(JTA) – British lawmakers spent three hours debating a possible ban on religious slaughter.
The debate on Tuesday came after an on-line petition from the British Veterinary Association calling for a ban on slaughter without stunning generated 115,000 signatures in nine months. It is the second parliamentary debate on religious slaughter in the last three months.
A counter-petition advocating the protection of religious slaughter exceeded that number in slightly more than a week, according to the British website JewishNews.co.uk.
Jewish religious law, or halachah, requires that animals be conscious when they are slaughtered – a principle that is accepted by the major denominations of Judaism in certifying food as kosher. A similar requirement exists in Islam, though it is less strictly observed, according to some accounts.
Many Jewish professional slaughterers and rabbis claim that kosher slaughter, or shechita, is as quick, painless and compassionate as any other method used in Western commercial slaughterhouses.
Among those speaking in favour of kosher slaughter were representatives of the country’s largest Jewish communities.
The lawmakers also discussed more specific labeling, including whether the meat was kosher or halal, stunned or not stunned.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed several times to ensure ritual slaughter remains legal in Britain out of respect for religious groups that require it.
Shechita UK, an organization which campaigns in support of religious slaughter, thanked the lawmakers who defended shechita following the debate, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
“Once again, the position of the Jewish community as regards religious slaughter has been extremely well represented and the debate was in fact dominated by those whose priority was the protection of shechita,” Shechita UK Director Shimon Cohen said.