Compassion in World Farming agrees with John Blackwell, the President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), that animals should be stunned before slaughter to prevent suffering. Stunning an animal before slaughter renders it unconscious and unable to feel pain.
EU and UK legislation on the welfare of animals at slaughter allow an exemption on the requirement to stun before slaughter for religious communities. Animals slaughtered for Kosher or Halal meat are allowed to be killed without being stunned. Many animals slaughtered for Halal are stunned as some Muslims accept stunning provided that it renders the animal unconscious but does not kill it.
Compassion believes that all slaughter should be humane, which means that animals must be stunned before slaughter.
Compassion's concerns are supported by scientific evidence which shows that cutting the throat of an animal that is not stunned causes extreme pain and suffering.
In the UK, 1.4 million sheep and goats, 32 million chickens and 70,000 cattle are slaughtered without being stunned each year. It seems that many more sheep are being slaughtered without stunning than are needed for the religious communities.
Some abattoirs are apparently slaughtering more sheep without stunning than are needed simply as a matter of commercial convenience. Compassion has urged the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to place restrictions on the number of animals that can be slaughtered without stunning. France and Ireland already have restrictions in place but DEFRA has refused to act
Compassion's Chief Policy Advisor, Peter Stevenson, says: "There is clear scientific evidence which shows that animals suffer when they are slaughtered without being stunned."
"It is ludicrous that more animals than necessary are being slaughtered unstunned."
Meat from animals which have not been stunned comes onto the general market but does not have to be labelled. As a result some non-Muslim and non-Jewish consumers are unwittingly buying unstunned meat. Compassion is calling on the Government to require such meat to be labelled "meat from unstunned animal" so consumers can make an informed choice when buying meat.