BVA urges party leaders across the UK to support non-stun slaughter campaign

07 August 2014

Robin Hargreaves, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has urged party leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to get behind a vet-led campaign to end non-stun slaughter.

Writing to party leaders at the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, and Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr Hargreaves emphasised the animal welfare issues involved in non-stun slaughter and the strength of public feeling about the issue – since the launch at the end of April of the BVA’s UK-wide petition to end non-stun slaughter in the UK, over 72,000 individuals have signed. 100,000 signatures are needed to trigger a House of Commons debate. 

European and UK legislation requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain. However, an exemption in UK law 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 almost 90% of Halal slaughter in the UK is already pre-stunned.

Scientific evidence shows that slaughter without pre-stunning compromises animal welfare. That is why the Humane Slaughter Association, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe and the European Food Safety Authority are all calling for an end to non-stun slaughter. 

Letters have been sent to Alex Salmond, Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson, Willie Rennie, Carwyn Jones, Andrew RT Davies, Leanne Wood, Kirsty Williams, Peter Robinson, Raymond McCartney, Mike Nesbitt, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, and David Ford. 

In the letters Mr Hargreaves was at pains to underline the campaign’s focus on animal welfare at slaughter, as well as the need to differentiate between non-stun and religious slaughter in relation to food labelling. He states:

“We have always made it very clear that we are not concerned with the practising of religious belief, but with the throat cutting of animals that have not been rendered insensible to pain.

“Recent media coverage has revealed a very strong feeling amongst the general public for better labelling about the provenance of food they are buying and eating. We very much hope you will listen to this sentiment and take forward the debate about clearer food labelling.

“Proposals to label all Halal and Kosher products will do nothing to inform the public about the very proper concerns regarding welfare at slaughter and could fuel further confusion and potentially feed prejudice.

“Halal labelling does not recognise that around 88% of halal slaughter in the UK is pre-stunned. At the same time the 12% that isn’t stunned, along with the hindquarters of animals slaughtered by the Shechita method that are not Kosher, could continue to enter the mainstream food chain unlabelled.

“If labelling is to be progressed, we want the discussion to move away from one about ‘Halal’ and ‘Kosher’ and instead for labelling to show whether meat is from stunned or non-stunned animals.”

The party leaders are in the process of responding to BVA’s call for a cross-party consensus on the issue in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and BVA hopes to work with all parties to support better consumer information and improved animal welfare.

BVA’s online petition to end non-stun slaughter remains open and members of the public are urged to sign the petition as well as write to their MSPs, AMs, or MLAs to express their concern for animal welfare at slaughter. 

BVA tweets at @BritishVets and is using the campaign hashtag #stunb4slaughter

BVA Media Office