EU: Animal-Rights Group Stumbles in Halal Meat Labeling Spat

By Barbara Leonard,

(CN) – Halal beef from cows that are not stunned prior to slaughter can still be marketed with an “organic farming” label, an EU magistrate determined Thursday, siding against French animal-rights activists.

Though EU law calls for slaughterhouses to take necessary measures to avoid pain and minimize the distress and suffering of animals during the killing process, the European Council also allows exemptions for religious slaughter practices.

Against this backdrop, the group OABA, short for Oeuvre d’Assistance aux Betes d’Abattoirs, lobbied France’s minister for agriculture to exclude the “organic farming” label from beef and veal if the animals were not stunned before slaughter.

To date, OABA’s requests have failed to gain traction with the minister, the Council of State and an Administrative Court in Montreuil. The group is pressing on, but the Administrative Court of Appeal in Versailles put the case on hold to invite input from the EU’s high court in Luxembourg.

On Thursday, an adviser to the European Court of Justice recommended another defeat for OABA.

“It should be observed that, although some animal welfare protection associations have … called for the legislation on organic farming to be amended to make the stunning of animals prior to slaughter a general requirement, Regulation 2018/848, which recently entered into force, remains silent on whether such stunning must be employed,” Advocate General Nils Wahl wrote.

“Having regard to the considerations set out above, I am of the view that ‘organic farming’ certification cannot be refused to products from the slaughter of animals without stunning,” Wahl continued.

Wahl called it true that consumer are more interested today in the conditions in which animals are slaughtered, but he emphasized that “the EU legislation concerning the provision of food information to consumers does not at present give any specific indication about the conditions in which animals are slaughtered.”

The adviser also discounted the argument that it would not hamper religious freedom to combine certification for organic farming and designations like kosher and halal, pointing out that it would nevertheless “undermine the possibility for consumers of kosher or halal products to obtain products benefiting from the guarantees offered by the ‘organic farming’ certification.”