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Agnew’s agony on ritual slaughter

Critics of Islamic fundamentalism – or extremism, call it what you will – deplore the way in which its adherents follow the instructions and guidance spelt out in the Koran, a text written between 610AD and 632AD – let’s say, roughly 1,400 years ago. Oddly, however, UKIP’s agriculture spokesman, Stuart Agnew, when scraping the barrel for reasons not to abolish the exemptions for Muslims and Jews that permit non-stun animal slaughter, makes an exception for people who adhere to some of the rules decreed in a text written, let’s say, roughly 2,400 years ago: the Hebrew bible, also known as the Old Testament.

In a recent paper on ritual slaughter and in a speech at this year’s UKIP conference Mr Agnew says, rightly, that there can’t be one law for observant Muslims, and quite another for devout Jews. But he wrongly, in my view, concludes that the current exemptions for both should be retained because otherwise it would be a problem for a group in our society, the members of which are thoroughly assimilated, law-abiding, and tax-paying.

I’m far from being an expert on the dietary laws followed by Britain’s observant Orthodox Jews; it looks as if Mr Agnew knows much more about them than I do. My mother and uncle were classed as ‘full’ Jews by the Third Reich in Austria, because they had three Jewish (as defined by race, and decreed in the 1935 Nuremberg Laws) grandparents. This surprised them, because they’d been raised as nominal Roman Catholics, as were a great many fully-assimilated ‘racial’ Jews in Germany and Austria. My uncle and mother had never been in the synagogue in Linz, Upper Austria, though they recalled seeing it burning on Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938. I’ve been to only three synagogue services, I read the Jewish Chronicle once in a blue moon, and I like bacon sandwiches. I know the dietary laws of observant Jews forbid the mixing of meat and dairy foods, and the consumption of shellfish and pork. Many Jews, secular and Orthodox, cannot resist, along with adultery, bacon sandwiches, observing the 11th Commandment: Do not get found out. What I’ve read in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy suggests to me that it’s a mix of nonsense and dietary rules that would have made common sense in a Middle Eastern country without fridges and freezers 2,000 years ago.

To those of us raised in a culture based on the Judeo-Christian scriptures and refined by the 18th century Enlightenment, Islamic non-stun slaughter is without question vile. As Mr Agnew explains: ‘Muslims are primarily concerned that the last sound the animal hears before it dies are the prayers intoned over it, as the throat is cut.’ The creatures must find this deeply comforting.

Observant Jews are not concerned about the sound the animal hears before its throat is slit. They are, of course, concerned, to keep the pain inflicted to the minimum possible. The procedure – shechita – is performed by highly-trained slaughterers using an extremely sharp blade to sever swiftly the trachea and esophagus, the aim being to get a rapid drop in blood pressure in the brain and loss of consciousness, rendering the animal, so the theory goes, insensitive to pain. Mr Agnew buys this case. ‘The Jews,’ he says, ‘also have non-stun religious slaughter. But their attitude to this is very, very different. They say that God says it’s alright to kill one of my creatures as long as there is no suffering involved … They kill an animal without any pain at all.’ This assertion has been challenged by Compassion in World Farming, the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council, and the British Veterinary Association, all of which, I assume, know what they’re talking about, and none of which can be said to be tainted by anti-Semitism.

A crucial point Mr Agnew ignores is that nowhere in the five books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – are the methods of slaughter prescribed. They’ve emerged from Judaism’s traditional Oral Torah; stuff, in other words, not set in stone. They can be changed, in the same way that most of the teachings in the Hebrew – and Christian – bible have been reformed or just put aside over the centuries.

Part Two of “Agnew’s agony on ritual slaughter”, including how Jewish attitudes to non-stun slaughter may change, will be published on UKIP Daily tomorrow…

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12 Comments on Agnew’s agony on ritual slaughter

  1. I wish people stop saying “Judeo Christian culture” as this is such a misrepresentation. Graeco Roman and Anglo Saxon also has a lot to do with it.

  2. Here are the links for my 2 petitions. Please sign…and share. Thank you.

  3. Jake. I take your points. We should promote the high standards of welfare and the quality of our meat to ensure that our farmers businesses flourish. Stress can completely undo all the hard work of finishing cattle for slaughter. Stress raises adrenalin which forces muscles to tense up and increases the animal’s alertness. That chemical response results in tough meat and causes it to lose flavour. If that stress persists for an extended period, for example the animal has had a long journey to the slaughter house before the horrors of its despatch at a religious slaughter house, the persistent high acidity will begin breaking down the meat. It becomes dark, soft, mushy and sticky and has a limited shelf life.
    Happy and relaxed cattle yield tender and tasty beef. This means that the customer will become a repeat customer and the farmer will benefit from increased and steady demand for his quality products.

    My second petition, Petition Parliament 200147, calls for all halal and kosher meat to be labelled with method of production and slaughter. Please sign and share it.

    I was horrified to learn that the hindquarters of an animal are regarded as non-halal even if the halal method of slaughter was used. I believe that compulsory labelling should apply to 100% of the product and by-product of any ritually slaughtered animal or bird to give consumers informed choice.

    • Ceri

      I’ve signed both your petitions.

      I would also point out that the hindquarters of animals slaughtered for Jewish consumption are also not considered kosher, so, again, not acceptable to Jews. They say that the hindquarters contain too many blood vessels.

      You make good points regarding the quality of meat from animals that have enjoyed good welfare. I am lucky enough to have a farm butcher a short drive away. He raises his own beef and lamb. He sources pork and poultry from other local farms. No long journeys as he has his own independent licensed slaughterhouse.

      The animals are taken into the abbatoir by the same stockmen who have handled them throughout their lives to minimise stress. All animals fully stunned before slaughter. This suits my conscience and my taste buds. The meat is delicious. I am a regular customer and don’t buy meat anywhere else now. I have also converted a few other people by example.

      Kind regards.

  4. That’s the trouble with having too many different cultures in the country, all demanding that their way should be prioritised. Animals killed in Britain should be stunned beforehand. End of. Those that want halal meat can go find it, or go to live in, a country that permits non-stun….not expect Britain to roll over and comply. Petition already signed.

  5. Perhaps one of the proponents of ritual slaughter would be prepared to be a martyr for their religion and submit themselves to the knife so that their reaction might be observed.

  6. The position on this ought to be totally clear cut. Ritual slaughter is not acceptable in today’s UK.

    To put it in context, how would we react if one segment of our society proclaimed that owning slaves was acceptable – and proceeded to acquire some – because their religion/beliefs said it was OK. Would we tolerate that? I don’t think so!

    • Mike You are correct of course but we may have to win this one bit by bit. We need UKIP policy to clearly state that we believe ritual slaughter to be wholly unacceptable and demand in the meantime immediate clear labelling of ritually slaughtered foods whilst campaigning to have this barbaric practice brought to an end.

  7. Mr Agnew’s defence of ritual slaughter may, as a farmer himself, be predicated on his justified fear, that if ritual slaughter were banned then the meats would simply be imported thus the British livestock rearers losing out.

    UKIP policy for now should be to work towards the end of ritually slaughtered foods but immediately demand a clear symbol must be on all ritual slaughtered foods and meals served to the public. This includes hospitals, armed forces, canteens, restaurants and all processed foods.

    Putting in place exemptions to the law on any issue is wrong but having an exemption on the grounds of an ancient religious ritual is nonsensical and it makes a mockery of the law.

  8. According to the European Food Safety Authority’s scientific panel poultry can take two and a half minutes to lose consciousness after their throats are cut. Lambs take 20 seconds. The scientific evidence proves that the religious methods of animal slaughter are cruel. I am looking forward to the second part of this article which will address how to move the seventh century demands of these religious groups into the twenty first century.
    Belgium voted to ban kosher and halal slaughter in its biggest territory earlier this year. The strong religious lobbies are fighting it all the way.

    Please would everyone sign…and share… Petition Parliament 200131 which calls for an end to the animal cruelty laws exemptions for halal and shechita slaughter houses in the UK. Do take a look at the Government’s response that it elicited on reaching 10,000 signatures. Those of us who want one law for all with no exceptions or exemptions have a long battle ahead.

    I understand that UKIP’s policy on stun to kill in the UK slaughter houses will be discussed at the NEC meeting on 28 October.

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