Ministers could back bid to cut number of animals killed without being stunned

Ministers are considering backing a Tory MP’s bid to cut the number of animals slaughtered without being stunned, while protecting religious rights to halal and kosher meat.

Chris Loder, 一个 animal welfare advocate, is planning to lay an amendment to the new kept animals bill, which would be aimed at reducing the number of animals killed for meat without being stunned first.

His bid to change the law is being considered by ministers, with environment minister Victoria Prentis saying there are ways of cutting down non-stun slaughter without jeopardising religious rights.

Asked about non-stun slaughter during an event at the Tory party conference, Prentis raised the backbench amendment.

她说: “On stunning … when we go back to parliament, I am doing something called the kept animals bill … I have also been told there is likely to be an amendment that will deal with stunning … We have to go very sensitively on this. We will go very sensitively on this. It is not the government’s policy. It will be a backbencher amendment.

“We will have to make sure the rights of different religions to eat the meat they want to eat is still available. But there are ways of doing that so you slaughter to order. You don’t slaughter unnecessarily large amounts of animals without stunning. So we are determined if the bill is amended in the way that it might be to have this discussion in a sensitive and grown-up way.”

Non-stun slaughter is used to kill animals for some halal and kosher meat, although there is disagreement in the Muslim community about whether the practice is necessary for meat to be halal. Food Standards Agency estimates suggest that 88% of animals in the UK killed by halal methods were stunned beforehand in a way that many Muslims find religiously acceptable, but some believe non-stun slaughter is necessary for meat to be truly halal.

The Jewish method for kosher meat – shechita – requires a non-stun slaughter method. Under the practice, the animal is not stunned before its throat is cut and the blood is drained from the carcass. Religious groups in favour of the method argue it is humane.

Animal rights campaigners have long campaigned for an outright ban on animal welfare grounds, but the government did not include changes to non-stun slaughter in recent animal welfare bills.

Loder, who previously had a private member’s bill on animal cruelty penalties adopted by the government, said he was planning to propose an amendment to the kept animals bill that would include a need to “prove there is a religious requirement” for meat to be slaughtered by a non-stun method.

“If I can pull off this on non-stun slaughter that would be the third major step forward when it comes to animal welfare,“ 他说. “From what I can see, the government is seriously considering it but they haven’t said yes.”

He said there was an “active dialogue” with the government about addressing non-stun slaughter but he would not put forward any amendment that was watered down to the point it beomes meaningless. “This is about dignity for animals at the end of their life,“ 他说.

Asked whether the government would support a backbench amendment on non-stun slaughter, a Defra spokesperson said: “The government would prefer all animals to be stunned before slaughter but we respect the rights of Jewish and Muslim people to eat meat prepared in accordance with their beliefs.

“As outlined in our action plan for animal welfare, we are looking at a wide range of welfare at slaughter improvements that could be made – and we will be working closely with stakeholders on these proposals over the coming months.”

在五月, another environment minister, Lord Goldsmith, indicated the government wanted to take action to cut the number of slaughterhouse animals killed without stunning. “There is a range of measures we are going to be taking,” he told the Independent. “We want to be respectful towards different religions and religious practices but we also want to tackle what is clearly an animal welfare issue.”

Shimon Cohen, campaign director of Shechita UK, said the group had “repeatedly received reassurances from the government that shechita will be protected in the United Kingdom and are confident that the government will consult fully with religious communities before any new measures are announced.”

Emma Slawinski, director of advocacy and policy at the RSPCA, said the charity was “opposed to non-stun slaughter and we’re calling for an end to the practice as it seriously compromises animal welfare”.

“Our concern does not relate to the expression of religious belief but the welfare of animals,“ 她说. “Until there is a change in the law to end non-stun slaughter, there are several measures the UK government could introduce to reduce the number of animals involved in this practice. These include ensuring trade deals with other countries do not include non-stun meat or live animals for non-stun slaughter and clear labelling of meat products so consumers can make informed choices about the meat they buy and how it was slaughtered.”