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Non-stun slaughter

Volume 662: debated on Monday 24 June 2019

The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that animals killed by having their throats cut while fully conscious is unacceptable; further that animals should not be made to suffer such profound trauma in the name of religion; further that this method of slaughter runs counter to any belief in compassion and mercy; further that animals should be stunned before they are slaughtered; further that, Shechita slaughter does not allow animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered; further that, when the Holy Prophet was alive, modern stunning methods did not exist; further that the Food Research Institute states that killing an animal before it is bled out by high voltage electrical stunning does not affect the amount of blood from the carcass; and further that this petition relates to e-petition 131591.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons debate non-stun slaughter.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented to the House but not read on the Floor, Official Report, 22 May 2019; Vol. 660, c. 8P.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley):

The Government encourage the highest standards of animal welfare and would prefer all animals to be stunned before slaughter, but is committed to respecting the rights of Jews and Muslims to eat meat prepared in accordance with their beliefs.

The European Council Regulation 1099/2009, on the protection of animals at the time of killing, sets out the main requirements for slaughter including a requirement that all animals are stunned by a permitted method before slaughter. The EU regulation includes a derogation from stunning for religious slaughter and also allows individual member states to impose stricter national rules for religious slaughter.

In England, the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015 (WATOK) enforce the EU requirements and contain stricter national rules that apply when animals are slaughtered by either the Jewish or Muslim method.

National regulations on religious slaughter have a long history. Religious slaughter was first debated in Parliament in 1875. The Slaughter of Animals Act 1933 introduced a legal requirement for stunning of animals prior to slaughter, and contained an exemption where animals were slaughtered for specific religious communities. Over the years, the rules governing religious slaughter have developed to provide additional protection for animals slaughtered in accordance with religious rites and have maintained the long standing exception for Jews and Muslims to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Animal welfare requirements are monitored and enforced by official veterinarians of the food standards agency to ensure that animals are spared unnecessary pain, suffering or distress during the slaughter process.

The Government are aware that there is public concern about meat from animals being slaughtered in accordance with religious beliefs being sold to consumers who do not require their meat to be prepared in this way and that there are calls for such meat to be labelled. The Government believe that consumers should have the necessary information available to them to make an informed choice about their food. This is an issue the Government are considering in the context of the UK leaving the EU.

The Government are currently engaging with religious communities and other stakeholders on issues around religious slaughter, including consumer transparency.