Federation denies it is placing shechita at risk


Federation of Synagogues president Andrew Cohen rebutted claims this week that its new shechita operation could put the future of British kosher beef at risk.

He said that fears that meat supplies would be hit by the decision of one of the country's largest kosher meat operators, Gilbert's, to leave the London Board for Shechita and change to a Federation licence were "fundamentally baseless".

The United Synagogue - which jointly runs the LBS with the Federation and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation - last week suggested that the new Federation venture could "cause an increase in prices and jeopardise the security of UK shechita in the long-term".

But Mr Cohen said this week: "Our intention is to bring down prices to enable more people to buy kosher meat."

He said that his organisation planned to remain with the LBS. "We have every intention of carrying on negotiations on an agreed way forward for the London Board of Shechita to work cohesively with the Federation."

Supplies of new Federation-supervised mehadrin meat, distributed by Gilbert's from an Irish abattoir, went on sale in one London outlet last week.

The Federation has made clear that the mehadrin range - which requires stricter supervision than standard kosher - is targeted at strictly Orthodox consumers as a cheaper alternative to Kedassia, the kosher label of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.

But as well as the mehadrin brand, the Federation will now be responsible for Gilbert's general kosher output, which includes many packaged products such as the Blooms range.

One butcher said this week that the LBS had told him he could not in future stock Gilbert's products once they changed to a Federation licence.

Norman Bookbinder, director of Gilbert's, said, "We are confident that the products will continue to enjoy full distribution in both supermarkets and independent outlets."

LBS president Benjamin Mire has previously warned that if Gilbert's switched licence, it could put at risk the cattle abattoirs used by the LBS in Manchester because Gilbert's was their biggest customer. This could prove the "catalyst for the demise of cattle shechita in the UK," he said.

But in a letter on Tuesday to Federation council members, Mr Cohen dismissed suggestions that Gilbert's switch could stop the Manchester beef production as "entirely untrue".

Gilbert's, he wrote, "will continue to buy similar quantities of meat from those abattoirs, albeit with a non-LBS licence. There will be no reduction in the provision of kosher slaughter in the UK".

He added that "if the LBS seeks to prevent certain abattoirs supplying Gilbert's with meat… then the LBS will be culpable of their own accusation and will themselves be guilty of reducing shechita in the UK".

The LBS declined to comment pending what it called "delicate negotiations".

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