Thursday, October 21, 2010

The threat against shechitah in UK starts coming true

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post warning that the campaign currently being waged against halal meat in the UK is a preview of what we can expect against shechitah, if an EU law mandating that all meat slaughtered by a shochet be labelled 'meat from slaughter without stunning' passes in December.

Well, turns out I was wrong about one thing. The backlash has already started. And not only that, it is directly connected to the fight against halal meat being sold to the general public in 'mainstream' outlets.

The Jewish Chronicle reports:
Kosher consumers suffered a... blow this week when a major abattoir in Ireland closed its kosher facility...

Rory Fanning, managing director of Slaney Foods, in County Wexford, which supplies the London Board for Shechita (LBS), said: "We have made the decision not to have religious slaughter."

He said the decision was prompted by media stories that halal meat was being used without the knowledge of the public by some McDonald's restaurants. McDonald's denied this as it was against its policy to use religiously slaughtered meat.

But the company checked its suppliers and was forced into a u-turn, admitting that one abattoir had used halal meat for some chicken products.

A spokesman said all suppliers were asked to "reiterate that their meat was not slaughtered in that way". One of them was Slaney, which had worked with McDonald's for eight years, predating its relationship with kosher meat.

Suddenly, at the end of last week Slaney announced its decision to end religious slaughter. Rumours, since denied, were rife in London, where most of Slaney's meat was delivered, that McDonald's had given it an ultimatum to stop the kosher part of its business or risk losing it as a customer.

Slaney's managing director Rory Fanning said: "It's not that we are doing it because someone was influencing us outside the company. We made the decision ourselves.

"There has been a lot of media coverage of ritual slaughter, and it was in the context of that, that the decision was made. I'm not saying it's the right decision. I am very hesitant"...

McDonald's said: "While kosher meat is outside McDonald's UK specification, we understand the importance of it to some customers as well as UK and Irish agriculture.

"If Slaney has stopped producing kosher meat as a result of our non-specification then there has been a misunderstanding. Our supply chain is in discussion with the Slaney abattoir to ensure they can continue to produce kosher meat separately to their production of traceable, non-kosher meat for McDonald's UK."

How long until the other kosher abbatoirs (and I don't believe there are that many) are going to decide they don't want to deal with religious slaughter any more - that it simply attracts too much criticism to be worth it? And - just as importantly - how long until the mainstream shops which stock meat that was slaughtered through shechitah (but which the kosher market doesn't use) decide they don't want to bother with meat that can attract protests, either?

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