Jewish groups encouraged by EU study on food labeling

Ritual slaughter has come under attack in a number of European nations, with the practice banned in several.

Chicken (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A European study indicating that many consumers are not overly concerned about knowing if their meat came from pre-stunned animals received a warm welcome Tuesday from European Jews, who hailed it as a victory for kosher slaughter.
According to the European Commission poll, which came out last week, only 2 percent of respondents cited production methods as an important criterion in their shopping decisions, and “no respondents spontaneously mentioned animal welfare at slaughter as a purchase criterion.”
“Following this report, it is clear that consumers see labeling as a peripheral issue, and we will focus on improving best practice in the interest of animal welfare.
We hope that animal welfare campaigners will take an equally even-handed approach,” said Shimon Cohen, the campaign director of the Shechita UK advocacy organization.
Conference of European Rabbis president Pinchas Goldschmidt likewise welcomed the report, calling it “a significant step in ensuring that the Jewish community is able to continue this practice without fear of discrimination.”
European law requires pre-stunning animals prior to slaughter, an act proscribed in Islamic and Jewish law. Adherents of both religions have been granted exemptions from this law but worry about calls for mandatory labeling of ritually slaughtered cattle.
Both the British government and the European Union had put the labeling debate on hold until the release of the report.
Over 70% of those polled indicated that they would be interested to some degree in such labeling when asked directly, but “for most consumers information on pre-slaughter stunning is not an important issue unless brought to their attention,” and “it is by no means clear that consumers would actually act on this information if it were to be available,” the report determined.
It did, however, cite a “certain proportion of motivated customers” for whom this is an issue.
Ritual slaughter has come under attack in a number of European nations, with several of them banning the practice.
A ban in Denmark last year drew harsh condemnations from Jewish leaders, who were angry at Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen’s comment that “animal rights come before religion” – a statement he later disavowed.
Ritual slaughter recommenced in Poland last December after a nearly twoyear moratorium.
“The European Jewish Association welcomes the results of the European Commission’s study into the information to consumers on the stunning of animals,” said EJA founder Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
“We believe the findings consolidate the EJA’s own perception of both the demand or lack of demand for detailed information on animal welfare at the time of slaughter, as well as the lack of consumer understanding of the slaughter process itself, which under Jewish rites pays the utmost attention to ensuring the welfare of the animal both prior to and at the time of slaughter.”