Shechitah threat is challenged

By Leon Symons, February 12, 2009

Shechitah UK, the organisation set up to protect Jewish religious slaughter, has accused the MP sponsoring a Commons early day motion which threatens shechitah of “interfering with the fundamental freedom of a religious community”.

In a letter to North West Leicestershire Labour MP David Taylor, Shechitah UK’s chairman Henry Grunwald said that the British Jewish community viewed “with great concern” his attempt to change the law which exempts religious slaughter from the practice of pre-stunning animals.

Mr Taylor’s EDM tries to revive a recommendation in a 2003 report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) calling for animals to be stunned before shechitah is performed. Pre-stunning, which is not acceptable under Jewish religious law, was rejected by the government at the time.

Mr Taylor tabled the motion after being approached by a number of constituents with concerns about animal welfare, in the wake of a European consultation paper on the same topic.

Mr Grunwald has strongly challenged many of what he says are Mr Taylor’s assumptions regarding religious slaughter.

He takes issue with the EDM’s observation that “bans on slaughter without pre-stunning in Norway, Sweden and New Zealand have been in place for over five years without harming religious freedom or community relations in those countries”.

Mr Grunwald says, sharply: “There is strong evidence to suggest that the banning of religious slaughter in Norway and Sweden was initiated by known Nazi sympathisers in the 1930s after the National Socialist government of Germany introduced the ban on Jews to practise shechitah.”

Mr Grunwald also writes that Mr Taylor’s resolution buys in to anti-Jewish sentiments. “Your ‘abhorrence’ of racism and religious intolerance does not prove justified in view of your call to amend the 1995 regulations with regard to religious slaughter. This is an attempt to interfere with the fundamental freedom of a religious community to define its own religious laws.”

Last updated: 1:43pm, February 12 2009