British shechitah advocate seeks labeling for general meat industry

(JTA) — Citing animal welfare and consumer rights considerations, a British Jewish group supporting kosher slaughter called for stricter labeling practices for the general meat industry.

“Consumers should be informed whether an animal has been mechanically stunned prior to slaughter and whether it has endured repeat stuns if the first attempt was ineffective,” Shechitah UK chairman Henry Grunwald wrote in a May 8 letter to The Daily Telegraph, which he coauthored with Shuja Shafi, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

The letter appeared amid demands for labeling of halal and kosher meat, which some animal rights activist believe is produced in a cruel manner because it bans pre-slaughter stunning.

Kosher and halal slaughter involves slitting the throat of the animal. Kosher slaughter is known as “shechitah.”

This week British lawmaker Philip Hollobone of the Conservative Party said his constituents “will be horrified to read reports in today’s papers that major high street supermarkets are selling halal and kosher meat without it being labeled as such.”

Defenders of kosher and halal slaughter argue that, when done properly, it causes almost immediate death and compares favorably to other methods favored by animal rights activists.

Grunwald and Shafi wrote that consumers of meat not produced through ritual slaughter “should also be told the method of slaughter: captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning, trapping, clubbing or any of the other approved methods.”

Doing so “would offer all consumers genuine choice, whether they are motivated by animal welfare, religious observance, or even intolerance of anyone who looks or worships differently from them,” they wrote.

In recent years, kosher and halal slaughter has come under attack in many European countries by animal welfare activists and secularists but also by right-wing nationalists who view the custom as a foreign.

Since 2010 slaughter that does not involve stunning has been banned in Poland and Denmark. The lower house of the parliament of the Netherlands also banned it, but the ban was reversed in 2012 by the senate.

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