The campaign to end non-stun slaughter and provide consumers with better information about the welfare of animals at slaughter has received a positive response from Ministers.
Responding to the British Veterinary Association (BVA) e-petition, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) stated that it would prefer to see all animals stunned before slaughter, but respects the rights of the Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs. The response also agrees that better information for consumers is required to help them make an informed choice.
The e-petition is one of the fastest growing petitions on the HM Government website and reached 50,000 signatures in just two weeks.
It is part of the campaign to end non-stun slaughter to improve animal welfare at the time of death and has received over 66,000 signatures since it was launched in April by the BVA, with the support of the RSPCA, at www.bit.ly/stunB4slaughter
Scientific evidence shows that slaughter without pre-stunning compromises animal welfare. European and UK legislation therefore requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain until death supervenes.
However, a derogation in the legislation allows animals to be slaughtered without stunning for certain religious communities – Dhabihah slaughter for Halal food and Shechita slaughter for Kosher food.
BVA President Robin Hargreaves said:
“We are encouraged by the Government’s statement that it would prefer to see all animals in the UK stunned before slaughter. This is an animal welfare issue that affects millions of animals every year and the strong response to our petition shows many people agree that action is long overdue.
“It is disappointing for everyone who supports this campaign that the Prime Minister has stated that this Government will not consider a full ban on slaughter without stunning. However, we will continue to work with Ministers and stakeholders on measures to improve animal welfare, such as post-cut stunning, and clearer labelling.”
BVA and RSPCA are also concerned that meat from non-stun slaughter is entering the market unlabelled as such. With animal welfare high on the list of UK consumer concerns the campaign is calling for clearer labelling so that people can make an informed choice.
In its response to the e-petition Defra confirmed that Ministers will consider the issue this summer in light of a European Commission study on method-of-slaughter labelling.
David Bowles, RSPCA head of public affairs, added:
“The RSPCA strongly supports clear labelling that refers to stun or non-stun slaughter methods to give shoppers increased transparency and awareness of what they are buying.
“Whilst the Government says consumers should have the necessary information available to them to make an informed choice about their food, we will only know their true commitment if they actually support this when the Commission study is released.”
It is important to note that the campaign does not relate to the expression of religious belief but to concern about animal welfare. The e-petition remains open and BVA hopes to achieve 100,000 signatures so that consideration will be given to a debate in the House of Commons.