"The law singles out two religions, Judaism and Islam, for specific and sole attack, requiring labeling only for animals killed by ritual slaughter. Yet for every animal expert arguing that they use uniquely cruel methods there are any number of others arguing the very opposite."
The Jewish Chronicle [London]
Despite the lobbying attempts of Shechita UK, an amendment was passed last week at the European Parliament which would, if it became law, force the labelling of meat from animals killed according to the rules of Judaism and Islam.
It will now come to the full Parliament for a final vote in July. Whatever the rights and wrongs of labelling in general, be in no doubt that the arguments put forward by the amendment's sponsors, that their proposal is based on a concern with animal welfare, are pure sophistry. Were animal welfare the driving force, all forms of slaughter would have to be identified.
But the law singles out two religions, Judaism and Islam, for specific and sole attack, requiring labelling only for animals killed by ritual slaughter. Yet for every animal expert arguing that they use uniquely cruel methods there are any number of others arguing the very opposite. There is no consistency of approach, only a direct attack on religious freedom. Efforts will have to be redoubled to make sure that, come July, we are not left bemoaning a vote by the full Parliament to attack Jews and Muslims.
The above Jewish Chronicle editorial reflects the position of Shechita UK, a lobbying group meant to preserve Jewish ritual slaughter. Led by Simon Cohen, Shechita UK has specialized in mixing very old (and often very biased) pro-shechita research with modern science – which is overwhelmingly clear that animals are rendered insensate faster and more reliably if stunned before slaughter.
When the JC writes "for every animal expert arguing that they use uniquely cruel methods there are any number of others arguing the very opposite," those unnamed "experts" arguing the "very opposite" overwhelmingly wrote in the 1930s or earlier, and were often recruited by Orthodox rabbis attempting to defend shechita against Nazi attempts to ban it that were clothed in protecting animals from cruelty.
Cohen and his ilk – Nathan Lewin in the US, for example – see no or very little difference between the Nazis of the 1930s and groups like PETA and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals today, even though PETA argues that properly done shechita is as humane as slaughter can be, and the ASPCA puts their seal on pens used to restrain animals during Jewish ritual slaughter.
The issue is how we define "properly done shechita."
Pro-shechita activists like Cohen define "properly done shechita" in superficial halakhic terms: the condition of the knife blade, the position of the cut, etc. – in other words, they define "properly done shechita" by the Orthodox and haredi definition of the minutia of halakha, Jewish law.
Animal welfare experts – including Dr. Temple Grandin, who is often misquoted by pro-shechita activists – define "properly done shechita" by other criteria: animal handling leading up to slaughter, minimizing delay from positioning the animal and slaughter, the sharpness of the knife, the swiftness of the cut, leaving the animal undisturbed after shechita until it loses consciousness, etc.
What animal welfare activists want does not in any way conflict with halakha.
Even so, Shechita UK, Nathan Lewin and other pro-shechita activists, along with haredi kosher supervision agencies (and often the Orthodox Union [OU], as well), continue to refuse to mandate the implementation of measures that would meet the requirements of animal welfare activists and experts, while at the same time calling these groups and individuals antisemitic.
Indeed, Nathan Lewin equated PETA with the Nazis and Shechita UK's Simon Cohen called labeling meat killed by ritual slaughter methods the "21st century equivalent of the yellow star," and both continue to say that shechita is not only as humane as pre-stunned slaughter, but that shechita is more humane than pre-stunned slaughter, and base that ridiculous conclusion on 80 year old 'research' recruited for the most part by Orthodox rabbis.
And that's how we get to the Jewish Chronicle's blatant error (or its blatant lie):"for every animal expert arguing that they use uniquely cruel methods there are any number of others arguing the very opposite."
Put simply, Shechita UK is lying and the London Jewish Chronicle is taking those lies and repeating them as if they were true.
This behavior will eventually lead to the labeling Shechita UK's Cohen so vehemently opposes and may one day lead to a complete ban on shechita in the European Union.
When that happens, Cohen and the Jewish Chronicle's editors will have no one to blame but themselves.
But Cohen, et al, won't blame themselves. Instead, they'll continue to blame 'antisemitic' animal welfare activists who would have been easily appeased with simple changes in animal handling that in no way conflict with halakha.