British vets call for labelling of meat from religious slaughter

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has called for the labelling of meat from animals slaughtered without pre-stunning in response to the increase of ritually slaughtered meat ‘unknowingly’ entering the general market.

Delegates at the BVA Welfare Foundation Discussion Forum were told that meat should be clearly labelled according to whether the animal was stunned before it was slaughtered or not, so that customers can make an informed choice.

Their call echoes calls from the NSS who have long argued that the absence of labelling of meat from religious slaughter without pre-stunning deprives consumers of important information that could affect their purchase and consequently serves to subsidise the religious slaughter industry.

Current legislation states that all animals should be stunned prior to slaughter, but grants exemptions for ritually slaughtered meat destined for a specific religious community. The BVA have argued that meat from non-stunned animals being placed on the secular markets was possibly against current legislation.

Bill Reilly, veterinary public health specialist and former board member of the Food Standards Agency, told delegates that there are no official statistics for the number of abattoirs where non-stun was practised.

He also called for full utilisation of the carcases of kosher-slaughtered animals, saying that, at present, only the forequarter is consider kosher and used by the community the animal was slaughtered for. He said that, as a result, 70% of kosher cattle meat is not used by the Jewish community and enters the secular market.

Stephen Evans, Campaigns Manager at the NSS said: “We have consistently campaigned for an end to exemptions from welfare legislation that religious groups have been granted by the Government, against the independent advice from the Farm Animal Welfare Council. As long as such exemptions remain, it is important that consumers are given accurate information that informs them if the meat they are purchasing comes from animals slaughtered under such exemptions.”

In July MEPs will vote on an amendment to food information legislation that will require labelling of meat from slaughter without stunning.

Read the NSS Campaign Briefing.

Write to your MEP requesting that they support amendment 359 at the Second Reading on the Food Information Regulations in July to require labelling of meat from slaughter without stunning. This amendment simply restores the European Parliament’s first reading position which MEPs voted in favour of on 16 June 2010.