for forthcoming uk programmes of jewish or israeli interest

friday 17th january 2014, 1.05-6.00am, on bbc parliament tv (freeview channel 81)
question for short debate:
“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the ethical, legal and religious factors that influence the way in which some animals are slaughtered in the United Kingdom.”
full transcript available at…

Lord Trees (Crossbench) opened the debate by recounting an (apparently non-shechita) slaughter without stunning …

“… in my 45 years as a veterinary surgeon … when I first witnessed slaughter without stunning it was profoundly disturbing. The animal staggered from its killing crate, blood gushing from the neck wound, and it did not collapse into unconsciousness for some considerable time. It is that experience and others since that have caused me to bring this debate.”

he then quoted from an unnamed alleged jewish vet who gave no details whatever other than a series of adjectives …

“…horrific … That horror lives fresh in my mind … this barbaric practice… unnecessary and brutal suffering …”

and quoted from the 2003 FASWC report which concluded that …

“such a massive injury would result in very significant pain and distress in the period before insensibility supervenes”.

however he made it clear that he was against a ban on shechita (and dhabihah), but called on jewish and muslim authorities to reconsider their practices
Lord Winston (Lab):

“… the notion of animal protection is stronger in Judaism than in any other world religion.
I want to speak purely as a scientist. We have heard a number of assertions here which are not scientific. With all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Trees, death is not caused by exsanguination; it is due to interruption of the blood supply to the brain, which is immediate and has been measured. The problem with EEG measurements—electrode recording—is that they have been shown to be unsound. Indeed, the only way that you could detect pain would be by positron emission scanning of the brain, which clearly does not show any activity at all within two seconds once the blood supply has been cut. I would also argue that shechita is a much more humane method than stunning. Contrary to what some have said, it is a better method of killing animals because there is less suffering. Animals have to be calm and they are not manhandled roughly.”
“I emphasise that what has been said about pain is another assumption. Of course animals may move after the brain is severed but the brain itself does not perceive pain if it is damaged and, in fact, none of the organs below the skin has pain fibres. You have some pain fibres in your trachea but they are very small. The evidence that animals suffer severe pain after one cut with an extremely sharp knife is extremely arguable. The truth is that, once you are unconscious, nobody knows what the perception of death or pain is.”

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD) suggested that meat should be labelled for all methods of slaughter …

“… shooting, mostly of hunting and game birds; a captive bolt gun to the skull for cows and sheep; chickens shackled by their ankles and dipped in a water bath that has an electric current running through it; herding pigs into a room and gassing them; and trapping and clubbing, which are mostly used in hunting.”

he then quoted the EFSA report on the suffering caused by failed stunning …

“It is important to be honest about the incidents of mis-stunning that are recorded. The European Food Safety Authority’s report, Welfare Aspects of Animal Stunning and Killing Methods, found that the failure rate for penetrating captive bolt stunning in the non-kosher slaughter of cattle may be as high as 6.6%—the noble Lord, Lord Winston, says it is 8%—and that, for non-penetrating captive bolt stunning and electric stunning, it can rise to as high as 31%. The percentages of mis-stuns far exceed the total quantity of animals slaughtered for the Jewish community. Every year, millions of animals across Europe are mis-stunned and left in great distress. I say: label all this meat …
… A new European Commission report published on 19 December 2013 on the various stunning methods for poultry concludes that, although there are serious animal welfare concerns about the water-bath stunning of poultry, more humane methods are not “economically viable”.”

Baroness Deech (CB):

” I wish to dwell on the selectivity in the Question as regards “some” animals. Ethical, religious and legal factors should be universally applied and not selective. This is a country in which fishing is a national pastime. Fish die from being left to suffocate and being gutted, which takes quite a while. We shoot foxes and trap them. We cull badgers by shooting and perhaps gassing them. We shoot stags and pheasants. We decapitate rabbits. Millions of lobsters have their claws bound and are thrown into boiling water where they thrash for a long time. Chickens and turkeys are swept through an electrically charged water bath and then are immersed in scalding water but it frequently goes wrong. It has been found that 26% of turkeys and one-third of chickens probably enter the scalding water while still alive and sensible.
Stunning cattle is vaunted as superior to Jewish slaughter, but it frequently goes wrong.
The Jewish method ensures immediate cerebral perfusion and is irreversible. No electric prods are used and one animal is not killed in the presence of another. I am not religious in my attitude to food but I greatly respect the attitude of those who are orthodox and their religious slaughtermen, who regard the killing of animals as an act that should be not only humane but infused with respect and reverence, remembering at all times the gravity of what they do and never becoming slapdash or hardened. This attitude should be more widespread, so that we do not see newspaper reports of deliberate mistreatment of animals in abattoirs for fun.
The European Food Safety Authority found that about 12 million cows suffer from failed stunning. That greatly exceeds the entire annual quantity of cattle slaughtered for the Jewish religious community, which is a few thousand. There should be more focus on what goes wrong in stunning and the cruelty inflicted on other animals, and less pointing the finger at the Jewish few thousand if we are to be fair and ethical in our worries.”

Lord Gold (Con) quoted the definition of “stunning” in the european council regulations …

“The definition is,
any intentionally induced process which causes loss of consciousness and sensibility without pain, including any process resulting in instantaneous death”.
I understand that, properly undertaken, that is exactly what Jewish religious slaughter seeks to achieve.”

Lord Sacks (CB) (see also

“… for us animal welfare is a matter of high religious principle, which we take with the utmost seriousness. This is why we insist on long years of training, spiritual as well as practical, before anyone can be qualified to kill animals. In Britain, every shochet is licensed, every licence needs annual renewal, and their work is regularly supervised and reviewed.
Shechita itself, the act of animal killing, is designed to minimise animal pain. The animal must be killed by a single cut with an instrument of surgical sharpness, and in the absence of anything that might impede its smooth and swift motion. The cut achieves three things: it stuns, kills and exsanguinates in a single act. We believe that this is the most humane, or a most humane method of animal slaughter.
Quite apart from the fact that other methods are not permitted by Jewish law, we have doubts about their effectiveness. Pre-stunning by captive bolt, as your Lordships have heard, often fails at the first attempt. According to the European Food Safety Authority’s report in 2004, the failure of penetrating and non-penetrating captive bolts affects around 10 million animals, causing the animal grave distress.
In Britain, some 3 million cows annually are affected by these failures, compared to the 20,000 cows killed annually by shechita. The pain caused to animals by the use of pre-stunning methods vastly outweighs that caused by shechita, even were it the case that shechita did cause extra moments of pain. However, we are not convinced that such is the case. The failure rates of pre-stunning, and the inconclusive and highly challenged nature of some of the experimental studies done in this field, should give us pause.
Therefore, if a case is made for labelling meat to indicate how the animal was killed, this must apply to all methods of slaughter, not just to some. I hope therefore that the Jewish community will continue to work with the Government to ensure that shechita continues to the highest standards of concern for the welfare of animals, which should rightly be the concern of us all.”

(formerly, but no longer, available at

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