We campaign for an end to the religious exemption that allows animals to be slaughtered without pre-stunning.
Whilst we support the right to religious freedom, this is not an absolute right, and we do not think that exemptions should be made on religious grounds to animal welfare regulations intended to ensure that farm animals are slaughtered under the most humane conditions possible.
What’s the problem?
Animal welfare legislation requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter in order to minimise suffering. The only exemption is for religious communities to meet Jewish and Muslim religious dietary preferences.
The scientific consensus is clear that it is more humane to stun an animal prior to slaughter than not to do so. The slaughter of animals without pre-stunning is permitted in the UK despite a recommendation by the Government's own advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), that the practice should be banned. The FAWC have concluded that animals slaughtered without pre-stunning are likely to experience "very significant pain and distress" before they become unconscious.
Likewise, the EU's Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) have stated that: "Due to the serious animal welfare concerns associated with slaughter without stunning, pre-cut stunning should always be performed."
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) have stated: "FVE is of the opinion that the practice of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is unacceptable under any circumstances".
RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming and the British Veterinary Association all support an end to non-stun slaughter to improve animal welfare at the time of death.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board have recommended new quality standards for halal sheepmeat, but as yet the distinction between stunned and non-stunned slaughter is unclear.
What are we doing?
We're pressing for law changes to end the exemption that permits animals to be slaughtered in the UK without prior stunning. In the meantime, we are campaigning for meat produced from animals not stunned before slaughter to be clearly labelled to allow consumer choice. We responded to a consultation launched by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board over its proposed new quality standards for halal sheepmeat, expressing our support for their goals to add transparency and boost customer choice, but also also our concern that the proposed labels are not clear enough for consumers to make an informed choice.
What you can do:
- Religious Slaughter Of Animals Briefing (PDF, 240 Kb)
Halal, kosher and pre-stunned. What do religious rules mean for animal welfare?