‘Collateral damage’: MEP says UKIP ritual slaughter ban ‘not aimed at Jews’
Stuart Agnew, a member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament, said Britain’s Jewish community had been “caught in the crossfire.”
Agnew’s comments follow UKIP’s announcement on Tuesday that it would back a ban on non-stun slaughter, accusing the government of being “weak” and “lazy” on the issue.
Simon Cohen, Campaign Director at Shechita UK – an organization promoting Jewish methods of animal slaughter – said UKIP’s new policy would return it to the “fringes of mainstream politics.”
Video documents cruelty
Religious slaughter has been in the spotlight this week after Animal Aid published an undercover video on Tuesday documenting scenes of cruelty in a halal abattoir in Yorkshire.
The four-minute video, which was filmed inside Bowood slaughterhouse last December, includes graphic scenes of workers kicking half-conscious sheep in the face, jumping up and down on them, and hacking at their throats.
Most abattoirs are required by law to stun animals before they are killed, but Muslim and Jewish slaughterhouses are exempt on religious grounds.
Politicians and the public reacted strongly to the video, with over 100,000 people signing a petition to end non-stun slaughter on the government’s e-petition website.
Sir Roger Gale MP, a former vice-chair of the Conservative Party, called for government action.
“This highlights the very real concern over halal and kosher slaughter. My impression is that all political parties have fought and fight shy of addressing the issue because of the concern not to upset certain faith groups,” he said.
“We should bite the bullet and legislate if necessary and simply say point blank there will be no ritual slaughter without pre-stunning,” he added.
UKIP wades into debate
UKIP announced a surprise U-turn on its policy toward non-stun slaughter by calling for its ban on the same day the abattoir video was released.
Party leader Nigel Farage had previously expressed tacit support for protecting the legal exemption held by religious groups.
Speaking at an event organized by the Jewish Chronicle in 2013, he said even if most UKIP supports are uncomfortable with it, “that’s different to saying to your community ‘you can’t do it.’”
In a statement, UKIP said it supported the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and leading animal-rights charity RSPCA in calling for a ban on non-stun slaughter.
While the party respects religious groups, it would not allow the rights and demands of those religions to “override the UK's compassionate traditions of animal welfare,” it said.
Jews ‘caught in crossfire’
Following criticism from Jewish groups, Agnew said the policy wasn’t aimed at the community.
The UKIP member and Norfolk farmer told the Jewish Chronicle: “This isn’t aimed at you – it’s aimed elsewhere – it’s aimed at others.”
“You’ve been caught in the crossfire; collateral damage. You know what I mean.”
Agnew failed to clarify who the “others” are, but instead said the U-turn was made to attract more votes ahead of the general election in May.
“We’ll have lost the Jewish vote for sure, they won’t support us now for sure – we won’t get any now. But we might gain votes elsewhere – and that’s what they’re after, general election votes.”
Shimon Cohen, campaign director of Shechita UK, was damning in his criticism of the party.
“By joining the campaign to prioritize 'animal welfare' over the rights and beliefs of the UK’s faith communities UKIP has returned to the fringes of mainstream politics,” he said.