BVA calls on Government to end non-stun slaughter on day of Parliamentary debate

23 February 2015

The British Veterinary Association (BVA), supported by the RSPCA, calls on the Government to end non-stun slaughter on the day of a Parliamentary debate on an e-petition relating to ending non-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare. The debate will take place in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster at 4.30pm, Monday 23rd February 2015.

On 29th January BVA’s e-petition to end non-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare reached 100,000 signatures showing an enormous strength of feeling amongst the public. The total number of signatures has now reached more than 115,000.

The e-petition calls for an end to slaughter without pre-stunning for all animals, without exception.

BVA launched the Parliamentary e-petition because scientific evidence shows that slaughter without pre-stunning allows animals to feel pain and compromises animal welfare. This scientific evidence includes the EU-funded Dialrel project that ran for four years between 2006 and 2010 and that concluded “It can be stated with high probability that animals feel pain during and after the throat cut without prior stunning.” It is a position supported by the Humane Slaughter Association, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe.

BVA notes that more than 80% of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter. BVA’s concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter.

Commenting, BVA President John Blackwell said:

“BVA’s e-petition to end non-stun slaughter now has over 115,000 signatures and clearly shows the strength of feeling about animal welfare at slaughter. BVA has long argued that all animals should be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain and we are pleased that the British public has got so firmly behind our campaign, which is based on scientific evidence. 
 
“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 acknowledge that over 80% of animals slaughtered for halal meat are pre-stunned before slaughter. 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. We also point 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. 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.”

Further information 

1. The full text of the e-petition is:

End non-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare

We call for an end to slaughter without pre-stunning for all animals. EU and UK law requires all animals to be pre-stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain until death supervenes. But non-stun slaughter is permitted for certain communities.

We support BVA, RSPCA, HSA, FAWC and FVE who conclude that scientific evidence shows that non-stun slaughter allows animals to perceive pain and compromises welfare.

We must differentiate between religious and non-stun slaughter. Our concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter.

We note:

   - over 80% of UK Halal slaughter is pre-stunned

   - hindquarters of animals killed by (non-stun) Shechita can enter the market unlabelled

While non-stun slaughter is permitted we call for clearer slaughter-method labelling and post-cut stunning to improve welfare.

Non-stun slaughter affects millions of animals. We support a good life and a humane death for all animals.

2. European and UK legislation requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain. However, a derogation in the legislation allows animals to be slaughtered without stunning for certain religious communities – Dhabihah slaughter for Halal food and Shechita slaughter for Kosher food. It is important to note that over 80% of Halal slaughter in the UK is pre-stunned.

3. But while the non-stun slaughter continues the e-petition also calls for:

   - clearer slaughter-method labelling (noting that over 80% of halal slaughter is pre-stunned and that the hindquarters of animals killed by the (non-stun) shechita method are not kosher and therefore unlabelled)

   - post-cut stunning to improve the welfare of animals that are not pre-stunned.

4. Only 0.1% or 35 out of 32,059 e-petitions managed to reach the target of 100,000 signatures.

BVA Media Office