9 in 10 vets say consumers should be better informed about slaughter methods

04 November 2014

An overwhelming majority of British vets believe consumers need to be better informed about slaughter methods and welfare at slaughter. Very few vets think the public understands the difference between stunned slaughter (where the animal is stunned to render it insensible to pain before having its throat cut) and non-stunned slaughter. 

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has released new figures on vets’ attitudes to the slaughter of animals to coincide with a parliamentary debate on meat slaughtered in accordance with religious rites on Tuesday 4 November 2014.

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey reveals that 94% of vets believe UK consumers of meat and fish should be better informed about slaughter methods. Just 11% of vets believe the public understands the difference between stunned and non-stunned slaughter. 

The survey follows BVA’s high-profile #stunb4slaughter campaign, which calls for an end to all non-stun slaughter in the UK. Although EU and UK law requires all animals to be pre-stunned, non-stun slaughter is permitted for some communities. BVA’s e-petition to end non-stun slaughter makes clear that vets’ concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter. BVA’s e-petition is now close to 80,000 signatures.   

Vets’ own preferences as consumers are clear: 9 out of 10 would NOT buy meat from non-stunned animals but almost all (97%) WOULD buy meat and fish labelled as “pre-stunned at slaughter”.

Labelling is one of the issues that will be discussed in Tuesday’s parliamentary debate secured by Neil Parish MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Beef and Lamb. The Westminster Hall debate will not have a vote at the end. But BVA hopes that its e-petition, upon reaching 100,000 signatures, will trigger a full parliamentary debate where a vote will be recorded. 

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s debate, BVA President John Blackwell said:

“Vets’ commitment to the welfare of all animals throughout their lives, up to and including death, is clearly reflected in the latest findings from the BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey. 97% of vets would choose to buy meat and fish that has been stunned before slaughter to render the animal insensible to pain. 

“But there is much more to be done to educate the general public about welfare at slaughter. We know that UK consumers care about animal welfare but our members believe that there needs to be better understanding about methods of slaughter and how that impacts on welfare. We believe labelling that clearly explains the method of slaughter would help all consumers make informed choices about the products they wish to buy. 

“We are working hard to ensure our e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures to show the strength of feeling on this important welfare issue that affects millions of animals every year.”

Further information

1. BVA’s second Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey ran from 17 September to 9 October 2014. 752 vets completed the survey.

Vets were asked three questions on non-stun slaughter (percentages have been rounded up or down).

When asked ‘do you think the general public understands the difference between stunned and non-stunned slaughter?’, 11% said yes, 15% said they don’t know and 74% said no.

When asked to what extent ‘do you agree or disagree that consumers of meat and fish in the UK should be better informed about slaughter methods and welfare at slaughter?’, 80% strongly agreed, 14% agreed slightly, 5% were neutral, 1% disagree slightly and 0% disagreed strongly.

When asked ‘would you buy meat/fish (asked of vets who consume fish and meat only) labelled with the following?’ the results showed: 97% would buy produce labelled ‘Pre-stunned at slaughter’, 1% would not and 2% were unsure; 4% said they would buy produce labelled ‘Slaughtered without pre-stunning’, 93% would not and 4% were unsure; 12% would buy produce labelled ‘Stunned immediately post-cut’, 82% would not and 6% were unsure.

2. BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey draws together a panel of over 1,000 BVA members broadly representative of the wider BVA membership who are surveyed on a semi-regular basis. The Voice of the Veterinary Profession captures the profession’s views and experiences by asking questions about animal health and welfare, public health and trends in the veterinary profession. The surveys are carried out by the independent research company, Alpha Research www.alpharesearch.co.uk.

3. The BVA's campaign to end non-stun slaughter to promote welfare can be followed on twitter #stunb4slaughter. BVA tweets at @BritishVets. 

BVA Media Office