Court rules organic logo cannot be used on ‘halal’ meat without pre-stunning

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Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has found that EU law do not authorise the placing of the EU's organic production logo on products derived from animals which have been slaughtered in accordance with religious rites without first being stunned.

In 2012, the French association Œuvre d’assistance aux bêtes d’abattoirs (‘OABA’) submitted to the French Minister for Agriculture and Food a request for a ban on the use of the ‘organic farming’ indication in the adverts for and on the packaging of minced beef patties certified ‘halal’ from animals slaughtered without pre-stunning.

The certification body concerned, Ecocert, implicitly refused OABA’s request, and the first instance court with jurisdiction subsequently dismissed the application brought before it by OABA.

The Administrative Court of Appeal, Versailles, France, hearing the appeal, asked the ECJ whether the applicable rules of EU law deriving from, inter alia, the Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products, its Implementing

Regulation and the Regulation on the protection of animals at the time of killing  must be interpreted as permitting or prohibiting approval of the ‘use of the European “organic farming” label’ in relation to products derived from animals which have been slaughtered in accordance with religious rites without first being stunned.

The Court found that the EU legislature declares on several occasions in the legislation at issue its desire to observe a high level of animal welfare in the context of that production method.

It said this is consequently characterised 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, including during slaughter.

The Court recalled that scientific studies have shown that pre-stunning is the technique that compromises animal welfare the least at the time of killing.

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The Court went on to note that the practice of ritual slaughter as part of which an animal may be killed without first being stunned, which is authorised by way of derogation in the European Union and solely in order to ensure observance of the freedom of religion, is insufficient to remove all of the animal’s pain, distress and suffering as effectively as slaughter with pre-stunning, which is necessary to cause the animal to lose consciousness and sensibility in order significantly to reduce its suffering.

The Court pointed out, that, while slaughter without pre stunning requires an accurate cut of the throat with a sharp knife to minimise the animal’s suffering, the use of that technique does not, however, allow any suffering to be kept to a minimum.

Therefore, the Court concluded that particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites that are carried out without pre-stunning are not tantamount, in terms of serving a high level of animal welfare at the time of killing, to slaughter with pre-stunning which is, in principle, required by EU law.

Finally, the Court pointed out that the objective of the EU’s rules on the labelling of organic products is to maintain and justify ‘consumer confidence in products labelled as organic’ and notes that it is important to ensure that consumers are reassured that products bearing the Organic logo of the European Union — which is, in fact, the logo that the referring court is referring to — have actually been obtained in observance of the highest standards, in particular in the area of animal welfare.

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