Food minister sparks row by calling for kosher meat labels

Comments made in a newspaper interview by a government minister responsible for food and farming have been described as a new attack on shechitah.

In the interview published in Monday’s Independent, Lord Rooker, food and farming minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said he objected to religious slaughter and that all meat killed in that way should be clearly labelled.

“The country, source of origin and method of slaughter for meat ought to be on the label because that way I could stop the bloody halal meat, that is excess to the industry’s requirements, being slipped into the food chain without people being told.” The article said Lord Rooker “accepted the legality of religious slaughter” but said customers should be warned when they might be eating meat killed in such a way. “I’ve been in slaughterhouses. Religious slaughter techniques are something I don’t subscribe to,” he told the paper.

Shimon Cohen, spokesman for Shechita UK, the umbrella body for shechitah organisations, said: “Lord Rooker shows an ignorance of slaughter methods in general and shechitah in particular. His comments… show an extreme and worrying bias.

“Is Lord Rooker suggesting that meat from animals that have been gassed, electrocuted, mis-stunned, stabbed and shot should be so labelled, or is he singling out humane religious slaughter?”

Asked if Lord Rooker’s comments represented a change in policy on shechitah, Defra said in a statement: “The minister made clear he was talking about his personal choice. The government has made it clear it would prefer all animals to be stunned before slaughter, but recognises the need of certain communities and accepts the importance which they attach to the right to slaughter animals for food in accordance with their beliefs.”

Lord Rooker declined to speak to the JC on the issue.

    Last updated: 12:16pm, April 10 2008