EU Court Puts Organic Label Off Limits to Halal Butcher Practices

(CN) – Rejecting a magistrate’s recommendation, the EU’s highest court ruled Tuesday that halal beef from cows that are not stunned prior to slaughter cannot be marketed with an “organic farming” label.

The France-based animal-rights group OABA, short for Oeuvre d’Assistance aux Betes d’Abattoirs, has been at the forefront of this campaign.

Though EU law calls for slaughterhouses to take necessary measures to avoid pain and minimize the distress and suffering of animals during the killing process, the European Council also allows exemptions for religious slaughter practices.

After France’s certification body Ecocert dismissed the challenge by OABA, the Administrative Court of Appeal in Versailles asked the European Court of Justice to shed light on EU rules for labeling organic products.

The Grand Chamber of that Luxembourg-based body determined Tuesday that “the obligation to keep animal suffering to a minimum … helps to give concrete expression to the objective of ensuring the observance of a high level of animal welfare.”

“By declaring on several occasions its desire to observe a high level of animal welfare in organic farming, the EU legislature intended to highlight that this method of agricultural production is characterized by the observance of enhanced standards with regard to animal welfare in all locations and at all stages of production where it is possible further to improve that welfare,” the ruling continues.

Even though ritual-slaughter techniques speak to minimizing animal suffering by cutting the throat of animal precisely with a sharp knife, the court emphasized that this “does not allow the animal’s suffering to be kept to ‘a minimum.’”

“Contrary to what is claimed by both the French government and the defendants in the main proceedings … the particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites that are carried out without pre-stunning and that are permitted by Article 4(4) of Regulation No 1099/2009 are not tantamount, in terms of ensuring a high level of animal welfare at the time of killing, to slaughter with pre-stunning which is, in principle, required by Article 4(1) of that regulation,” the ruling states.

Back in September, an advocate general for the court recommended keeping the organic labeling.

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