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Calls to end non-stun slaughter

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British Veterinary Association presents findings at Parliamentary debate which could effect the halal meat industry

The debate around the halal slaughter of animals was heard in the halls of Westminster earlier this week, with the topic of ‘stunning’ at the heart of conversation.

According to a 2012 Food Standards Agency report, 97 per cent of cattle, 96 per cent of poultry and 90 per cent of sheep slaughtered using the halal method in UK abattoirs are stunned. But some Muslims insist stunning ‘is not halal’ and animals must be slaughtered without this initial step.

The calls upon the British Government to end non-stun slaughter are spearheaded by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and supported by the RSPCA.

The BVA says it launched the Parliamentary e-petition because of ‘scientific evidence’ which shows that slaughter without pre-stunning allows animals to feel pain and compromises animal welfare.

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The BVA’s claims are based upon a scientific study which includes the findings of the EU-funded Dialrel project that ran for four years between 2006 and 2010. The project concluded: “It can be stated with high probability that animals feel pain during and after the throat cut without prior stunning.”

The total number of signatures on BVA’s e-petition has now reached more than 115,000, showing a significant strength of feeling amongst the public. It is a position supported by the Humane Slaughter Association, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe.

The BVA says its concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter.

President of the association, John Blackwell, has said that the BVA has long argued that all animals should be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain and that the signatures on the e-petition clearly shows the strength of feeling about animal welfare at slaughter.

LEADING THE DEBATE: John Blackwell President of the British Veterinary Association says he is keen to continue discussions with representatives of the halal and kosher meat industry

LEADING THE DEBATE: John Blackwell President of the British Veterinary Association says he is keen to continue discussions with representatives of the halal and kosher meat industry

Mr Blackwell said: “For BVA and our members, this is a matter of animal welfare at slaughter, plain and simple. We have never – nor would we – argue against religious slaughter. We categorically refute any suggestion that this is an anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish campaign.

“We have met with, and are keen to continue our positive discussions with, representatives of the halal and kosher meat industry to explore where we can work together to improve animal welfare at slaughter.

“BVA finds abuse of animals in any slaughterhouses unacceptable. We would expect for these abuses to be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken by the competent authority.”

The BVA points out that recent undercover films of animal abuse in slaughterhouses would warrant sanctions under current welfare legislation, irrespective of whether they occurred in an abattoir implementing stunning or non-stun prior to slaughter.

“From pre-birth to slaughter, vets play an active role in not only preventing suffering but actively providing for the welfare needs of all animals. The veterinary profession is not complacent,” continues Mr Blackwell.

“We consistently lobby Government to ensure existing legislation is enforced effectively. We have and will always work to improve the welfare of animals at all stages of their lifecycle.

“BVA is calling on the Government to have a consistent approach to animal welfare legislation.
“How can the Government on the one hand pride itself and champion the UK on having some of the world’s highest animal welfare standards, but on the other undermine this by allowing slaughter without stunning to continue?

“It is clear from the scientific evidence that the welfare of animals is improved by effective stunning at slaughter but we can’t enforce a piece of legislation that does not exist. This is why we call on the Government to make legislative change now and end non stun-slaughter immediately.”

David Bowles, head of RSPCA public affairs, said: “It is no surprise that around eight in 10 people want an end to non-stun slaughter.

“There is growing public concern about the welfare of farm animals and people believe animals should be treated as humanely as possible throughout their lives, including at the time of slaughter.

“It is important to differentiate between ‘religious’ and ‘non-stun’ slaughter. Our concern does not relate to the expression of religious belief but to the practice of killing by throat cutting without pre-stunning. In fact, around 84 per cent of halal in the UK is pre-stunned demonstrating that animal welfare and religious purpose can work together,” he added.

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