Jewish groups in the United Kingdom and beyond in Europe oppose the proposed measure, which appeared in Labour’s Animal Welfare Plan published by the opposition party earlier this week, because they deem it discriminatory.
But Labour’s manifesto on animal welfare states it will seek “mandatory labeling of meat, both domestic and imported. This would include details on country of origin, method of production and method of slaughter (stun or non-stun.)”
In Islam and Judaism, animals must be conscious when their necks are cut for their meat to be allowed for consumption. Animal welfare activists consider this cruel, though advocates of the Jewish custom, called shechitah, say it is overall less prone to induce suffering because, unlike industrial methods, it is not mechanized and involves more oversight in each procedure.
Shechita UK, an organization representing communal interests in the matter, in the past has called labeling meat as “not stunned” discriminatory because “it suggests that shechita-slaughtered meat comes from a non-humane process, and there will be no label to indicate how non-kosher meat is slaughtered or if their stunning methods have failed (as they so frequently do).”
In France, an advisory committee of the Senate on the meat industry in 2013 for the first time made a nonbinding recommendation for halal/kosher labeling, prompting condemnations by Jewish and Muslim faith leaders. As with nonmedical circumcision of boys, some opponents of shechitah say it is a foreign import connected to the spread of Islam in Europe. Others in the circumcision debate cite what they consider the rights of children, and animal welfare when it comes to the production of meat.
Labour’s position on labeling comes at a nadir in the relationship between the party and the institutions representing the Jewish community of Britain. The relations deteriorated over perceived inaction on anti-Semitism in Labour’s ranks and hate speech against Israel.
In 2016 Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said that “most people in the Jewish community can’t trust Labour.”