​‘Wild-eyed and obsessive’: Jewish group challenges call for ritual slaughter ban

Reuters / Regis Duvignau
A Jewish organization in the UK has accused the British Veterinary Association (BVA) of being “negligent, obsessed and politically driven” for pursuing a campaign against religious slaughter.

The condemnation from Shechita UK comes hours before MPs debate the future of kosher and halal meat slaughter in the UK.

Jewish and Muslim organizations have rejected calls to ban the practice.

Opponents have become increasingly vocal since an undercover video documenting animal cruelty in a Yorkshire halal abattoir went viral last month.

A public outcry ensued, resulting in the BVA calling on the government to ban non-stun slaughter, citing scientific research, which concludes animals suffer during the process.

Most abattoirs are required by law to stun animals before they are killed, but Muslim and Jewish slaughterhouses are exempt on religious grounds. An online petition created by the BVA calling for this exemption to be ended has received over 115,000 signatures.

However, a rival petition calling for its protection set up by Mohammed Amin, chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, has attracted 123,550 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

In a press release, Shechita UK branded the BVA as “negligent, obsessed and politically driven.

Shimon Cohen, director of the organization, went on to describe animal welfare groups generally as “wild-eyed and obsessive.”

There have been two comprehensive and balanced debates on religious slaughter in little over a year, for animal welfare groups to push for a third is wild-eyed and obsessive,” he said.

Cohen, who is also chairman of one of the UK’s top PR agencies, accused the BVA of hypocrisy.

Two weeks ago a horrific film of extraordinary disregard for animal welfare at a non-mechanically stunned abattoir in Yorkshire came to light. Animal Welfare campaigners called for an end of religious slaughter.

Four days later a similar video was released at a conventional slaughter house and I didn’t hear one call to end conventional slaughter.

This fixation with religious slaughter beggars belief,” he added.

Muslim groups in the UK are equally alarmed by calls to outlaw the practice, with the Muslim Council of Britain promoting the pro-religious slaughter petition on its website homepage.

Citing the fact that over 80 percent of halal meat is stunned before slaughter, the BVA claims its campaign is not targeting religious practices.

In a statement, BVA president John Blackwell insisted the campaign is about animal welfare.

We have never – nor would we – argue against religious slaughter. We categorically refute any suggestion that this is an anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish campaign.

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We have met with, and are keen to continue our positive discussions with, representatives of the halal and kosher meat industry to explore where we can work together to improve animal welfare at slaughter.

BVA finds abuse of animals in any slaughterhouses unacceptable,” he added.

Blackwell went on to say the BVA is calling on the government to have a “consistent approach to animal welfare legislation.”

MPs will debate ending non-stun slaughter on Monday.