Europe votes to label kosher slaughter ‘unstunned'

Jewish leaders calls Pessah vote ‘discriminatory’ and ‘insulting’; decision is part of bill setting fresh guidelines for food packaging.

sheep (photo credit: daniella cheslow)
(photo credit: daniella cheslow)
LONDON – The European Parliament in Brussels last week voted through an amendment to a new European Union food-labeling bill that would require animals not stunned before being slaughtered to be labeled on food packaging.
The Environmental and Consumer Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted through the amendment necessitating kosher meat to be labeled “unstunned before slaughter.”
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The amendment was carried by a slim majority of 34 to 28.
Following intensive lobbying by community campaign group Shechita UK, many of the main groups in the parliament allowed a free vote – but the amendment was carried on the back of Socialist bloc votes, led by the group’s UK Labor Party MEPs.
The regulation on the provision of food information to consumers will now be voted on by the entire parliament at the second reading in July.
Last year the same amendment was carried at first reading by a majority of 56.
“The fight to stop this amendment is far from over,” said Shechita UK’s chairman, Henry Grunwald. “In recent months we have highlighted to a number of MEPs that this amendment does nothing to improve animal welfare, fails to fully inform consumers and is clearly discriminatory by design – and most have now chosen to reject it.
“We have received widespread support from many of the parliamentary groups, and we will be working hard between now and July to give more MEPs a better understanding of the underlying issues,” he added.
Grunwald said he is hopeful the European Council will reject the parliament’s decision in discussions set to begin next month.
“We have communicated our position to the European Council who rejected the amendment after the first reading, and thus we are hopeful that the Council will again reject the Parliament’s position in negotiations, which will begin informally in May,” Grunwald added.
Shechita UK said it will be coordinating its activities with those of the European Jewish Congress in the coming months.
The campaign group also highlighted that with less than one in 10 MEPs coming from the UK, the outcome will be determined by the votes of MEPs from the other 26 EU member states.
The fact that the vote took place on Tuesday, the first day of Pessah, was not missed by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE), who called the timing “problematic and a source of inspiration” to overcome the legislation.
“It is inconceivable that members of the European Parliament, representing Jewish communities across Europe, could not have chosen another day to vote on such a tendentious issue that gravely affects European Jewry,” Deputy Director of the RCE Rabbi Arye Goldberg said on Wednesday.
“It is insulting to the Jewish community, which holds ancient precepts about caring for animals, to have our traditions portrayed as barbaric as some have done,” he continued, noting that the RCE will commence on lobbying work to prevent the legislation.
Jonah Mandel contributed to this report.