A new proposal to label kosher meat is set to be debated by MEPs in April, just months after another labelling proposal was struck out by the European Union.
The community breathed a collective sigh of relief last year when the Council of Ministers removed an amendment, backed by the European Parliament, that would have required relevant meat to be labelled as ‘slaughtered without stunning’.
It is feared that such a measure would lead to a massive hike in kosher prices as the vast majority of shechita meat goes to non-kosher consumers who may decide to opt for products without labels. The practise could then eventually become untenable.
Now the controversial proposal has been re-introduced by a Dutch MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy. It is set to be debated on 11 April, at the same time as a separate amendment proposed by Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson.
This new amendment would require that meat be labelled, ‘This product comes from an animal slaughtered by the shechita method’, with similar labelling for halal meat. Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK, which has played a key role in the campaign against last year’s amendment, branded the new proposal as “the 21st century equivalent of the yellow star, but on our food”.
In a letter to Stevenson, he argued that the amendment “essentially has the same effect but in a more direct manner” as last year’s failed proposal. Cohen wrote: “If you were labelling every other form of slaughter, religious and secular, including stunning methods and incidences of mis-stunning then we would accept that this was a fairer form of labelling. But as your amendment stands, it is discrimination of the most direct kind.”
Shechita UK insists it was partly the engagement of the community in a campaign against the original amendment which led to it being struck out and are now urging members to campaign against the two new amendments by writing to MEPs. Cohen said: “It is very disappointing the amendment has been brought back against the wishes of the Council and also that a new more sinister amendment has been brought forward.
“Once again we need the community to respond to make our feelings known that we will not be singled out in this way. The consequences of not responding to this will mean there will not be meat on our plates.”
However, while last year the community had months to make their voices heard, there are just two weeks until the latest amendments are debated by the Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee. If adopted at that stage, the proposal will move to the floor of the European Parliament for final approval as part of the wider regulation.
Stevenson told the Jewish News: “In Europe the default position is animals should be slaughtered and pre-stunned, therefore any deviation from that should be labelled so consumers know about it.”
He added: “I am deeply offended when anyone says I am being anti-Jewish. My concerns are entirely from an animal welfare perspective because the vast majority of kosher meat is sold on to the non kosher market and just as you label the meat (as kosher) so the main market deserves to know what it is buying.”
Draft letters and a list of MEPs will be available at www.shechitauk.org from this weekend.
(Source: Totally Jewish)