By Jonny Wineberg and Mohammed Amin
Jews and Muslims face similar pressures from the “Animal welfare lobby” trying to ban slaughter without pre-stunning. Accordingly our two communities have long co-operated over this issue.
The most recent example was led from Manchester. On February 12, Sharon Bannister, President of The Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester & Region became aware of a House of Commons debate scheduled for February 23 in Westminster Hall to consider an e-petition to “End non-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare”. This petition was started by Sally Burnell, Director of Policy, Media & Strategy at the British Veterinary Association (BVA), and had received more than the required 100,000 signatures.
That same evening Sharon and her Vice-President, Jonny Wineberg, rang Mohammed Amin, the Muslim Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, to suggest a joint petition supporting the protection of religious slaughter in the UK and EU. Without any hesitation, Amin agreed. Jonny prepared the draft, Amin finalised and uploaded it onto the Government’s e-petitions website and by 8am on February 13 the petition was live. See https://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/74830.
The petition emphasised the scientific evidence showing minimisation of suffering when religious slaughter is practised properly. It included a link to the website of the pre-eminent animal welfare academic, Dr Temple Grandin. It also made clear that abattoirs frequently fail to effectively stun the animal effectively, thereby causing suffering.
Starting from initial dissemination by the Mancunians, the petition was quickly picked up by national Muslim and Jewish organisations and shared very widely among Jews, Muslims and others who care about freedom of religion in Britain. Sally Burnell’s petition to ban was started in April 2014 and promoted by the BVA. It had taken around 10 months to gather the required 100,000 signatures. Our petition reached the 100,000 target in about nine days, not months, and after 10 days had overtaken the petition to ban.
Our petition was referred to several times during the Parliamentary debate. It also seemed to influence the debate’s proposer, Philip Hollobone MP, who took on board the appalling incidence of failed stuns and the need for improved monitoring by the Food Safety Agency (FSA).
Having achieved this immediate impact in less than two weeks, we hope that the strength of feeling it has demonstrated will cause the BVA and FSA to focus on improving their monitoring of slaughterhouses and wider treatment of animals, rather than continuing to attack the religious practices of our two communities.
As of February 25 our petition had received over 130,000 signatures. It remains open and we would appreciate as many signatures as possible to show Parliament just how important this issue is to Muslims, Jews, and others who truly care about animal welfare and the freedom of religious practice.
Jonny Wineberg is Vice-President of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester & Region and from 2007-15 was Co-Chair of The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester.
Mohammed Amin is Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester.