Ministers may support their attempt to reduce the number of animals killed without being stunned Animal welfare
Ministers are considering backing a Conservative MP’s attempt to cut the number of animals slaughtered without being stunned, while protecting the religious rights of halal and kosher meat.
Chris Lauder, Ann animal welfare Advocate, he plans to put in place an amendment to the new Conserved Animals Act, which would aim to reduce the number of animals killed for meat without first getting stunned.
Ministers are considering his attempt to change the law, with Environment Minister Victoria Prentice saying there are ways to limit non-thunderbolt massacres without compromising religious rights.
Asked about the non-thunderbolt slaughter during an event at the Conservative Party conference, Prentice raised a back-bench adjustment.
She said, “Amazing…When we go back to Parliament, I do something called the Conserved Animals Act…I’ve also been told that there will probably be an amendment dealing with the Amazing…We have to be very sensitive about this. We will be very sensitive.” In this matter, it is not the policy of the government. It will be a deputy amendment.
“We are going to have to make sure that the rights of different religions to eat the meat they want to eat is still available. But there are ways to do that so that you can slaughter on demand. You can’t slaughter unnecessarily large quantities of animals without electrocuting them. So we are determined whether it has. The bill has been amended in the way that this discussion may be in a sensitive and significant way.”
Non-stun slaughter is used to kill animals to obtain some halal or kosher meat, although there is disagreement in the Muslim community as to whether this practice is necessary for the meat to be halal. The Food Standards Agency estimates that 88% of animals in the UK killed by halal methods have previously been traumatized in a way that many Muslims find religiously acceptable, but some believe that non-stun slaughter is necessary for the meat to be truly halal.
The Jewish method of preparing kosher meat – shichita – requires a non-stunning method of slaughter. Under this practice, the animal is not stunned before its throat is cut and blood is drawn from the carcass. Supporting religious groups say it is humane.
Animal advocates have long campaigned for a total ban on animal welfare, but the government has not included changes to non-stunning slaughter in recent animal welfare bills.
Lauder, who previously had a bill on animal punishments adopted by the government, said he was planning to propose an amendment to the Keep Animals Act that would include the need to “prove that there is a religious requirement” for illegal slaughter of meat lightning strike.
“If I can make it happen in non-stunning slaughter, that would be the third major step forward when it comes to animal welfare,” he said. “From what I can see, the government is seriously considering it but they haven’t said yes.”
He said there had been “active dialogue” with the government about addressing non-stunning slaughter, but that he would not put forward any amendment that has been watered down to the point that it makes no sense. “This is about the dignity of animals at the end of their lives,” he said.
Asked if the government would support an MP amendment on non-stun slaughter, a Devra spokesperson said: “The government prefers to shock all animals before slaughter, but we respect the rights of Jews and Muslims to eat meat prepared in accordance with their beliefs.
“As outlined in our Animal Welfare Action Plan, we look forward to the wide range of welfare improvements in slaughter that can be made – and will work closely with stakeholders on these proposals over the coming months.”
In May, another environment minister, Lord Goldsmith, indicated that the government wanted to take action to reduce the number of slaughterhouses killed without electrocution. “There is a range of measures that we are going to take,” he told The Independent. “We want to be respectful towards different faiths and religious practices but we also want to address what is clearly an animal welfare issue.”
Shechita UK campaign manager Shimon Cohen said the group had “received repeated assurances from the government that Shechita would be protected in the UK and was confident that the government would consult fully with religious communities before announcing any new measures”.
Emma Slawinski, director of advocacy and policy at the RSPCA, said the charity “opposes non-stunning slaughter and we call for an end to this practice as it seriously endangers animal welfare.”
“Our concern is not about the expression of religious belief but about the welfare of animals,” she said. “Until there is a change in the law to end non-stun slaughter there are many measures the UK government can take to reduce the number of animals involved in this practice. These include ensuring that trade deals with other countries do not include non-stun meat or live animals for non-stun slaughter. Zappers and clear labeling of meat products so consumers can make informed choices about what meat they buy and how it is slaughtered.”