Shechita UK has said it cannot succeed without northern Jewish communities joining the fight against proposed EU labelling regulations which could spell the end to kosher meat in Britain.
Launching its northern public campaign in Manchester on Monday night, Shechita UK's campaign director, Shimon Cohen, urged the entire community to "be on the ball" in lobbying MEPs. Earlier, a meeting of 25 Orthodox Manchester rabbis agreed to mobilise their communities to the cause. Special information packs have also been sent to kosher butchers and synagogues in Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle.
Mr Cohen, speaking to 150 people representing a broad cross-section of Manchester's community at Stenecourt Synagogue, said: "The more of these letters that get to MEPs, the more they will understand the serious issue that we have here."
An amendment to a food labelling bill, due to be ratified by the Council of the European Parliament on December 7, will mean that meat slaughtered by shechitah will be labelled that the animal died from "non-stun" killing.
In fact, Mr Cohen said: "We believe shechitah does stun. It renders the animal insensible to pain within two seconds. The idea that we [Jews] brutalise animals while theirs fall asleep in a field and end up on a plate is ridiculous and needs to be exposed as such."
Mr Cohen highlighted RSPCA figures that three million animals were painfully mis-stunned in the non-kosher market by gassing, electrocution and shooting, compared with a total of 90,000 animals which are annually slaughtered through shechitah.
The effect of indirectly labelling shechitah as cruel would result in a backlash from meat wholesalers who
normally buy the hindquarters of kosher animals, and would lead to a economic catastrophe for the kosher market, he said.
Chairing Manchester's meeting, Whitefield Synagogue's Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag said the Manchester community must find a way of "paying its fair share" of the campaign, which is currently entirely funded by London's kosher meat industry. Manchester Jewish Representative Council's Frank Baigel reported that UKIP's north west MEP, Paul Nuttall, had pledged to speak to other MEPS over the issue.
Richard Hyman, of Titanics, which controls a third of the kosher meat market across the north, said after the meeting that there was concern that meat could double in price.
In Leeds, the Kosherie's Malcolm Sorkin said that the labelling was "another nail in the coffin" for the kosher market.