Northern Jewish communities have criticised Shechita UK for disorganisation and failure in its public campaign to lobby MEPs over the threat to kosher meat posed by proposed European legislation.
Members of the community across the UK have been asked to write to their MEPs, using resources on Shechita UK's website. The lobby group says a discriminatory food labelling legal amendment, due to be voted on by the Council of the European Union on December 7, proposes that all meat from animals slaughtered via shechita should be labelled as coming from animals which have not been pre-stunned.
In the week before Rosh Hashanah kosher butchers and outlets were given stickers, bags and leaflets to raise the profile of the campaign. But butchers across the north of England say that the material ran out within days, while most customers remained unaware of the threat the legislation poses.
Richard Hyman, one of Manchester's largest meat suppliers, said: "I don't know how many people have responded to the call to arms. I think general apathy is a problem and a risk without a doubt. Shechita UK are professional and you have to put your faith in them, but I hope that if they are not getting the response they want, they would get in touch."
Whitefield-based butcher Haydn Rose said he had not received any carrier bags for his customers, while stickers were only enough for one day's worth of products.
He said: "I think [the campaign] is forgotten about. You have to hammer it home, you can't do it for one week."
Vidal's butcher in Prestwich said stickers lasted two days and no leaflets had arrived, while Liverpool's only Jewish outlet for kosher meat, Roseman's Delicatessen, said it had received no campaign material at all.
At Manchester Jewish Representative Council on Sunday, vice-president Frank Baigel said responses from MEPs he had lobbied showed most were still in favour of the legislation. He said: "We are rather disappointed with the lack of activity with the Jewish communities elsewhere in the north. Liverpool's rep council did not write to their MEPs because one of them was [the BNP's] Nick Griffin."
Leeds rep council president Hilton Lorie inisted that his community was taking action. "I'm totally familiar with all the detail and we are getting on with it. It's as simple as that. It's of paramount importance. Arrangements are already afoot to get someone from Shechita UK to come to Leeds to speak to the community."
Liverpool's rep council president Gordon Globe said: "We are pulling our weight. One issue was whether the MEPs will take on board all the information that's being sent to them, and how effective it would be. It would be interesting to know what Shechita UK have had as a response from MEPs."
Shechita UK's Shimon Cohen said dozens of MEPs he had contacted were reporting receiving hundreds of letters from the Jewish community.
"The community in general is responding wonderfully. We are extremely grateful to the many hundreds of people who have sent our campaign postcards. I haven't heard from a single butcher in Manchester or Leeds that they have run out of material. They are free to download our leaflets and photocopy them or we are happy to send more directly."