UK: Kosher bosses welcome EU labelling decision

A move by European ministers not to enforce an amendment that would have forced meat producers to label produce that has involved animals being ritually slaughtered, has received a cautious welcome from Shechita UK.

The kosher body has said it is pleased that a European Council meeting where a new draft of the food information regulation was agreed, did not include Amendment 205, which would have required that all meat and meat products slaughtered by kosher and halal methods to be pejoratively labelled.

MEPs voted by 559 to 54 for a compulsory measure of meat from slaughter without stunning to be labelled as such in June.

“While we are very pleased with the outcome of the Council meeting, there is still much work to do to ensure that new laws are not introduced next year which discriminate against shechita,” said Shechita UK campaign director Shimon Cohen.

The regulation now goes to second reading at the European Parliament where the amendment, to label all meat products derived from kosher or halal method, could be reintroduced.

Cohen said: “The European Commission is beginning a new consultation next year on animal welfare labelling, and we are continuing to work in Brussels with the European Jewish Congress (EJC) to explain to the European food authorities the humane nature of shechita slaughter. Our campaign is far from over, but we are making satisfactory progress, given the assault on shechita that was launched earlier this year by some Members of the European Parliament.”

Shechita UK chairman Henry Grunwald added: “I would like to thank all the communal organisations with whom we work, as well as the thousands of individual members of our community who wrote to their MEPs, for the way in which they have joined together in our campaign to protect shechita in an active and disciplined fashion.

“We are also very grateful to the many European communities with whom we worked so closely. The EJC in particular have been a most valued partner in our lobbying efforts.”

The decision, however, has disappointed secular groups. The National Secular Society (NSS) has said it has been pressing the government to support the amendment, arguing that where religious exemptions have been made to animal welfare regulations, no more animals should be slaughtered under the exemptions than is necessary for the religious market. Furthermore, it said consumers are entitled to be informed if meat is from an animal slaughtered without stunning.

Stephen Evans, NSS campaigns officer, said: “Keeping the public in ignorance so they carry on subsidising a slaughter method which they do not approve of is simply indefensible. While we’re naturally disappointed that this amendment has fallen, this is far from the end of the campaign to ensure meat from religiously slaughtered animals is labelled. We are anticipating European Commission proposals on welfare labelling in 2011 and we will be ensuring that the Government is well aware of our views – which we believe are supported by the overwhelming majority of the British public.”