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Should we allow non-stun slaughter?

News Section Icon Published 04/11/2014

This morning a debate on ‘religious slaughter’ was held in parliament following an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report. The debate focussed on nine recommendations made in the report entitled ‘Meat Slaughtered in Accordance with Religious Rites’.

MPs discuss slaughter without stunning

We are pleased that slaughter without stunning is being discussed in parliament. EU and UK law requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter, so that they don’t feel pain when they are killed.

There is an exemption that allows slaughter without stunning for certain communities. Animals slaughtered for halal or kosher meat are allowed to be slaughtered without being stunned.

Animals slaughtered without being stunned have their throats cut whilst they are fully conscious which causes extreme pain and distress.

Concerns with the recommendations

We are concerned about three of the recommendations made by the APPG as they ignore existing scientific findings. They call for new research to find out facts that are already established.

Such research will entail animal suffering and could delay the adoption of pre-slaughter stunning by incorrectly suggesting that there remains some doubt about the following three points:

Does stunning reduce the amount of blood that drains after throat cutting?

The report calls for research to determine the effect of stunning on the volume of blood left in meat in comparison to slaughter without stunning.

A 2004 study on sheep found that the amount of blood lost after neck cutting is not reduced by electrical or captive bolt stunning; nor is an improved bleed out achieved by neck cutting without stunning. This study was followed by similar research for cattle.  This confirmed the findings with sheep and showed that the bleed-out is not reduced by captive bolt stunning, nor improved by a neck cut without stunning.

Does a head-only electrical stun not kill but only produce unconsciousness?

Some Muslims accept stunning as long as the stun does not kill the animal but only renders it unconscious. The report recommends that demonstrations to show recoverability from head only electrical stunning should be considered to reassure consumers that such stunning does not kill animals. 

Such demonstrations are unnecessary as scientific research has established that head-only electrical stunning of sheep and cattle does not kill animals and indeed that they will quickly recover from the stun if it is not followed by throat-cutting. Both the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) and the European Food Safety Authority  have made it clear that both sheep and cattle must have their throats cut very quickly after head-only electrical stunning as otherwise they will recover from the stun.

Does the throat cut cause pain?

Almost unbelievably the report suggests that there remains some doubt as to whether cutting the throat of a conscious animal causes pain and that accordingly further research should be undertaken. FAWC stated that it is persuaded that throat cutting “would result in very significant pain”. It is completely unnecessary to carry out new research as it is already well established that throat cutting is highly painful.

Slaughter without stunning must stop

Animals must be stunned before slaughter to ensure their suffering is minimised. While slaughter without stunning is still permitted we believe meat from unstunned animals should be labelled ‘meat from slaughter without stunning’ so consumers can make an informed choice.

Take action

We are supporting a petition started by the BVA urging the government to end slaughter without stunning in the UK. It has received more than 77,000 signatures.

Once you have signed the petition please share it, if we reach 100,000 signatures the petition will be considered for debate by the government’s Backbench Business Committee. Every signature counts.


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