Jewish community leaders this week criticised the new proposal for domestic and imported meat to “include details on country of origin, method of production and method of slaughter” – this being either ‘stunned’ or ‘non-stunned’.
Current government policy does not include labelling. However, last week Animal Welfare Minister Lord Gardiner said the Conservatives may also consider a change after Brexit as part of broader considerations on food labelling.
Shimon Cohen, Shechita UK’s campaign director, took issue with this distinction of stunned or non-stunned meat, saying more accurate information was required.
“It is unfortunate that the Labour Party’s proposal regarding meat labelling is behind the curve,” he said. “Informed circles have now moved this discussion on to a comprehensive method of slaughter labelling.” Under this system, consumers would know whether their meat had been killed “by captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution by tongs or water or any of the other approved methods”, he said.
“It is neither correct nor sufficient for meat to be labelled as ‘stunned’ or ‘non-stunned’.We must be careful not to mislead the consumer into believing mechanical stunning is a kind medicinal process, sending the animal into a woozy unconsciousness,” he said. “Mechanical stunning is an aggressive procedure which many object to.”
Cohen added that a comprehensive method of slaughter labelling was “welcomed by religious communities and animal welfare groups alike” and urged the Labour Party “to urgently review their policy”.
Labour’s other policies include closing loopholes that allow fox and hare-hunting, banning foie gras, which is produced by force-feeding ducks or geese, and mandating drivers who run over and kill cats to report it, as is required for dogs.
Jackie Lipowicz of the Kosher Meat Traders Association said: “We have nothing to hide. We practice the highest standards of slaughter and we have always said we would be happy to label our meat as non-stunned, providing others also label how their meat was stunned, whether this be gassing or drowning.”
In a House of Lords debate earlier this month, animal welfare minister Lord Gardiner said: “The labelling issue is important. It is essential that everyone is allowed to make an informed choice. We will be consider this issue in the context of our departure from the EU.”