Shechita UK has written to Lord Trees, former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, to criticise an editorial he wrote in which he claimed non-stunned kosher and halal meat had become “the elephant in the room”.
The letter to the crossbench peer from Shechita UK’s campaign director Shimon Cohen said: “The debate surrounding animal slaughter without pre-stunning attracts daily media attention and political debate, therefore your reference to non-stun slaughter as ‘the elephant in the room’ is inappropriate to the point of comical and ridiculous.
“In fact, the real elephant in the room, which you consistently refuse to address, is the number of animals that are harmed by conventional slaughter processes.
“It is a myth that mechanical, industrialised stunning is an all-encompassing, animal welfare panacea, that some hope will be unquestioningly accepted as such by the consumer. This is both patronising and disingenuous.”
In an article in last week’s Veterinary Record, Lord Trees also said meat from animals that had not been stunned was entering the normal food chain.
Mr Cohen responded: “On the issue of labelling products to ensure that ‘those who do not want meat from non-stunned animals do not inadvertently eat it’, Shechita UK fully supports, and always has done, the notion that consumers have every right to know what they are eating.
“However, it is extremely important to distinguish between honest, even-handed, non-discriminatory labelling and what has been proposed thus far (stunned or non-stunned) which could so easily amount to an inadvertent deception of the consumer and an affront to faith communities.”
The letter also addressed the peer’s assertion that “religious leaders have the power to end the practice of non-stun slaughter and the onus to do so should be firmly put at their door”.
Mr Cohen said this argument “denigrates the significance of religious practice and your comment that this method is ‘archaic and insupportable’ demonstrates your lack of knowledge as to the true origins of the Jewish laws of shechita and religious lifestyles”.