Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK branded the new proposal as "the 21st century equivalent of the yellow star, but on our food." Cohen and others fear that labeling non-kosher meat produced in the shechita process would lead to a massive hike in kosher prices because the vast majority of shechita meat goes to unwitting non-kosher consumers who may now decide to opt for other meat. Shechita could then become financially untenable.
Kosher meat labelling a 21st century 'Yellow Star'
By Justin Cohen • TotallyJewish.com
A new proposal to label kosher meat is set to be debated by MEPs in April, just months after another labelling proposal was struck out by the European Union.
The community breathed a collective sigh of relief last year when the Council of Ministers removed an amendment, backed by the European Parliament, that would have required relevant meat to be labelled as 'slaughtered without stunning'.
It is feared that such a measure would lead to a massive hike in kosher prices as the vast majority of shechita meat goes to non-kosher consumers who may decide to opt for products without labels. The practise could then eventually become untenable.
Now the controversial proposal has been re-introduced by a Dutch MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy. It is set to be debated on 11 April, at the same time as a separate amendment proposed by Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson.
This new amendment would require that meat be labelled, 'This product comes from an animal slaughtered by the shechita method', with similar labelling for halal meat. Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK, which has played a key role in the campaign against last year's amendment, branded the new proposal as "the 21st century equivalent of the yellow star, but on our food".
In a letter to Stevenson, he argued that the amendment "essentially has the same effect but in a more direct manner" as last year's failed proposal. Cohen wrote: "If you were labelling every other form of slaughter, religious and secular, including stunning methods and incidences of mis-stunning then we would accept that this was a fairer form of labelling. But as your amendment stands, it is discrimination of the most direct kind."
Shechita UK insists it was partly the engagement of the community in a campaign against the original amendment which led to it being struck out and are now urging members to campaign against the two new amendments by writing to MEPs. Cohen said: "It is very disappointing the amendment has been brought back against the wishes of the Council and also that a new more sinister amendment has been brought forward.
"Once again we need the community to respond to make our feelings known that we will not be singled out in this way. The consequences of not responding to this will mean there will not be meat on our plates."
However, while last year the community had months to make their voices heard, there are just two weeks until the latest amendments are debated by the Parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee. If adopted at that stage, the proposal will move to the floor of the European Parliament for final approval as part of the wider regulation.
Stevenson told the Jewish News: "In Europe the default position is animals should be slaughtered and pre-stunned, therefore any deviation from that should be labelled so consumers know about it."
He added: "I am deeply offended when anyone says I am being anti-Jewish. My concerns are entirely from an animal welfare perspective because the vast majority of kosher meat is sold on to the non kosher market and just as you label the meat (as kosher) so the main market deserves to know what it is buying."
Draft letters and a list of MEPs will be available at www.shechitauk.org from this weekend.
Here is the Jewish Chronicle's report, which contains more incendiary and some inaccurate comments from Cohen:
New threat to shechitah 'modern yellow star'
A Conservative politician in Europe has been accused of "blatant discrimination" and introducing the "21st century equivalent of the yellow star" after he launched new plans to label kosher meat.
MEP Struan Stevenson, who represents Scotland in the European Parliament, has drafted an amendment to the food information bill which calls for kosher meat to be labelled "this product comes from an animal slaughtered by the shechitah method".
He has asked for similar labelling for halal meat.
Last year, the European Council of Ministers rejected an amendment, supported by Mr Stevenson, which called for kosher meat to be labelled "meat from slaughter without stunning".
This amendment has also been reintroduced.
Shimon Cohen, of lobby group Shechita UK, said he was "completely surprised" to hear Mr Stevenson's plans after a meeting with him last October gave the impression he would not pursue the amendment after it was ruled out by the council.
Mr Cohen said: "I felt he had recognised that singling out Jews in this way was unfair and that he would be working towards a fairer way to achieve full food information to the consumer.
"It seems he has gone the other way and chosen to single us out directly. This isn't about food information. We are not told the religion of any other slaughterer, or about the method of slaughter, or about whether the animal was mis-stunned.
"Mr Stevenson is picking on Jews and Muslims by saying that only their slaughter methods should be labelled. He is blatantly discriminating against our communities."
Campaigners fear the amendment could cause kosher prices to "rocket" because buyers from the non-kosher market, which consumes 70 per cent of shechitah-slaughtered meat, may be put off by the labelling.
"It is the 21st century equivalent of the yellow star, but on our food," Mr Cohen said.
"Mr Stevenson is a known opponent of shechitah and he is doing all he can to sow doubts in the minds of consumers about our slaughter methods, which are in fact both legal and humane - far more humane than the electrocution, clubbing, shooting and gassing that takes place in secular slaughter."
But Mr Stevenson, who is from a farming background, insisted that the accusations were a "bullying and hysterical reaction" and maintained that his amendment was in "no way discriminatory".
"My amendments are driven solely by a desire to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare are adhered to in the EU," he said.
"The public assume that all meat products they eat have come from animals slaughtered by pre-stunning, which is what science says is humane.
"It is the public's right to know if food has not come from what they understand to be the norm.
"If you insist on labelling everything accepted as the norm, you'd have to start labelling bottled water.
"I don't think shechitah is humane. I have seen animals slaughtered by shechitah and believe they suffer a violent pain." He said that he had banned his own farm animals from being slaughtered by shechitah.
Shechita UK is calling on the community once again to contact MEPs before a committee approves the amendment to be included in the bill later this month. If it is approved, the bill will then be voted on by the parliament in June.
"Thanks to the exceptional way the community responded last time, it got rejected," Mr Cohen said. "It will get rejected again if we can recreate that same support."
Cohen seems to think that lying (or total stupidity) is the correct way to address this issue.
A few points:
1. Modern stun guns rarely misfire. Botched shechita – think Agriprocessors in 2004 – is more common.
2. Anesthetizing an animal (what Cohen calls "gassing") reduces the pain an animal feels during slaughter of any type.
3. Asphyxiating an animal (another form of "gassing") causes the animal (in this case, primarily chickens) to pass out, much the way a person would, God forbid, pass out if the carbon dioxide level in their home rose. In the case of chickens, passing out is followed quickly by death.
But understand what Cohen is really afraid of.
Half of each and every mammal slaughtered by the shechita method is sold as non-kosher. On top of that, about 30% to 50% of all mammals kosher slaughtered are determined to be non-kosher and 100% of their meat is sold as non-kosher.
What Cohen wants is for unsuspecting non-Jewish consumers to buy that meat thinking it is the same as the vast majority of non-kosher meat sold – but it is not, because the animals are not stunned or anesthetized before slaughter, and stunning or anesthetizing before slaughter is what Europeans expect.
Will the price of kosher meat rise if this bill passes? Most likely, it will.
But the European Jewish community can reduce that price increase substantially in the following ways:
It can return to what was the norm in Jewish communities worldwide until the 20th century and resume using the back half of kosher mammals. This is still done in Israel and could be done in Europe within a few months. This will greatly reduce the amount of kosher slaughtered meat sold as non-kosher.
And it can bring in Dr. Temple Grandin to revamp kosher slaughter and animal handling. Dr. Grandin did this for several North American kosher slaughterhouses with great success, and did it without changing or ignoring any Jewish laws. Once this is done and a transparent and independent monitoring system for it is operational, the number of non-Jews choosing not to buy kosher slaughtered non-kosher meat will drop dramatically.
However, instead of taking proactive steps, Cohen and his ilk continue to spout propaganda and lies while screaming antisemitism. (You might recognize this tactic from the Agriprocessors and Sholom Rubashkin scandals.)
One day, perhaps one day soon, Cohen's approach will fail.
And it should fail because it is largely based on falsehoods, and because it ignores honest solutions to a very real problem.