Over half of kosher-slaughtered cows rejected by Jewish authorities

Posted: Fri, 12th Aug 2022

The NSS has called for mandatory labelling for non-stun meat as figures suggest over half of all kosher-slaughtered cows may end up on the general market.

Over half of kosher-slaughtered cows rejected by Jewish authorities

The National Secular Society has called for mandatory labelling for non-stun meat as new figures suggest over half of all cattle religiously slaughtered for kosher meat may end up on the general market unlabelled.

A report published this week by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said 51% of cows slaughtered by traditional Jewish (shechita) methods during a survey by the Food Standards Agency were rejected as not meeting religious requirements but "fit for wider consumption".

Forty-three per cent of shechita-slaughtered sheep were also rejected.

When the same survey into slaughterhouses was conducted in 2018, 15% of cattle and 27% of sheep slaughtered for kosher meat were rejected.

Additionally, the hindquarters of cattle, sheep and goats slaughtered by shechita are not considered kosher and are routinely sold on the non-Jewish market. The report said kosher food business operators provided "no meaningful information" when asked about the destination of meat from the hindquarters. It said it is "unclear whether hind quarters are sent on for wider consumption".

It has been estimated that less than half of the meat from animals slaughtered by shechita is sold in kosher shops, according to the RSPCA.

The figures also revealed that the exports of non-stun meat have increased, leading to the RSPCA calling for a ban on such exports.

Animal welfare issues

Animal welfare legislation requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter to minimise suffering. But exemptions are granted for religious communities to meet Jewish and Muslim dietary preferences for kosher and halal meat.

Government guidance on religious slaughter says meat from animals slaughtered without stunning "must be intended for consumption by Jews or Muslims".

The government's advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, has said animals slaughtered without pre-stunning are likely to experience "very significant pain and distress" before they become unconscious. 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.

Labelling for non-stun slaughter

Despite the majority of Brits supporting an end to religious exemptions for stunning, there is no legal requirement for meat from animals slaughtered without stunning to be labelled as such.

Polling last year found over 70% Brits think food produced from religious non-stun slaughter methods should be clearly labelled.

Last year Defra held a consultation on mandatory labelling for non-stun meat.

But some kosher organisations have resisted such proposals. Shechita UK's director Shimon Cohen said labelling such as 'stunned' or 'non-stunned' would be "innately pejorative".

NSS: Figures "alarming and disturbing"

National Secular Society head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "It is both alarming and disturbing to think that over half of all cattle and over 40% of sheep that undergo shechita slaughter may not even end up in the kosher market.

"It means they endured an unnecessarily cruel death for absolutely no reason.

"To make matters worse, that meat is likely to have been sold to the unwitting general public – the majority of whom oppose non-stun slaughter.

"The law is clear that meat from animals killed under the religious exemption is supposed to be intended for religious communities in the UK. A business model that relies upon such meat being sold on the general market unlabelled is both ethically and legally dubious.

"Ultimately religious exemptions from animal welfare laws must be removed. But as long as these exemptions exist, the government must introduce a requirement for all meat from non-stun slaughter methods to be clearly labelled."


  • The report is based on a survey the Food Standards Agency carried out at all slaughterhouses operating in England and Wales during the period 7th March – 13th March 2022, on behalf of Defra and the Welsh Government.
  • No animals slaughtered according to shechita methods in the UK are stunned first. Halal slaughter is comprised of both stun and non-stun methods.

Image: Wolfgang Claussen from Pixabay

End non-stun religious slaughter

We campaign to end religious exemptions to animal welfare laws.

Tags: Slaughter