(JTA) — Meat sold in Britain should be labeled if the animal has not been stunned before slaughter, a British lawmaker said.
Neil Parish, who heads the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beef and Lamb, made the call on Monday for the increased stunning of animals undergoing ritual slaughter during a parliamentary meeting of the group, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.
Parish, of the Conservative Party, told the meeting that the government should continue to research shechitah, or Jewish ritual slaughter, and halal, Muslim ritual slaughter.
He also said he would hold discussions with Jewish religious officials over stunning before slaughter. Parish added that he wanted labels to indicate whether or not an animal had been stunned before slaughter, not whether it was slaughtered kosher or halal.
Muslim and Jewish ritual slaughter require that animals be conscious before their necks are cut.
“There is a danger that an outright ban on religious slaughter would not improve animal welfare,” Parish said.
Jewish lawmakers and those representing large Jewish constituencies defended shechitah during the meeting.
Louise Ellman of the Labor Party called a ban on kosher meat production a “gross infringement” of the Jewish community’s civil rights, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
In recent years, kosher and halal slaughter has come under attack in many European countries by animal welfare activists and secularists, but also by right-wing nationalists who view the custom as foreign.
Since 2010, slaughter that does not involve stunning has been banned in Poland and Denmark. The lower house of the parliament of the Netherlands also banned the practice, but the ban was reversed in 2012 by the senate.
In May, the then-president-elect of the British Veterinary Association called for a ban on slaughtering cattle without first stunning it, which in effect would outlaw traditional kosher slaughter.
An online petition calling for an end to slaughter without stunning for all animals in Britain has received more than 77,700 signatures.
The British government in its response to the petition said that it “encourages the highest standards of welfare at slaughter and would prefer to see all animals stunned before they are slaughtered for food. However, we also respect the rights of the Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed recently that there would be no ban on religious slaughter in the United Kingdom, the response noted.