Monday, October 11, 2010

The threat to Britain's kosher meat

In December, the EU will be voting whether kosher meat needs to be labelled as "meat from slaughter without stunning". British Jews are extremely worried that this could effectively bring about the end of shechitah in the UK, as more than 70% of the meat killed by shechitah actually goes to the non-Jewish market. If mainstream consumers decide they don't want to eat animals "slaughtered without stunning", shechitah would become economically un-viable.

Anyone who thinks that this threat is exaggerated need only look to the Daily Mail, which in the past few weeks has spotlighted a number of outlets - including Waitrose, M&S, Tesco, Asda and McDonald's - some of whose 'regular' meat, it turns out, is halal. (I assume this is a similar arrangement to the Kosher one - Muslims eat some parts of the animal, which are labelled halal, while other parts go to mainstream outlets, where it is not labelled as such.)

When "exposed", McDonald's abbatoir stopped slaughtering halal; Waitrose ditched its halal meat; the 'defence' offered by Asda was that all their animals were stunned (which is apparently allowed by "moderate" Muslims). In all cases, in addition to concern over the method of slaughter, there was also widespread concern at the meat being 'blessed' by the Muslim slaughterer. (A shochet makes a brachah before starting his work, but there is a widespread misconception that kosher meat is meat that has been 'blessed by a rabbi'.)

The fact is that there is no nice way of killing an animal; many animals who are stunned need to be re-stunned because it hasn't worked, or else do get to the slaughterer un-stunned; others who are supposedly unconscious because they have been gassed pre-slaughter are either completely conscious, or dead through the gassing. And so on and so forth. The battle to label meat as 'without stunning' is simply antisemitic, because it completely ignores the fact that all methods of slaughter have their failings - failing which affect many more animals than the relatively small number killed through shechitah.

Nevertheless, the campaign against halal meat is a clear preview of what the UK kosher market can expect if the EU law passes in December: widespread rebellion by regular consumers, and a massive financial hit - possibly fatal.

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