New threat to shechitah as Euro MPs vote to label meat

The European Parliament has voted for new regulations which will see meat from animals killed through shechitah labelled as "meat from slaughter without stunning," in a move Jewish bodies believe is "discriminatory".

The decision, two weeks after New Zealand banned the kosher slaughter of animals, was made as part of a proposal for a regulation on the provision of food information.

The amendment, specifying the labelling of food killed by religious slaughter, was proposed by German Christian Democratic Union MEP Renate Sommer, and passed 326-270 with 68 abstentions. The amendment affects animals killed in Jewish and Muslim religious slaughters. Shechitah and halal meat is not pre-stunned.

Around 70 per cent of each animal killed by shechitah is not fit for kosher consumption and is therefore sold to the non-kosher market. The new regulations would mean such meat products would also bear these labels.

Henry Grunwald QC, chairman of Shechita UK, the organisation which defends religious slaughter, said: "This discriminates against kosher food and will have an impact on the kosher meat industry across Europe.

"The Jewish community is fully supportive of providing consumers with information about the origins of their food and we urged MEPs that if they wanted to label meat and meat products, labels should indicate those killed by electrocution, shooting, gassing or clubbing as well as the millions of animals that are mis-stunned during the stunning process.

"To pick on one method is suspicious, troubling and discriminatory."

In a letter to every MEP before the vote, Mr Grunwald said the move would ultimately make shechitah economically unviable.

Rabbi Bruno Fiszon, the chief rabbi of Metz, in France, said: "This is a catastrophe. If the law goes ahead with this amendment it will be followed by a vast campaign of boycotts from animal welfare organisations. We will not be able to sell to the general market."

MEPs will have a chance to change their minds once the proposal reaches a second reading in September. Dr Sommer said: "This is about protection of animals and is nothing to do with religion. This will not stop people buying this meat. People don't look at labelling and a lot of people prefer this kind of meat because they say it is more tasty."

    Last updated: 5:25pm, June 17 2010