Ritual slaughter and animal welfare

Chris Luff has helpfully drawn our attention to the fact that in May the Government published a Summary of Responses to last year’s consultation on the welfare of animals at slaughter. We have previously noted the results of a YouGov poll commissioned by the Jewish Chronicle in which 45 per cent of respondents supported a ban on ritual slaughter, 27 per cent were against and 28 per cent undecided.

The Summary revealed that there was strong pressure from welfare groups, veterinary interests and the public for a prohibition on all slaughter without stunning. On the other hand, religious community representatives were concerned that the explicit provisions proposed for recoverable stunning could be seen as an attempt to redefine halal slaughter. Welfare organisations would prefer the current arrangements to be tightened if slaughter without stunning is allowed to continue, while religious community representatives were concerned that this would undermine their religious freedoms. The Summary also disclosed that some 80 near-identical responses (indicative of a small campaign) wanted strengthening and enforcement of the existing rules requiring religious slaughter to be limited to kosher or halal slaughter solely to supply the Jewish and Muslim population.

The Government’s initial response, under the heading Proposed Way Forward, is as follows:

“Existing national rules will be retained in relation to religious slaughter. These rules limit slaughter without prior stunning to the slaughter of bovine animals, sheep, goats and birds by a Jew for the food of Jews or by a Muslim for the food of Muslims. In addition the following national rules will continue to apply:

  • Bovines must be slaughtered in an upright position in a restraining pen approved for that purpose by the competent authority (which will be the Food Standards Agency under the new legislation). Restraint of a bovine animal is prohibited until the slaughterman is ready to make the incision.
  • Shackling and hoisting is prohibited until the animal is unconscious and not before a specified period has elapsed.
  • Back-up stunning equipment is to be available for use in an emergency.
  • The knife must be of a sufficient size and sharpness for slaughter.
  • Licences for schechita slaughter will continue to be issued by the Rabbinical Commission.
  • Religious slaughter of poultry, rabbits and hares outside a slaughterhouse for private domestic consumption is prohibited”.