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  • 6 March 2014 : Head of British vets demands change in ritual slaughter legislation

The new head of the British Veterinary Association, John Blackwell, has said the ritual slaughter of animals should be adapted to prevent animal suffering. UK legislation allows traditional Jewish and Muslim practice of slitting the animal’s throat and allowing them to bleed to death, to produce kosher and halal meat. More than 600,000 animals are bled to death in religious abattoirs in Britain every week.

Mr Blackwell said that sheep could remain conscious for up to seven seconds after having their throat cut, while for cattle it was two minutes. He argued that animals should be stunned at the time of death to prevent unnecessary suffering. He also suggested to ban the practice if Muslims and Jews refuse to adopt more humane methods of killing. Pressure for a ban on religious slaughter without stunning is supported by animal welfare charities.

Jewish campaigners argue these methods of slaughter do preserve animal welfare. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also disagreed with the views of Mr Blackwell, saying that a ban on ritual slaughter would breach the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities.

Read more about this on the BBC and in the Telegraph.

Ingrid Storm
  • 29 July 2007 : slaughter of a sacred bullock Shambo

A sacred bullock cared for by a Hindu residential community in Wales, was slaughtered by government vets after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. The monks had fought a strenuous campaign to save the bullock, which received widespread media coverage.

Siobhan McAndrew
  • June 2004 : Regulation of animal slaughter

In June 2003 the Farm Animal Welfare Council (an independent advisory body funded by the government) produced a report on the slaughter of red meat animals (e.g. cattle, sheep, pigs). It recommended that the exemption under which kosher and halal butchers have been able to slaughter animals without stunning them first be removed. The Council argued that animals suffer significantly unless they are stunned, which is also the view taken by the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and most other welfare groups. Jewish and Muslim organisations have protested that their methods of slaughter are humane and actually cause less suffering to animals.The government prepared a response to the report and put it out for consultation, with a closing date for responses of 24 June 2004. A final report is expected around the end of 2004.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) ; response to recommendations

Recommendation 61 (Para 201) :

Council considers that slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and that the Government should repeal the current exemption.

Response : Do not accept. The Government accepts the report’s conclusion that, on balance, animals (especially cattle) slaughtered without pre-stunning are likely to experience very significant pain and distress. We also recognise that certain religious groups in the UK are constrained from eating meat from animals that are stunned at the time of slaughter. If the UK were to ban the slaughter of animals without prior stunning, it will mean that these groups will need to import meat from other countries. There will thus be no improvement in total animal welfare.

Furthermore, the Government believes that a ban on religious slaughter would not be consistent with the provision of the Human Rights Act 1998 which implements the European Convention on Human Rights. However, it is clear from the public reaction following the publication of the FAWC report that there are strong feelings against slaughter without prior stunning, on the part of consumer and animal welfare groups. We are therefore concerned that meat from animals which have not been stunned before slaughter, and which is unsuitable for the halal and kosher markets, can find its way onto the ordinary meat market, and that consumers are not able to identify it at the point of sale. Government would wish consumer and industry groups to consider whether this problem could be successfully addressed through a voluntary system of labelling, bearing in mind that an early EU agreement on meat labelling according to slaughter method is unlikely.

Recommendation 62 (Para 203) :

Until the current exemption which permits slaughter without pre-stunning is repealed, Council recommends that any animal not stunned before slaughter should receive an immediate post-cut stun.

Response : Partially accept. The Government sees merit in this recommendation for cattle but not for sheep, as we would expect all sheep to have lost consciousness within 5 to 10 seconds. However, we are mindful of likely opposition to this from some religious groups and would intend to seek progress on a voluntary basis.

David Voas

D 10 mars 2016    AIngrid Storm ASiobhan McAndrew

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