Kosher meat victory

Representatives from the 27 EU member governments including Britain rescinded May’s European Parliament (EP) decision in which MEPs narrowly voted for amendment 205, calling for meat which is “slaughtered without stunning” to be labelled.

Shechita UK, which has lobbied European governments alongside counterparts in other countries to get the amendment removed from a general food labelling bill, welcomed the outcome of Tuesday’s Council of Ministers meeting.

Its chairman Henry Grunwald said: “I would like to thank all the communal organisations with whom we work, as well as the thousands of individual members of our community who wrote to their MEPs, for the way in which they have joined together in our campaign to protect shechita in an active and disciplined fashion.”

The bill, which is at draft stage, now goes to second reading at the EP next year where amendment 205 could still be reintroduced.
Conservative MEP for London Syed Kamall, who voted against the amendment when it was proposed in the EP seven months ago said: “This is a good result but the amendment could easily be re-tabled at the second reading, so the debate is not necessarily over.

“It is important now to engage with the European Commission over the drafting of new animal welfare legislation because if labelling is introduced in a discriminatory way then I can foresee circumstances where it becomes uneconomical for shechita to be practiced in the future.”

He added: “Shechita itself could come under threat if the British government decided not to exercise its derogation rights which means that the practice of kosher slaughter is protected under British law.

“The government will be consulting on whether to remove the current safeguards in due course and I will urge them to maintain the status quo.”
Shechita UK’s campaign director Shimon Cohen said: “Our campaign is far from over, but we are making satisfactory progress, given the assault on shechita that was launched earlier this year by some members of the European Parliament.”

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Stay Of Execution

Jim Paice, the agriculture and food minister, will vote to strike out amendment 205 of a European Parliament proposal to label the kosher slaughter method when he represents the government at a Council of Ministers meeting on 7 December. The amendment is part of a general bill on food information regulations.

Paice said: “The government would like all animals to be properly stunned before they are bled to slaughter.

“There is a discussion at European level about food information regulations, but we do not believe that this is the right vehicle.”

However, he added: “Next year we will consult on implementation of the Euro-pean animal welfare regulations and the labelling issue will certainly be examined as part of that. I recognise the strength of feeling on the matter.”
Shechita UK, which has consistently described amend-ment 205 as “discriminatory” and detrimental to the kosher meat market after it was proposed by the European Parliament in a narrow vote in

June, conceded that it will have to fight shechita labelling proposals in the future. “The government have advised that they will be looking closely at this issue next year when the European Commission publishes separate proposals for a new Europe-wide animal welfare labelling scheme, as opposed to consumer information. We will make representations to the government when this happens.”

They also said the government will conduct a consultation about ending special safeguards under UK law which prevents religious slaughter methods from being banned. “We are aware the government will be consulting on the application of the protection under law of shechita in the UK during the next year. There is a lot of work still to be done.”

EU states will decide on 7 December whether to recommend striking out amendment 205 from legislation, with MEPs then having the final say when the bill returns to the European Parliament.

Shechita UK said last month it was confident it had enough support to keep the amendment out of the final legislation.

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‘We Oppose Boycotts’

Alistair Burt’s comments, in his first interview with any Jewish newspaper since taking on the role last month, came less than two weeks after Unite backed a motion calling for a “vigorous policy of divestment from Israeli companies”.

It was the latest in a string of anti-Israel proposals passed by various British unions in recent years. “We strongly oppose boycotts of Israel,” was the foreign office minister’s unequivocal answer when asked what approach he would take to any boycott moves.

He also offered the first comments from the new administration on its policy towards the labelling of West Bank goods, indicating that there would be a continuation of the approach taken by Gordon Brown’s Government. Referring to the voluntary guidelines issued by Defra last year, which advised that supermarkets could introduce specific labels indicating whether produce originates from Palestinians or Israeli settlements.

He said: “The previous government published advice to help provide clarity to traders and retailers who wanted to offer their consumers more information about the origin of produce from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We believe consumers should be able to choose for themselves what
produce they buy.

“The Government will keep its policy on labelling food imports from the OPTs under review, in conjunction with the European Commission and other EU member states, and in the light of developments in the Middle East Peace Process. I support the labelling of goods from the West Bank, but reject any form of ban or boycott.”

Reacting to Burt’s comments, Board of Deputies Chief Executive Jon Benjamin
said: “The rules require a geographical designation of the source of produce, and the Government’s position is in line with that.

“The rejection of bans and boycotts is of course very welcome and acknowledges the misconceived nature of such a tactic, which would impact on Jews and Arabs alike. We know that anti-Israel groups blur the lines between settlement and Israeli produce deliberately to pave the way for a full-blown boycott of Israel and the Government and the EU has to remain mindful of that.”

Burt, who has served as a Conservative Friends of Israel officer, said he hoped to visit the country again “as soon as possible”. He added: “We are keen to develop strong ties with Israel. We are strongly supportive of a two-state solution and think it is essential to the long-term security of both Israel and Palestine.”

In the lead-up to the election, concern was expressed from within the community about the positions of the Liberal Democrats on Israel. Asked how much influence Nick Clegg’s party will have over British policy towards Israel, he responded: “All Government policy is agreed and collective.”

Tackling another regional issue, the minister said he believed that the latest round of UN sanctions against Iran could still help to halt the country’s nuclear programme.

Asked whether the Government would support military action against Iran if all other measures fail, he added: “We’re firmly committed to a diplomatic
track and we believe that diplomatic pressure will pay off.”

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Gibson: Get Over It!

Gibson, who was condemned by communal leaders and powerful Hollywood players for launching into a hate-filled tirade after being pulled over for drink-driving in July, said reaction to the incident had been “out of proportion”.

Speaking to USA Today after his new movie Apocalypto was nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign language feature, said: “I’m doing well. But how many people do you know get a DUI and are kicked around for six months?

“It’s out of proportion. I’m not saying I wasn’t at fault. Hey, we’re not perfect, we’re all human, get over it. I’ve apologised, done the right thing, now get the hell over it. I’m a work in progress.”

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Petition Urges Withdrawal Of Oscar Nomination

The movie, which has already picked up a host of international accolades – including a Golden Globe – has been shortlisted in the category or best foreign film.

According to the petition, Paradise Now legitimises terrorism while depicting the bombers as victims. It states: “Giving an Oscar to this movie will glorify these murderers and the groups that have sent them. It may even encourage more murders of this type.”

The Oscars are due to be held on 5 March.

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