COVID19: Cyprus kosher export drive angers animal groups

4 mins read

Cyprus helping hundreds of farmers affected financially in the COVID-19 crisis by exporting kosher meat to Israel has come under animal rights criticism.

The bill is to be discussed on Wednesday amid cries from activists over animal cruelty, as the kosher method dictates the animal is conscious when slaughtered.

Parliament is expected to approve the bill, amending the existing law to allow slaughtering of animals in accordance with traditional Jewish practice (kosher) and the possibilities.

As argued by the Minister of Agriculture, Costas Kadis, the law amendment to allow kosher slaughter is a temporary measure aimed at offsetting the negative consequences of the coronavirus crisis on animal breeders.

A clause included in the bill will see the practice to be allowed only up until the end of the year.

Kadis said that a clause inserted in the bill stipulates that animals will be anaesthetised to limit their suffering.

Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, Kadis repeated the farmers’ arguments over the need to find an alternative market since prices plunged due to the coronavirus crisis.

“Since there was strong interest, it was decided to allow for a period of time, religious types of slaughter such as kosher and halal,” Kadis said.

Farmers expect that around 10,000 animals will remain unsold if this is not introduced immediately which will mean additional costs for their upkeep.

Farmers have also argued that introducing kosher would offer them a way out from the problems arising from falling demand due to the closure of hotels and restaurants amid the coronavirus outbreak.

General Secretary of Panagrotikos Farmers Union, Tasos Yiapanis told CNA, that due to the situation, meat traders were offering prices below cost.

The option of exports to Israel will help around 2,500 families to secure a better price for their livestock, argued Yapanis.

He also said that it will also benefit the Cypriot economy, bringing revenue and foreign exchange to the country.

Demand in the market

However, Costas Livadiotis, head of the Butchers’ Association, expressed reservation over the speed with which the measure is being introduced.

Livadiotis told CyBC radio said that it is too soon yet to determine whether the local market will be slow this year.

He argued that the week leading up to Easter will reveal the trend in the market, arguing that there is still a great demand for pork, chicken and beef.

Livadiotis questioned the possibility of 10,000 animals being left unsold in Cyprus, arguing that butchers usually need to import some 100,000 lambs a year to cover local demand.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Cyprus Green MP Charalambos Theopemptou said that his party will vote against the measure as they find the kosher method of slaughtering an animal to be inhumane.

“During the pandemic crisis, we are called in (to the House) only to discuss urgent matters related to the coronavirus crisis. We don’t feel that this an issue that requires our urgent attention as we do not agree with the Ministry’s argument that farmers are facing particular difficulties during this time.”

Dinos Agiomamitis of the Voice for Animals Cyprus organisation said that allowing kosher slaughter has been on the farmers’ agenda for a few years now.

He noted that Cyprus society will be paying the price for the crisis as a whole and farmers should not be receiving any special treatment at the expense of animals.

“There is no one who will be left untouched by this crisis, especially when people lose their jobs. It would be an even greater disaster if along with everything else, we lose our humanity.”