The Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) slammed the timing of a vote this week by the European Parliament’s food safety committee for clear labelling so consumers can see whether meat has been stunned or not before it has been slaughtered.
The vote took place on the first day of Passover, one of the most important dates of the Jewish calendar.
The new EU legislation proposals has steered away from labelling meat from ritually slaughtered animals as halal or shechita to avoid causing religious offence, instead opting for the label of “meat from slaughter without stunning.”
With shechita or kosher slaughter, the animal must be alive and healthy, and all blood should be drained out, but the slaughter must be undertaken by a Jewish slaughterman, called a shochet.
Slaughter without stunning is legal under religious freedom laws in most EU countries.
Rabbi Arye Goldberg, Deputy Director of the RCE, denounced the timing of the vote, calling it both “problematic and a source of inspiration” to eventually defeat the planned draft legislation.
The RCE represents over 700 European religious leaders dedicated to meeting the needs of Jewish communities in Europe.
“It is inconceivable that members of the European Parliament, representing Jewish communities across Europe, could not have chosen another day to vote on such a tendentious issue that gravely affects European Jewry,” the rabbi said.
“The laws themselves appear to discriminate against the Jewish community as no other method of slaughter will be mentioned.”
“However, just as we learn in the Passover story that the Jewish people will overcome adversity, so we will overcome this as well and the RCE will use all its efforts to defeat this when it comes for the official vote.”
The draft legislation, if adopted in July, when it is expected to be presented to the plenary session of the European Parliament, could characterize kosher meat in a derogatory manner. This could lead to a massive drop in non-Jewish sales which will have a dramatic effect on the prices of kosher meat, thus rendering it outside the means of many Jews.
“Funds from kosher food are an important contribution to Jewish institutions in Europe, the lack of these funds will mean the closure of many institutions which in turn will severely restrict Jewish life on the continent,” Rabbi Goldberg continued.
According to the RCE, the draft legislation “runs contrary to the European Union?s own guidelines, not only about freedom of religion, but also the fact that shechita has been proven to be one of the most humane ways of animal slaughter.”
“It is insulting to the Jewish community, which holds ancient precepts about caring for animals, to have our traditions portrayed as barbaric as some have done,” the organization stressed.
The RCE said it will begin lobbying MEP’s from across the European Union to prevent the Parliament from adopting the draft legislation as law.
An EU source cited by the British daily The Telegraph said the proposal is expected to be opposed by national governments who are concerned that the issue is too controversial to be included in EU food labelling regulations.
“This is too sensitive a social issue to be dealt with as an add on to food labelling rules,” the source said.