Shechita this week claimed UKIP remains “dogged by a membership apparently motivated by bigotry and intolerance” after its policy-making body backed a ban on non-stun slaughter.Rochester and Strood by-election

The party, which is expected to do well in May’s general election, said its sudden new-found opposition to shechita was all about “winning votes”.

The party’s agriculture spokesman Stuart Agnew told Jewish News: “The national executive committee took the decision that this will win more votes than it will lose.”

Agnew, who is against a ban on non-stun slaughter, later admitted: “We will obviously now lose the Jewish vote” which he called “collateral damage”.

The move caused Jewish UKIP candidates and members to reconsider their positions.

Hendon’s parliamentary candidate Jeremy Zeid described it as a “monumental mistake”, while the party’s Friends of Israel head Shneur Odze described the move as “wrong”, adding: “I’m surprised and disappointed.” Odze said he plans to remain in the party to reverse the decision, as “it’s important we have people on the inside to argue our case”.

Nigel Farage’s party was unapologetic, however, saying it was “about time someone stood up for the rights of the silent majority in the ethical treatment of animals instead of bowing to those who shout the loudest”.

A spokesman added: “Animal and veterinary science has long concluded that cutting the throats of animals while they are fully conscious can cause significant distress and pain. We see no reason why religious groups should not take this into account.”

The news comes as an online petition from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) registered 100,000 signatures – enough to trigger a parliamentary debate.

BVA president John Blackwell said politicians now “cannot ignore the strength of public feeling”.

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.

But Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK said: “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.” And writing in today’s Jewish News, Cohen states: “Nigel Farage, Stuart Agnew and Douglas Carswell are good friends of the Jewish community, but their party remains dogged by a membership motivated by intolerance and bigotry.”

All three major parties oppose a ban while the Green Party, which has one MP, supports one.