With apologies for being somewhat repetitious…
The Times reports (£) that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beef and Lamb has called for experiments on stunning sheep and cattle in order to satisfy consumers of halal meat. The Meat Trades Journal (which isn’t behind a paywall) reports that the Group:
“… suggests more research should be done in certain areas. The report highlights the measurement of pain in animals at the time of slaughter; concerns among religious groups that the bleed-out of the carcase is affected by stunning and whether there are methods of recoverable stunning that would be acceptable to some halal consumers, as areas which require further investigating”.
Apparently the Group also believes that a “broader and more measured view” needs to be taken in the media coverage of halal slaughtering.
Needless to say, the President of the British Veterinary Association, Robin Hargreaves, expressed the BVA’s long-standing concerns about slaughter without pre-stunning and reiterated the BVA’s call for clearer labelling of meat from animals that had not been pre-stunned before slaughter:
“The issue of non-stun slaughter continues to generate media and political interest, and rightly so. Scientific evidence shows that slaughter without pre-stunning compromises animal welfare; a position supported by the Humane Slaughter Association, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe and the European Food Safety Authority. We have a moral obligation to each animal we keep: any unnecessary pain should be eliminated”.
Among the Muslim community the legitimacy of pre-stunning for halal slaughter appears to be a matter of debate. As we noted at the time, in July Nizar Boga, chief executive of the Universal Halal Agency which audits consumables to ensure that they comply with sharia, suggested that pre-stunning before slaughter was consistent with Islamic teaching and called on politicians encourage Muslims to eat meat from pre-stunned animals. On the other hand, Dr Abdul Majid Katme of the Islamic Medical Association stated in his response to the Government’s consultation that it was “important to keep religious slaughter un-stunned”. For Shechita UK, however, the issue of pre-stunning is non-negotiable:
“In order for an animal to be kosher it must be healthy and uninjured. Since shechita is the only permitted way for Jews to obtain meat for food, the other methods are not kosher and render the animal treifah (literally ‘torn’) – it may not be eaten”.
As well as demands from animal welfare groups for labelling kosher and halal meat offered for sale, both Muslims and Jews have also called for comprehensive labelling, as in the following letter to the Telegraph:
“Consumers should be informed whether an animal has been mechanically stunned prior to slaughter and whether it has endured repeat stuns if the first attempt was ineffective.They should also be told the method of slaughter: captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning, trapping, clubbing or any of the other approved methods.
Comprehensive labelling should be supported by faith communities and animal welfare groups alike. It would offer all consumers genuine choice, whether they are motivated by animal welfare, religious observance, or even intolerance of anyone who looks or worships differently to them.
Henry Grunwald Chairman, Shechita UK
Dr Shuja Shafi Deputy Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain”.
As we have previously mentioned, the Prime Minister told the Knesset in March that “On my watch shechita is safe in the UK” – holding to the line taken by all previous UK governments, irrespective of political persuasion, of limited involvement in this sensitive area. And there for the moment, we suspect, the matter rests. However, it is an issue that will not go away.
The labelling issue, in particular, represents a classic example of clashing rights: the right of particular religious communities to live in accordance with their religious rules against the right of others to avoid meat slaughtered in ways of which they disapprove. We would support the development of a practical and meaningful labelling scheme that was accepted by faith communities, consumers and animal welfare groups alike. On the issue of pre-stunning, however, the relative efficacy of the various methods is a matter of dispute; and it is uncertain whether or not a research programme could be designed that would produce conclusive evidence acceptable to all parties.