Meat from animals slaughtered under ritualistic practices – including halal and kosher products – cannot be labelled as organic, the European Union’s top court ruled yesterday.

The ruling follows a case brought by the French animal welfare group Oeuvre d’Assistance aux Betes d’Abattoirs (OABA). OABA has lobbied France’s minister for agriculture to drop the ‘organic farming’ label from beef products from cattle slaughtered without pre-stunning.

When the case was first assessed last year by the ECJ’s advocate general Nils Wahl, a view was taken that the EU Organic Regulation did not “preciselydefine the procedures that allow the suffering of animals to be kept at a minimum at the time of killing”. On that basis he advised that halal and kosher could be labelled organic.

But this week the court acknowledged the high emphasis on animal welfare required by organic in law, and ruled that ritualistic slaughter did not reach its threshold.

Specifically, the EU Organic Regulation requires that “any suffering, including mutilation, shall be kept to a minimum during the entire life of the animal, including at the time of slaughter”.

The court said that slaughter without stunning required an accurate cut of the throat with a sharp knife to minimise the animal’s suffering, but concluded that this technique did not “allow any suffering to be kept to a minimum”.