Stunning absence of figures on exports of non-stun meat

12 June 2018

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has raised serious concerns over the lack of information on UK exports of meat from animals that have not been stunned before slaughter.

Latest figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) indicate that 22 % of sheep and goats (3 million) are not stunned before slaughter. This is an increase from 2013 when it was estimated 15% (2 million) of sheep and goats were slaughtered without stunning.

BVA believes all animals should be stunned before slaughter and has been calling for an end to non-stun slaughter in the UK for several years. If non-stun slaughter is permitted, BVA believes that non-stun meat should only be provided to match domestic demand and not exported for consumption.

No answers on how much non-stun meat is exported

In a response to a parliamentary question from Kerry McCarthy MP (Bristol East), Defra admitted in April that it does not hold data on how much non-stunned meat is exported.

Increases in export of non-stun lamb

This lack of information has been brought into sharp relief by the recent government announcement on a trade deal with Saudi Arabia that could greatly increase the exports of British lamb and other meat, some of which may be from non-stun slaughter.

Information on the lamb market indicates that exports in general (especially to non-EU countries) are already on the increase with total export volumes up 14 per cent in 2017 and non-EU volumes growing to 5,400 tonnes – up two-thirds on the previous year.

Evidence-based measures to control exports of non-stun meat

BVA is calling for the timely provision of information on non-stun exports, firstly to ascertain the extent to which the UK is exporting meat from these sources and secondly to inform potential measures to ensure supply matches rather than exceeds domestic demand.

Other EU countries that allow non-stun slaughter have measures in place to limit the export of non-stun meat to help ensure that meat killed by this method is for the domestic market. For example, Germany requires that abattoirs apply for a licence by defining the number of animals to undergo non-stun slaughter to meet local demand only.

BVA President, John Fishwick, said:

“Each year millions of animals in the UK are not stunned before slaughter and BVA will continue to push for an end to non-stun slaughter in the interests of animal welfare. The latest FSA figures suggest that a sizeable proportion of sheep and goats that are slaughtered in the UK are done so without stunning and that this seems to outstrip the requirements of the religious communities who consume meat that has been slaughtered in this way.

“It is difficult to unpick the possible factors that contribute to this mismatch but an essential step to understanding this better would be to provide data on how much, if any, non-stun meat is exported abroad. With Brexit on the horizon and in the light of announcements about export deals with non-EU countries, there is a pressing need for clarity on the quantities and destinations of exports of non-stun meat.

“While not illegal, if meat from non-stun religious slaughter is exported we consider this to be outside the spirit of the legislation which allows non-stun as a derogation from the law to meet the needs of religious communities.”

BVA Media Office