Letter from Seth Barrett Tillman to UKIP in Regard to UKIP's Supporting the British Veterinary Association ('BVA') and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ('RSPCA') in Calling for a Ban on Non-Stun Slaughter (7 March 2015)
5 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2015 Last revised: 12 Aug 2019
Date Written: March 7, 2015
Letter from Seth Barrett Tillman to UKIP in regard to UKIP's supporting the British Veterinary Association (“BVA”) and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“RSPCA”) in calling for a ban on non-stun slaughter (7 March 2015).
Dear UKIP National Executive Committee Members, officeholders, candidates, and party activists,
I was disappointed to read on the UKIP website that UKIP has embraced a policy calling for an outright “ban” on kosher slaughter.
I have been a friend of UKIP for a long time. I have attended your meetings in Belfast, including one meeting with my wife. I protested when the former Irish Minister of Justice, Alan Shatter, wrongly compared UKIP to Greece’s Golden Dawn and to France’s National Front. So this letter is from a friend: A friend desiring that this policy be reconsidered before lasting harm is done.
1. Who Are Your Friends?
In 1953, in a speech before Parliament on the Royal Titles Bill, the Member for Wolverhampton (later the Member for South Down) stated: I therefore say that this formula ‘Head of the Commonwealth’ and the declaration in which it is inscribed, are essentially a sham. They are essentially something which we have invented to blind ourselves to the reality of the position. Although the changes which will be made in the royal titles as the result of this Bill are greatly repugnant to me, if they were changes which were demanded by those who in many wars had fought with this country, by nations who maintained an allegiance to the Crown, and who signified a desire to be in the future as we were in the past; if it were our friends who had come to us and said: ‘We want this’, I would say: ‘Let it go. Let us admit the divisibility of the Crown. Let us sink into anonymity and cancel the word “British” from our titles. If they like the conundrum “Head of the Commonwealth” in the royal style, let it be there.’ However, the underlying evil of this is that we are doing it for the sake not of our friends but of those who are not our friends. We are doing this for the sake of those to whom the very names ‘Britain’ and ‘British’ are repugnant. Powell’s ethical and political principle applies here. There are some things decent people do for their friends and fellows, even if it causes some inconvenience. As you may know, Jews have lived in Britain since Oliver Cromwell. UKIP’s purported new policy was sprung on the public as a surprise, and it comes without wide consultation. This surprise comes as a hardship—a hardship to people who do not deserve it, who have shared in the risks, wars, and dangers of British life, and who have worked to defend Britain from those dangers. UKIP’s embracing this new policy at this time comes as a particular hardship given that Jews are in danger all over Europe in ways which have not been seen or experienced since the years just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Jews in Britain and Europe are emigrating, and if not emigrating, they are buying guns (if legal to do so), setting up gates, setting up CCTVs, coordinating with the police and with private security—generally trying to protect their lives from people who are trying to kill them. Burdening British Jews with defending the precepts of their religious practices at this particular juncture—when “the lamps are going out all over Europe” —is harsh. Harsh in just the way your political opponents will make use of; indeed, they have already begun to do so. The Jewish community in Britain is not a community which has just arrived and demanded (by violence or by threats of violence) special exemptions from generally applicable laws; rather, it is a community which is fully integrated and loyal, and only desires to continue in the future as it has in the past. Jews have engaged in kosher slaughter in Britain for over 350 years. It is not the Jewish community which has changed. What has changed—and why? Is the primary motivation animal welfare, or is animal welfare a mere pretext, and the real motivation for this new policy is to see to it that some other ethnic community or faith group integrates into the warp and woof of British life? If it is the latter, is it right to burden my co-religionists with the implementation of this policy? Plainly, the answer is “no”. This is not the way to treat your friends or voters.
2. The Policy Is Unfair.
UKIP’s 2010 party manifesto supported “county referendums to reverse the [fox] hunting ban at the local level.” No one has even dreamed of putting forward any evidence or study from the BVA, RSPCA, or any other animal welfare organisation suggesting that fox hunting is “humane”. But here UKIP will support inhumanely killing animals (i.e., without stunning) for mere sport. I have no moral objection in regard to your working to lift the hunting ban. I do not hunt, but many people do, and they enjoy it. Hunting was a long-standing rural tradition which employed a good many people, and the foxes often had to be destroyed anyway because they threatened livestock and could spread rabies. Indeed, urban foxes now threaten people, yet nothing is done. But if all these reasons are sufficient warrant to allow hunting foxes for sport, then there ought to be equal consideration and allowance for kosher slaughter for human consumption. It is strikingly unfair to allow one, but not the other. And when other people notice the unfairness, what do you think they will say about UKIP? Let’s leave both fox hunting and religion aside. If we do that, I think—on a strictly scientific, modern outlook—we could agree that people are animals. As just other animals, humans should get at least as much protection from inhumane treatment as cattle in a slaughterhouse. Right? So what about (post-first trimester) abortion? Why not as part of the new UKIP policy overhaul, and in the name of moral and intellectual consistency without regard to animal species, come out for some policy to protect human babies during the abortion process from any unnecessary pain (while being slaughtered). Of course, stunning is out. But surely there are drugs and procedures (otherwise safe to maternal health) that would render the unborn child insensible to pain while being killed by the abortion process. If only in the name of intellectual consistency, UKIP should embrace (at least as an aspirational matter) an anti-fetal pain plank in its manifesto. But UKIP has not done so: It is just so much easier to focus on other people’s religious beliefs and how they go about their lives. Bottom line: Morality and fair play are not supposed to be something the majority does to the minority. Nigel Farage keeps talking about the LibLabCon London bubble. What about the new UKIP moral bubble: seal clubbing & fox hunting (allow), and kosher slaughter (forbid), and fetal pain during abortion (just don’t talk about it, and hope no one notices)? Intellectual and moral inconsistency is never good policy, and here the inconsistency comes across as distinctly unfair.
3. The Policy Will Not Work.
Quite honestly, I do not think UKIP’s policy, if implemented, will work. The effect of banning kosher slaughter in the UK will be that my co-religionists (or, at least, those who can afford to) will import kosher meat from abroad. The real beneficiaries of your policy will be slaughter houses in nearby Ireland, France, and elsewhere in the European Union. This policy will cost Britain jobs, and it will have a negative effect on Britain’s balance of payments. I suppose you could also forbid importing kosher meat. But do you really want to go down this road? First, the socialists intervened with prices and incomes policies . . . when that did not work, they imposed national plans . . . and when that failed, they put limits on doing business abroad, and also fixed strict limits on imports and exports. These policies failed Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, and if UKIP tries them again, they will fail again. Moreover, going down this road means rejecting UKIP’s roots as a libertarian small-government party, and embracing the ideal of EU nanny-state economic micro-management. Government of the elites, by the elites, and for the elites . . . shall not perish from the earth.
4. The Experts Are Wrong About The Science.
I do not doubt that a good many people object to kosher slaughter based on genuine concerns for animal welfare. But where exactly are the scientific or veterinary studies supporting the conclusion that industrial stunning is more humane than kosher slaughter? What study or studies supply the basis for UKIP’s new policy? I would like to see them. I have to tell you that the academic papers I have seen on this topic are uniformly flawed. They are flawed in that they only weigh risk, pain, and injury (other than death) to the animals. Competing risks to the human consumer are not considered. As the Humane Slaughter Association (UK) has stated: “The view of the HSA remains that all animals should be effectively stunned prior to being bled, because this precludes the possibility of suffering.” Risks to humans do not enter into the equation. What are those risks? Penetrative bolt-action stunning is widely used in slaughter houses in the Western world. The bolt to the animal’s head breaks the blood-brain barrier. Such blood will land on the animal’s carcass and will also accumulate in the abattoir where it is likely to infect other animal carcasses. Exposure to such blood puts human consumers at increased risk of mad cow disease. This disease has killed over 2,000 people in the UK. However, the blood-brain barrier is left intact by kosher slaughter. There is good reason to believe that those who only eat kosher slaughter face a lower likelihood of contracting mad cow disease. The HSA, the eco-terrorists, and the urban elites want to protect only animals. But a pragmatic, patriotic party should protect more than animals. It should protect people too. I sincerely hope that UKIP wants to be such a party. Finally, I would urge UKIP National Executive Committee members, officeholders, candidates, and party activists to reach out to Henry Reilly, Newry and Mourne and Down Councillor and, more importantly, UKIP Northern Ireland Chairman. Mr Reilly knows a great deal about this issue. He is a former veterinary inspector in the UK Department Of Agriculture and Rural Development’s veterinary service, and he has personally witnessed secular industrial, kosher, and halal slaughter.
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