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”.

2 thoughts on “Ritual slaughter and animal welfare

  1. Regarding method of slaughter labelling, the Summary of Responses notes “there was strong pressure for compulsory method of slaughter labelling from welfare groups, the public and some in the Muslim community. Again the industry was opposed to this approach. This issue is outside the scope of legislation to implement Regulation 1099/2009”.

    Whilst this is undoubtedly true, those concerned with labelling may feel that this response is totally inadequate, since the government appears to have been sitting on its hands on this particular issue for a considerable time. As we noted in our post Religious Slaughter and Food Labelling on 4 November 2010, James Paice, Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, informed the House:

    ‘As my hon. Friend is aware and as the House fully understands, this is a highly emotive issue, and I understand the demand for labelling. As he rightly says, the Government would like all animals to be properly stunned before they are bled to slaughter. There is a discussion at European level about food information regulations, but we do not believe that that is the right vehicle. Next year, we will consult on implementation of the European animal welfare regulations, and the labelling issue will certainly be examined as part of that. I recognise the strength of feeling to which my hon. Friend refers’

    Subsequently, the House of Commons Library Standard Note SN/SC/1314, ‘Religious Slaughter’, as last updated on 11 June 2012, acknowledged that

    ‘[t]he Coalition Government has no intention of making Halal or Shechita slaughter illegal, but it is considering welfare labelling of meat’.

    As we commented in our post, “But when?”

  2. Pingback: Religion and Law round up – 9th June | Law & Religion UK

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