UKIP’s vote to ban religious slaughter was an attempt to win votes, the party’s agriculture spokesman has told Jewish News.
The party’s policy-making body – its national executive committee – voted against the practise despite being urged otherwise by Stuart Agnew yesterday.
He told Jewish News the party is looking for policies which will win votes. “The NEC has obviously taken the decision this will win more votes than it will lose. That would be the thinking.”
Recognising the centrality of shechita to the community, he added: “We will obviously lose the Jewish vote.
“In my opinion, Jewish people, wherever they are, aspire to high standards in education and don’t cause trouble. I would have liked to have them on board but we won’t now.”
Agnew has advocated for a policy backing labellking of meat that isn’t pre-stunned.
A UKIP spokesman said, “Animal and veterinary science has long concluded that cutting the throats of animals whilst they are fully conscious can cause significant distress and pain.”
He continued: “We see no reason why religious groups should not take into account the concerns of animal welfare when carrying out slaughter.”
Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK reacted angrily. “By joining the campaign to prioritise ‘animal welfare’ over the rights and beliefs of the UK’s faith communities UKIP has returned to the fringes of mainstream politics,” he said.
The policy reversal comes after the British Veterinary Association (BVA) triggered a parliamentary debate when their online petition reached six figures. BVA president John Blackwell said politicians now “simply cannot ignore the strength of public feeling” on the issue.
There was uproar this week as secretly-filmed footage from a Halal abattoir in Yorkshire was released showing workers repeatedly hacking at sheep’s throats, hurling them into solid structures and kicking them in the face.
Prime Minister David Cameron last year stood in the Israeli parliament and pledged to safeguard shechita in the UK, and so far all three major parties – Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats – have opposed a ban.
However the UKIP move will support the idea that public opinion is shifting, with the RSPCA, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe and the Humane Slaughter Association all pushing calls for a ban, and several European countries doing likewise.
With just three months before the general election, UKIP leaders this week lost no time in criticising the government’s insistence that religious freedoms on this issue be safeguarded.
“We find the government response to this issue is weak, lazy and bordering on spineless,” said UKIP. “It says it would ‘prefer’ animals to be stunned before slaughter but that it must respect the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their beliefs.
“It’s about time someone stood up for the rights of the silent majority in the ethical treatment of animals instead of bowing down to those who shout the loudest.”