LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg. 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 indication ‘organic farming’ in the advertising and marketing of minced beef patties certified ‘halal’ from animals slaughtered without pre-stunning. The certification body implicitly refused the request, and the court with jurisdiction to annul the refusal dismissed OABA’s application.
Advocate General Nils Wahl dismisses at the outset any question of interference with the freedom of worship that might be posed by the impossibility of combining the certification ‘organic farming’ with the indication ‘halal’. The inability to obtain meat labelled ‘organic farming’ from slaughterhouses that do not practise stunning does not affect the religious prescriptions, which do not require the consumption solely of products of organic farming. He goes on to note that there is no ‘right’ of access to products bearing an ‘organic farming’ label.
To date, the certification ‘halal’ says very little about the slaughtering method actually employed, as there is no uniformity in the practices followed by the ‘halal’ certification bodies in the Member States.
The Advocate General observes that organic products are subject to stricter production requirements than those applicable to non-organic ones. In that regard, he notes that the Court of Justice has underlined the importance that must be afforded to the objectives of food safety and consumer protection in order to preserve consumer confidence in products labelled as organic.
However, the relevant legislation says relatively little about the standards applicable to the slaughter of animals and does not prohibit slaughter without stunning, as it is only required that, during slaughter, any suffering is to be kept to a minimum. Although slaughter after stunning is established as the rule by the Regulation on the protection of animals at the time of killing, an exception is provided for the ritual slaughter of animals without stunning in conditions that ensure that the suffering of the animals will be limited.
In both slaughter methods, the necessary measures should be taken to avoid pain and minimise the distress and suffering of animals, therefore, they do not exclude the practice of ritual slaughter.
Thus, applying his reasoning to ‘kosher’ and ‘halal’ indications, the Advocate General considers that to conclude that ritual slaughter is incompatible with the label of ‘organic farming’ would be tantamount to adding a condition not provided for in the current rules and would deny consumers of kosher or halal products the right to benefit from the guarantees provided by the ‘organic farming label’ in terms of quality and food safety.
Therefore, the Advocate General proposes that the Court find that the Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products and the Regulation on the protection of animals at the time of killing do not prohibit the issue of the European ‘organic farming’ label to products from animals which have been the subject of ritual slaughter without prior stunning carried out in the conditions laid down in the latter regulation.