Shechita UK, the lobby organisation which defends religious slaughter, has said a change in European law on labelling food will mean the “end of shechitah” and will “discriminate” against kosher food.
Next week, a plenary session of the European Parliament will vote on the proposal for a regulation on the provision of food information to consumers.
A proposed amendment will mean that meat and meat products derived from animals that have been slaughtered by the laws of shechitah will be labelled “meat from slaughter without stunning”.
Henry Grunwald QC, chairman of Shechita UK, wrote to every MEP this week urging them to vote against the “discriminatory and unfair” amendment.
He said that the proposed amendment “has the unintended consequence of forcing the end of shechitah.
“It would have a significant impact on the kosher meat industry, ultimately making shechitah economically unviable.”
Around 70 per cent of an animal killed by shechita is consumed by the non-kosher market and Mr Grunwald said labelling the products would result in the stigmatisation of shechitah, decrease the demand and could put slaughterhouses out of business.
He added: "It could result in severe hardship for European Jewish communities by depriving them of the means for obtaining kosher meat and meat products”.
He maintained that the labelling would be discriminatory because it requires only the meat from animals killed by religious methods to be labelled, rather than labelling all products with their method of slaughter, which can include stunning by electrocution, captive-bolt or gassing.
German MEP Renate Sommer, who proposed the amendment, said that she did not agree that the labelling would affect sales.
She said: “This has nothing to do with religious organisations or believes, it is about animal protection. Many people think kosher meat tastes better and say they would like to buy this labelled meat.
“I think it isn’t wrong to ask for labelling on all kinds of slaughter but it may not be feasible for practical reasons.”