The MP responsible for advising the government on animal slaughter was publicly rebuked this week for claiming a new scientific study on blood loss should “assure” Jews that pre-stunning is compatible with their faith.
Neil Parish, who heads the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beef and Lamb, was reacting to the latest research that indicates animals killed by shechita and conventional methods lose similar amounts of blood.
The study’s scientists, both of whom are Jewish, claim this means shechita “fails in its stated purpose of removing as much blood as possible” and that the practice would now be more difficult to justify.
Parish, a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, agreed it could prove significant.
He said: “If it can be scientifically established that stunning does not adversely affect blood loss then we reassure consumers of religiously slaughtered meat that stunning is compatible with their faith.”
However, Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK dismissed the MP’s suggestion.
He said: “It may be interesting to Neil Parish that he feels able to reassure faith communities about what is and what is not compatible with their faith, but it’s not interesting to us.”
He added that the study meant that proponents of a ban on religious slaughter “now seem to be moving onto something else, having failed to beat us down on animal welfare”.
This week’s debate comes after psychiatrist Colin Brewer and consultant pathologist Peter Osin found similar retention of red blood cells in animals killed in different ways, suggesting blood loss was unaffected by stunning.
In August, Parish led a parliamentary inquiry that recommended further research in this area.
Rapid blood loss from the animal as a result of shechita has formed part of the argument for it being a humane method of slaughter, with experts maintaining it leads to the animal’s rapid loss of consciousness.
Exsanguination [blood loss] is also considered important in Jewish law as Jews are forbidden to consume blood. Chabad-Lubavitch states: “Shechita ensures maximum exsanguination.”
However, communal and religious figures have rubbished the idea that it is of utmost importance to expel as much blood as possible to meet religious requirements of shechita.
“The community has never contended that there is less blood in a carcass following shechita than following conventional mechanical slaughter,” said Cohen.
“Shechita is not carried out to facilitate the fastest and most effective blood loss.
It is practised because it is religiously mandated.”
Continued from page 1 Chanoch Chaim Kesselman of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations and the Campaign for the Protection of Shechita said: “These scientists have misinterpreted the requirements of shechita.”
Senior Reform Movement Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “Blood loss is not the issue, so I can’t see that this study will have much impact.”
But co-author Osin insists the study raises key questions about the justification of religious slaughter.
He said: “If shechita causes levels of avoidable distress and fails in its purpose of removing as much blood as possible compared with other methods, then it becomes more difficult to justify and defend.”