Canadian political parties rail against ritual slaughter

TORONTO (JTA) — Two political parties in Quebec are speaking out about the ritual slaughter of animals, but a Jewish advocacy group is confident that kashrut is not being targeted.

The opposition Parti Québécois and the Coalition For Quebec’s Future declared their concerns about halal meat, which comes from animals that are slaughtered according to Islamic law.

A Parti Québécois legislator said Wednesday that slaughter for halal meat is an affront to animal rights and runs counter to the values cherished by Quebecers. The pro-independence party said it was worried that mainstream companies are selling halal meat without labeling to unsuspecting consumers. It wants to know how many companies are involved in producing halal meat and the number of animals that are being slaughtered annually under Islamic ritual.

“This type of slaughter slams directly against Québécois values,” the Parti Québécois said in a statement.

Parti Québécois legislator Andre Simard told reporters that the halal and kosher methods of slaughter could be dangerous for human health.

“Ritual slaughter also concerns sanitary risks,” he said, because it involves bleeding of the animal after its death, which he said could lead to E-coli contamination.

“If I had the choice at the counter, I would not buy it,” Simard said.

The Coalition For Quebec’s Future, a newer political party, agreed that halal products must be clearly labeled.

The Parti Québécois is demanding a report on the halal situation from the provincial Liberal government by March 23.

The current controversy arose after media reports about a slaughterhouse in Quebec said the facility sells halal chicken to the public without any labeling.

David Ouellette of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said “it is clear to us that they are not seeking to prohibit ritual slaughter in Quebec.” He said the center is expecting officials “to be clarifying their position that kosher slaughter does not run counter to Quebec values.”

Lawrence Bergman, a Jewish legislator from the governing Liberal Party, said that while the public has a right to transparency, the Parti Québécois’ comments are disturbing.

“If you read between the lines there is really ethnic bashing, which in my opinion is odious, unacceptable and reeks of intolerance,” Bergman said.