Kosher outcry on labelling plans

01 April, 2011

Religiously slaughtered meat must be labelled, according to Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson, but Jewish leaders have claimed  discrimination, and described it as the “21st century equivalent of the  yellow star”.

The Tory MEP has tabled an amendment to the food labelling Bill which is due to get underway in the European Parliament. He suggests that labels should specify whether meat has been slaughtered by halal or shechita methods.

The debate has been reintroduced by a Dutch MEP after an original attempt to introduce labelling was ruled out by the European Parliament.

Jewish leaders have reacted angrily to the news, and kosher producers, fear that such labelling could lead to a massive increase in prices for kosher meat, as the majority of the slaughtered animal goes to non-kosher consumer, who may then opt for stunned product, pushing up prices for forequarter kosher meat.

Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK, which represents the Jewish community, branded the new proposal as “the 21st century equivalent of the yellow star, but on our food”.

He added: “If you were labelling every other form of slaughter, religious and secular, including stunning methods and incidences of mis-stunning then we would accept that this was a fairer form of labelling. But as [the] amendment stands, it is discrimination of the most direct kind.”

Defra Minister Jim Paice has made it clear that, while he supports a labelling system, this would be to allow consumers to see whether their meat was produced from animals that were stunned, or not, before slaughter.

A spokesman for Defra said: “We respect the rights of the Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs.

“Some people feel strongly about this, and we agree that they should know what they are buying. We’ve been discussing with the food industry how labelling can give consumers greater choice.

“The use of religious terms to signify whether an animal has been stunned at slaughter or not can be misleading, due to the different practices that take place within those communities. We see this very much as an animal welfare issue, about stunning or not stunning.”

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