Religious Slaughter Safeguarded by EU

by Erica Morris

A regulation protecting religious slaughter in the European Union was
welcomed by British Jewry this week, following a ruling enshrining into
EU law legislation that will protect shechita from those who may seek
to ban it in the future.

The new law, which was approved last month and formally voted
through on Monday, recognises the validity of slaughter through
religious methods and enforces that kosher meat may be sold freely
throughout EU member states.

Shechita UK Chairman Henry Grunwald told the Jewish News the ruling
“shows just what can be achieved with communal cooperation”, adding:
“The new EU regulation will ensure that our community and communities
across Europe will continue to practise shechita. This regulation
protects the fundamental rights of Europe’s religious minorities.”

The news came as several media outlets reported on findings from the
Farm Animal Welfare Council claiming kosher and halal slaughter
practices – which require the animal not be pre-stunned before killing-
cause the beasts “significant pain and distress”.

The report, published originally on 28 May, called on the British
government to “launch a debate” with the Jewish and Muslim communities
to end religious slaughter.

Shimon Cohen, spokesman for Shechita UK, insisited that the council’s
report will not affect kosher practices, instead pointing to the EU’s
encouraging ruling in protecting the rite: “The suggestion that the
British government would ban shechita isn’t justified; it just would
not happen.

“The EU’s ruling is a tremendous achievement for the Jewish community,
and an enormous help for protecting kosher practices from those who
might seek to obstruct it.”

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, added that he
was “delighted” with the EU’s ruling, saying: “This regulation protects
the fundamental rights of Europe’s religious minorities. The alliance
of the European Jewish Congress, the Conference of European Rabbis and
Shechita EU have been working closely together to achieve these
positive outcomes.”

Conference of European Rabbis Executive Director Aba Dunner also
praised the move, commenting: “The regulation specifically makes
provision for the killing of animals for food by religious communities
to be exempted from the requirement for pre-stunning, and it contains
no discriminatory labelling requirements for meat slaughtered using the
shechita method nor for post-cut stunning to be enforced.

“Furthermore, no member state will be able to prevent meat slaughtered
according to the Jewish religious method being traded in its territory.”

The issue of religious slaughter has been debated for years, following
a 2003 report by the FAWC calling on the UK to repeal the right of the
Jewish community to practice the religious rite, claiming that
slaughter without pre-stunning was inhumane. The government eventually
acknowledged the method of slaughter was humane following scientific
support from the shechita body in March 2005.

Now, the EU’s ruling will act as a barrier from future attempts to ban the practice.

But Kantor cautioned that this might not mean the end of opposition
against religious slaughter, saying: “We must remain vigilant to ensure
that individual governments do not seek to impose new requirements on
religious slaughter.”