In the post-Brexit world, the threat to shechita (religious slaughter) in the UK has been spelled out in stark detail by one of the Jewish community’s foremost campaigners.
Shimon Cohen, director of Shechita UK, said British Jewry had so far been protected by European Regulation 1099, which exempts religious slaughter and overrides domestic law, but which will no longer apply if Britain leaves the European Union.
“If that happens, the British government would either have to ask Parliament to adopt 1099, with the exemption, or come up with its own law,” said Cohen. “Either way, if it goes to a vote in the House of Parliament, we’d lose. It’s a numbers game.”
Cohen said that, alongside parking, animal welfare was one of the two biggest issues MPs hear most about from constituents, and said that right-wing opinion in the UK, predominantly aimed at the Muslim community, would mean MPs voting against non-stun slaughter exemptions.
Shechita is already banned in some European states, such as Sweden, while other countries such as Poland have sought to do so, but seen efforts defeated in domestic parliaments and courts.
Now, after years’ campaigning for the right to practice shechita on the continent, Cohen says the next challenge will be here in the UK, countering nationalists’s obsession with Muslims, who also argue for religious (i.e. non-stun) slaughter.
“If it goes to the floor [of Parliament], the risks are very high. The battle is around population control. The right-wing opposes any concessions to the Muslim population. That’s where our problem lies. It’s not about Jews. The MPs will argue that it’s about ‘cruelty to animals’ but it’s not.”
In Brussels, Rabbi Margolin, head of the Rabbinal Centre of Europe, which represents 800 rabbis, agreed that Britain’s exit posed a headache, saying: “The EU is today much weaker. The UK in particular was a strong advocate for freedom of religion… We have lost an important voice here.”
He argued that chaos in Europe historically leads to “nationalism and radicalism,” adding: “It brings attacks on the Jewish way of life such as shechita and brit milah. Brexit sees a number of threats from these parties who are licking their lips at the prospect of increasing power. It appears that Brexit has given them hope. That is deeply worrying for Jews across Europe.”