Jewish group accuses British Veterinary Association of ‘hypocrisy’ over non-stun slaughter

Shechita UK claimed that the problems in abattoirs had nothing to do with Jewish practices, but with fundamental issues across the industry

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The Independent Online

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has come under fire from a Jewish organisation accusing it of having an unreasonable “fixation with religious slaughter”, calling it “negligent, obsessed and politically driven”.

As MPs prepare to debate the controversial issue of killing animals for food without stunning them first under religious doctrines, Shechita UK, which promotes the Jewish method, accused the BVA of “complete hypocrisy”.

Claiming that animal welfare campaigners have one set of rules for conventional and another for religious slaughter, the organisation said the problems in abattoirs had nothing to do with Jewish practices, but with fundamental issues across the industry.

The BVA was behind a petition to ban “non-stun” slaughter, attracting almost 114,000 signatures ahead of a debate in Westminster Hall.

“The sheer volume of campaigning the BVA and others have put into this petition highlights the complete hypocrisy in animal rights campaigning today,” said Schechita UK’s director, Shimon Cohen.

Two weeks ago, a horrific film showing an extraordinary disregard for animal welfare came to light at an abattoir in Yorkshire where animals are not mechanically stunned – prompting animal rights campaigners to call for the end of religious slaughter. By contrast, a similar video was released at a mainstream slaughterhouse a few days later and “I didn’t hear one call to end conventional slaughter”, Mr Cohen said.

“The BVA is negligent in its duty to protect animals. If there is a genuine interest in improving animal welfare at time of slaughter, we need to look at many areas like abattoir practices, CCTV and mis-stunning. The fixation with religious slaughter beggars belief,” Mr Cohen said.

Under Jewish – and Islamic – law, animals set for slaughter must be healthy at the time of death, which rules out the use of conventional “mechanical” stunning using a bolt fired into the brain or an electric shock.

Shechita UK insists the strictly controlled Jewish method of religious slaughter, using a surgically sharp knife, is humane and painless. Animals are effectively stunned by a sudden drop in blood pressure in the brain causing unconsciousness within two seconds, supporters claimed.

However, the European Food Safety Authority’s scientific panel on animal health and welfare disagrees, arguing that cattle take up to two minutes to lose consciousness after their throats are cut.

“BVA has long argued that all animals should be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain,” said BVA’s president, John Blackwell. “Scientific evidence tells us that non-stun slaughter allows the animal to perceive pain and compromises animal welfare ... We categorically [reject] any suggestion that this is an anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish campaign.” He added that more than 80 per cent of animals slaughtered for halal meat are pre-stunned.

The BVA stepped up its campaign last month after finding that the number of animals being killed without stunning soared last year.