Protest over minister's 'deeply troubling' attack on Shechita
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While restating the coalition's position were the exemption that allows religious communities to perform slaughter without pre-stunning will not be removed, Jim Paice, the minister for agriculture and food, reportedly told a major conference of the "immense distress and pain which they (animals slaughtered through this method) must be suffering".
Paice told the British Meat Processors Association that the government respects the right for people to eat meat prepared in a way that reflects religious beliefs despite preferring to see all animals stunned before slaughter. However, ahead of an imminent consultation on incorporating EU legislation on animal welfare into British law, he added there was support for "the principle that consumers should have accurate information. We know that they are conveying real responsibility in trying to establish traceability and identify point of slaughter to the point of consumption, but regulatory may well have a role to play.
"Government are not going to lay down the definition of halal or kosher slaughter but we can and must lay down what is acceptable and what the British consumer should be told. I am convinced that we need to move from the current situation which I've witnessed and am convinced it is not acceptable to a large number of people."
Shechita UK said the minister used his speech "to restate his oft-heard, deeply troubling personal views about religious slaughter. We will of course be writing to him once again to protest in the strongest terms, reminding him of Government policy in this regard. Fortunately, the Government remains respectful of the right of faith groups to practice religious slaughter and we have been working with officials at Westminster ahead of their imminent consultation on the issue to ensure that none of the additional measures proposed will impede shechita in any way."
Shechita UK believe itís likely that the consultation, which the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said would be launched "shortly", would explore meat labelling and traceability. Ahead of the launch, Shechita UK has been in conversation with government officials on a number of issues including training of abattoir staff and the type of surgical instrument used. The government is understood to be considering whether to suggest replicating the strict rules governing the latter in the practice of shechita when the consultation is published.
A Defra spokesperson said: "The Government has no plans to ban religious slaughter. However, changes to all rules on welfare at slaughter will be required when a new EU regulation on welfare at the time of killing comes into effect in January 2013."
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