eurogroup for Animals and Compassion in World Farming have all noted that although they fully support labelling of meat that was not pre-stunned, they have reservations about the reference to the halal method of slaughter.

"The term 'halal' does not make clear whether the animal has been stunned or not. The BVA believes that a label for products containing meat that is not stunned before slaughter is preferable.

"This should enable all consumers to understand fully the choice they are making when purchasing such products, which is of course one of the key aims of the entire regulation."

Mr Stevenson is now supporting a separate amendment which calls for kosher and halal meat to be labelled "meat from slaughter without stunning". This was rejected by the European Council of Ministers last year but has been reintroduced for its second reading.

Meanwhile, in Holland, there have been last-ditch attempts by the Dutch Jewish community to block a bid to ban shechitah. On Wednesday, Parliament debated banning religious slaughter. When the Labour Party, led by the Jewish former mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, voted to oppose shechitah, it became clear that there was a majority in favour of the ban.

On Tuesday the chairman of Amsterdam's Jewish community, Ronnie Eisenman, went on TV to debate the leader of the Party for Animals - animal rights leader Marianne Thieme - who introduced the legislation for the ban.

Following the parliamentary debate, pro-shechitah parties asked for more scientific information to be gathered before the final vote, expected to be held mid-May.

Dutch Jews are ready for further action if the legislation is passed by the Upper House of the Dutch parliament.

"If necessary, we will fight this battle until the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg," Mr Eisenmann declared.

Last updated: 12:50pm, April 14 2011