UK Jewish community groups are concerned that the government’s upcoming 12-week consultation on labelling meat products for animal welfare could prove misleading to the consumer with regard to kosher slaughtering, and make it appear that kosher products did not take animal welfare into consideration.
Shimon Cohen, director of Shechita UK, told the Jewish Chronicle that he was certain the government would work with the Jewish community to protect religious slaughtering.
However, the government has not put forward any proposals as of yet.
Cohen said that it was “extremely important that any label is honest and non-discriminatory, as if this was not the case it could lead to an inadvertent deception of the consumer and an affront to faith communities.”
He added: “With regards to slaughter, one dimensional labelling such as ‘stunned’ or ‘non-stunned’ would be innately pejorative and misleading to the consumer. It would advance the myth that mechanical, industrialized stunning is an all-encompassing, animal welfare panacea. It is not.”
There is a concern within the Jewish community that the consultation period will give another chance for groups opposed to current religious slaughter exemptions to voice their positions.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has been outspoken in favour of pre-slaughter stunning, and has stated that “meat produced from animals not stunned before slaughter should be clearly labelled to allow consumer choice.”
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF) and the British Veterinary Association have both called for an end to animal slaughter without stunning.
The CAWF stated on its website: “Meat from animals which have not been stunned comes onto the general market but does not have to be labelled. As a result, some consumers are unknowingly buying unstunned meat. Such meat, it says, should be required to be labelled 'meat from unstunned animal.'”
The London Kedassia kashrut organization told the Chronicle that they were examining the issue. “We will be submitting a response to the consultation, as will other shechita authorities. We are all on the same page.”