MPs have backed an amendment to the government’s Animal Welfare Bill that instructs a committee set up to examine policy decisions to respect religious traditions such as shechita.
In a move that was welcomed by Shechita UK, the Commons voted on Monday evening in favour of a backbench amendment led by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown which requires the new Animal Sentience Committee to have regard to “balancing factors” including respect for local traditions.
Communal sources told Jewish News that the move minimised the risk that members of the Committee were able hijack the agenda in the future to move against the dietary requirements of Jewish and Muslim communities.
Conservative MP Clifton-Brown’s amendment replicates the mandate of the EU Committee on animal rights under the Lisbon Treaty, and received the support of backbench 1922 Chairman Sir Graham Brady, Andrew Percy and Theresa Villiers ahead of Monday’s vote.
Following the vote Shimon Cohen, Campaign Director of Shechita UK, said: “We thank the Government for backing the wise amendment of Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, which places a duty on the new Animal Sentience Committee to respect ‘religious rites’, including Shechita.
” It was heartening to see the cross-party consensus supporting us on this and our particularly thanks go to Jonathan Djanogly MP, Theresa Villiers MP and, of course, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP for championing this issue.”
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, added the Bill had “received unprecedented criticism in the Lords and is still a fundamentally bad piece of legislation.”
But he added the amendment meant “religious, regional and cultural customs” would have to be respected.
The right of the Jewish community to enjoy kosher food in this country, and Muslims to eat halal, has for decades been allowed by a government exemption and requirements set out by the Food Standards Agency.
But there were fears that some MPs would use arguments around slaughter methods and pain to attempt bring a halt to these religious practices.
Shechita UK, along with representatives from with the Muslim community have lobbied hard to ensure MPs have the full facts about kosher and halal slaughter.
With the government backing Monday’s amendment it passed without the need for a vote amongst MPs.
While the amendment does not end the prospect of MPs continuing to campaign against shechita in the future – it reduces the immediate threat.
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