The Farming Minister, Jim Paice, has said that in “an ideal world” kosher meat which has been slaughtered without pre-stunning would be banned.
Mr Paice also said he supported plans to label kosher meat, to keep people in the non-kosher market, which consumes 70 per cent of shechitah-slaughtered meat, well informed.
Slaughtering animals without pre-stunning is banned in the UK, but there is currently an exception for Jewish and Muslim methods of slaughter which require the animal to be alive and well when it is killed.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Paice said: “We are not going to ban slaughter without stunning. I believe in an ideal world it shouldn’t happen, we don’t particularly like it, but we are prepared to tolerate it on religious grounds. But consumers have a right to be informed.”
However, he appeared to disagree with an amendment to the EU Food Information Bill, drafted by Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson, which calls for kosher meat to be labelled “this product comes from an animal slaughtered by the shechitah method” and an equivalent label for halal meat.
“Once you start using religious terms, you invite all sorts of challenge and of course the term halal doesn’t make clear whether it has been stunned or not,” Mr Paice said.
We are prepared to tolerate it on religious grounds but consumers have a right to be informed
This week, United Synagogue president, Simon Hochhauser, issued an urgent appeal to members to raise objections to the proposals.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 has been accused of being “deliberately pejorative” when describing a series of programmes about religious slaughter.
As part of its 4Thought series of 90- second films shown every evening, Channel 4 has aired seven episodes this week, ending on Sunday, which ask the question: “Should ritual slaughter be banned?”
Each episode features a different religious person giving their views and includes Chanoch Kesselman, executive co-ordinator of the Union of Hebrew Orthodox Congregations and Jewish chef, Lisa Roukin, as well as animal rights campaigner and atheist, Helen Rossiter and halal slaughterhouse manager, Yousuf Pandor.
Channel 4 described the series on its website using the term “ritual slaughter” and asked: “Is it cruel to slit animals’ throats without stunning them first?”
Shimon Cohen, of campaign group Shechita UK, said he had requested a different description.
“We would have preferred that they had stuck to their agreement and not used pejorative language such as ‘ritual slaughter’ and ‘throat-slitting,’ but feel sure that the viewers will see that there are merits to all sides of this emotive debate,” he said.
A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: “We felt the descriptions were fair and accurate.”