A “de facto ban” has been imposed on kosher and halal meat in cafeterias and restaurants in Parliament, which flies in the face of government policy on non-stun slaughter, the JC can reveal.
The "ban" was imposed by catering staff after consultation with animal rights groups. Jewish and Muslim groups have not previously been made aware of the decision and it is not clear how long the policy has been in place.
It came to light after enquiries made by Jay Stoll, the senior parliamentary assistant to Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.
Mr Stoll inquired about the possibility of kosher food being provided in Parliament’s nine restaurants and canteens, but was told menus were governed by guidelines written by groups including the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association – a long-standing critic of non-stun slaughter.
“The management team had concluded that providing non-stunned meat would ‘unfairly prejudice those who support ethical slaughter’,” Mr Stoll said.
“They added that the Commons catering team ‘could not be seen to take a position’ on the issue.
“It will be obvious to many that a de-facto ban on non-stunned meat in the cafeterias goes further than any legislation that governs the wider public.”
Parliament’s on-site catering options include a range of restaurants, snack bars, coffee shops and vending machines and can be used by MPs, peers, their staff and more than 10,000 parliamentary pass-holders.
A House of Commons spokesperson told the JC that people working in Parliament could order “outsourced ready-made kosher meals upon request for events”, but providing the food on a regular basis was not possible.
The spokesperson said the catering service could not “adopt adequate segregation techniques” – a reference to standard kashrut requirements – needed to serve kosher or halal meals.
Asked whether pre-made kosher food, such as sandwiches which are readily available in supermarkets, could be sold on the parliamentary estate, the spokesperson said: “Following careful consideration, the provision of kosher products when weighed against demand, is not viable in terms of costs, logistics and supplier management.”
The spokesperson added that the current policy was "longstanding".
Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, said: "No one is suggesting that Parliament should have a kosher kitchen, but if the caterers have imposed their own ban on non-stunned meat then this is a slur against kosher meat.
"It is not for Parliament’s caterers to make this type of decision when there is an ample body of scientific evidence that supports shechita and it is widely recognised as a humane method of slaughter.”
British law is clear that animals must be stunned before slaughter – unless they are being killed for halal or kosher meat.
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, announced in August last year that all slaughterhouses in England would be fitted with CCTV cameras to monitor the slaughter process and treatment of animals.