Two Breton companies put an end to ritual slaughter in the name of animal welfare

Since 1 July, the SVA company, a subsidiary of the Les Mousquetaires group (Intermarché, Netto), has put an end to ritual slaughter at its Vitré and Trémorel slaughterhouses in Brittany. This decision, on a topic that regularly sets off public debate, is motivated for the first time by animal welfare considerations. “Society’s general expectations for animal welfare have developed markedly in recent years. Our decision is the consequence of this social consciousness ”, reveals the company, of which 15% of the production of cattle so far was slaughtered according to the ritual method. The latter, which is practiced by both Jews and Muslims, prohibits anesthesia of the animal before its neck.

In France, a 1964 decree makes it mandatory to anesthetize animals intended for slaughter in order to avoid unnecessary suffering during bleeding. Ten years later, a European directive confirms this “the animal (must be) kept in a state of unconsciousness and insensitivity until his death “, a measure defended by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe and the European Food Safety Authority. But in 2009 a dispensation was introduced – in the name of religious freedom – then “anesthesia is not compatible with the ritual regulations regarding the free exercise of worship”. In France, kosher meat for Jews and halal for Muslims in 2016 accounted for 14% of cattle and 28% of slaughtered sheep, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

An untenable situation

For Fréderic Freund, director of Work for Assistance to Slaughterhouse Animals (OABA) – an association that classifies companies according to their good or bad practices – this situation is unsustainable. “We can not both defend animals and tolerate ritual slaughter where the animal dies for several minutes”, he comments. Especially since the ritual method according to him is compatible with anesthesia: “In Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, authorities approved anesthesia before the animal was killed.”

But the argument does not convince Kamel Kabtane, rector of the Great Mosque in Lyon. ‘The problem with anesthesia is that it can lead to the death of the animal. If so, the meat is no longer halal. he explains as he says to himself “concerned” the idea that ritual practice is forbidden throughout the territory, as in Belgium or Switzerland. And to add: “Talking about animal welfare is hypocritical. When you electrocute a cow to stun it, you also make it suffer. »

A “communication operation”

The debate is not new. In 2016, a report on the “slaughterhouse of the future” from the Normandy Regional Economic, Social and Environmental Council already pointed to the moral issues raised by ritual slaughter, but also economic ones. “The kosher and especially the halal markets are expanding and constitute a real outlet for certain slaughterhouses, where the latter fear losing markets for the benefit of foreign countries in the event of restrictive changes in legislation”, you can read there. “I not only do not think that other companies will follow SVA, but above all I think that they will not give up their contracts related to ritual slaughter. In my opinion, it will simply move its activity outside its two companies ”. flourishes Pascal Ferey, chairman of the Manche Chamber of Agriculture.

For the chosen one, this “communication operation” hides another problem: the labeling. “Many consumers eat halal meat without knowing it, because slaughterhouses kill more animals in a ritual way than they actually need, and the meat that comes from there does not benefit from any particular labeling.” he explains. To remedy this, the OABA Association seized the Council of State in June 2020 for the purpose of demanding “transparency for the consumer”. The request has just been rejected on 1 July. But OABA plans to sue France in the European Court of Human Rights.

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