Shechita UK ‘confident’ over government’s possible food labelling reforms

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Shechita UK ‘confident’ over government’s possible food labelling reforms

The UK needs to create its own animal welfare legislation following the decision to exit the European Union.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Shechita UK has welcomed the government’s announcement of a consultation process over possible food labelling reforms for animal welfare reasons, saying it is “confident” the concerns of faith communities will be respected.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed on Monday that it would launch a Call for Evidence on Animal Welfare Labelling lasting for 12 weeks until Monday 6 December.

The government needs to create its own animal welfare legislation following the decision to exit the European Union.

Defra said it wanted to listen to views, including that of Schechita UK, about possible reforms to food labelling for animal welfare – with the aim of understanding of how this might impact business, farmers, and consumers.

The department said it would listen views on which welfare standards could form the basis of a possible food label for animal welfare, and what the label might look like. It also confirmed that it was looking for information on the potential scope, regulation, and enforcement of such a labelling scheme.

Responding to the announcement Shechita UK’s director Shimon Cohen said the organisation “fully supports the concept that consumers have every right to know what they are eating, where their food comes from, that it meets required standards, and if they so require, as Jews do, how their meat was prepared.  ”

But Cohen added: “However, it is extremely important that any label is honest and non-discriminatory, as if this was not the case it could lead to an inadvertent deception of the consumer and an affront to faith communities. With regards to slaughter, one dimensional labelling such as ‘stunned’ or ‘non-stunned’ would be innately pejorative and misleading to the consumer.

“It would advance the myth that mechanical, industrialised stunning is an all-encompassing, animal welfare panacea. It is not. Mechanical stunning methods which include captive bolt devices, firearm with free projectile, electrical stunning, electrical waterbath stunning  and asphyxiation by gas all cause pain and distress to the animal. They also frequently go wrong, leaving the animal in even greater, prolonged agony.

“If true consumer information is the goal, then comprehensive labelling that denotes the specific method of slaughter used needs to be provided. Shechita UK will be submitting to the consultation and remains confident that the Government will work with faith communities on this policy as well as once again stating their commitment to the protection of religious slaughter as this process progresses.”

Defra added there will be a wider review of food labelling as part of the UK Government’s Food Strategy White Paper, where there may be a need for public consultation in 2022.

For now, it was  looking for some preliminary evidence with regards to how labelling for animal welfare may align with wider labelling reform, including nutrition and eco-labelling.

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