An animal welfare expert in the UK has accused the local meat industry of increasing the number of animals slaughtered without stunning, claiming it is for religious purposes, when it is actually a financial decision.
Professor Bill Reilly, former chairman of the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, said the increase in the number of animals not being stunned prior to slaughter was “unacceptable.”
He is currently a consultant on veterinary public health and believes the practise of slaughtering animals without stunning should be reduced or banned entirely.
He said reports by the Farm Animal Welfare Council and EU-funded Dialrel Project, combined with publically-available footage on YouTube "clearly demonstrate the pain and distress of obviously still sentient animals after non-stun slaughter".
Legislation in the UK and EU allows the slitting of animals’ throats without stunning, in accordance with Muslim and Jewish food requirements, but the number of animals slaughtered without stunning is increasing faster than the rates of people who require animals to be killed in such a way for their religious beliefs.
The production of halal meat in particular has been growing at a rapid pace, Reilly said, and now significantly exceeds the proportion of Muslims in the UK population.
The halal share of the UK meat market increased almost 15 per cent in the last 11 years he said, while the Muslim population is estimated at 4.6 per cent.
“Why has there been this growth in demand for halal meat and the proportion that is from non-stunned animals?” Professor Reilly wrote in the Veterinary Record.
“There may be operational advantages for an abattoir if stunning is not carried out.
“Other commercial drivers include the convenience of not offering a Halal processing line."
Reilly stressed that he is not targeting the right to religious freedom, but rather attempting to ensure as many animals as possible are slaughtered in a humane way.
"The challenge to society is to enable religious slaughter without compromising animal suffering," he said.
He wants to reduce the minimum number of animals killed without pre-stunning in the UK/
But Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy general-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said there is a "lot of confusion" over Halal meat.
He said animals can be stunned before slaughter and still be labelled Halal.
"Over 90 per cent of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter," he said.
In October, Australian agriculture ministers failed to resolve discussions over ritual slaughters, meaning exemptions that allow some Australian abattoirs to conduct slaughter without prior stunning will continue.
There are 12 abattoirs in Australia that are exempt from the regulations that say animals for consumption must be stunned before they are slaughtered.
The exemptions are on religious or cultural grounds, but animal welfare groups want to practice stopped altogether.
The council released a statement following the meeting, saying ministers have reviewed the results of a two-year consultation process with stakeholders and have considered the science involved and the views of religious groups, but could not reach a conclusion.
Up to 250,000 animals are killed without prior stunning in Australia every year under the religious slaughter exemptions and the RSPCA has rejected claims that stunning is not allowed on religious grounds, saying stunning is accepted by the Islamic community and Jewish community and no reason existed for un-stunned slaughter to continue.
Image: The Guardian
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