A move to ban shechita in Scotland has this week been quashed. The Scottish Government was responding to a petition put before its Parliament last February for a ban on religious slaughter, which included shechita. The petition by Josey Rowan, leader of the Scottish Independence Party and animal rights activist, urged “the Scottish Government to bring forward legislation to ban the killing of animals through methods such as the shechita and the dhabiha, (Muslim slaughter) and require the stunning of all animals before slaughter.”
After a brief discussion about whether further evidence was needed, the committee closed the petition, defeating the move to ban the practice in Scotland. Ephraim Borowski, Director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, told the Jewish Tribune that he was delighted that the committee accepted the clear statement of the Scottish Government that a ban would infringe the rights of religious communities and that shechita is and will remain legal in Scotland. Leah Granat, Public Affairs Officer for the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, added that the response of the Scottish Government was in strong contrast to the lukewarm reaction of the British Government to a similar petition.
The Scottish Parliament had sought advice from Advocates for Animals, Farm Animal Welfare Council UK, Muslim Council of Scotland, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Scottish Interfaith Council, Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Scottish Islamic Foundation. In June 2003 the Farm Animal Welfare Council claimed that shechita should be banned in Britain on the grounds that slaughter without pre- stunning caused pain and distress to animals. Lack of any scientific evidence to show that this is the case caused the British government to dismiss the application, as it has done on previous occasions.
Mrs. Granat told the Jewish Tribune that although shechita does not currently take place in Scotland, it would be highly detrimental if shechita were banned since it would react unfavourably on the practice of shechita in England. She said that the briefing of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities in response to the petition “Animal slaughter without pre stunning” reminded the Scottish Parliament that the previous executive supported DEFRA in its response to the FAWC objection to pre stunning that the Government “respected the rights of religious groups to observe the requirements of their faith.”
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment previously noted that “although the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning does not take place in Scotland, it would be perfectly legal for this method to be used in Scottish slaughterhouses. The slaughter of sheep without pre-stunning for religious reasons is legal throughout the EU and to ban the export of sheep would contravene free trade rules and would be illegal under EU law.”
Earlier in the week, Mr. Shlomo Winegarten, Honorary President of the London Board for Shechita, told the Jewish Tribune that a number of anti shechita moves had been planned to coincide with the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s report on the slaughter of white meat (ie poultry) but due to an outbreak of avian flu, the report was put on hold and will now appear at the end of this year. Mr Winegarten added that the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities had prepared a brief for the Scottish parliament to counteract the petition, based on material prepared by Shechita UK.
(By Rachel Rogosnitzky for Jewish Tribune, UK)