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Food Standards Agency reveals large increase in animals slaughtered without pre-stunning

New figures released by the Food Standards Agency have revealed a sharp increase in the number of animals being slaughtered in the halal tradition without being pre-stunned. Between April and June this year 24.4% of sheep and goats were slaughtered in this way, up from 15% in 2013. Similarly, the number of poultry killed without stunning rose from 3% to 18.5% in the same period. Humanists UK is concerned that this dramatic rise is evidence that non-stunned halal meat is being sold, arguably illegally, on the general market to non-Muslim consumers.

Humanists UK, along with groups such as the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association, and the Humane Slaughter Association, opposes the religious slaughter of animals without pre-stunning on the basis of evidence which shows that an animal’s suffering is reduced if it has been stunned. At present, legal loopholes exist which exempt religious slaughterhouses from animal welfare laws. These loopholes specify that halal meat slaughtered without stunning is only to be intended for members of the Muslim community and is not for general sale on the meat market (and similarly with kosher meat and the Jewish community). This dramatic rise in the number of animals slaughtered in this way far exceeds the proportion of consumers from that religion: about 5% of the population is Muslim, and a large proportion of halal meat is in fact pre-stunned, as most Muslims believe such pre-stunning is acceptable.

Lancashire Council Council is currently reviewing its procurement of non-stunned halal meat for use in school meals, with a view to ending this practice. The council is expected to make a decision on this issue later this month. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has also recently  conducted a public consultation on introducing labelling system indicating method of slaughter as part of a new quality halal mark scheme.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Many organisations including the Government’s own Farm Animal Welfare Committee agree that slaughter without pre-stunning is inhumane and have called for an end to the exemptions in law that allow for it. The increase in the number of animals being slaughtered in this way is not only a grave animal welfare concern, but indicates that these exemptions, particularly the prohibition on sale to non-Muslims and non-Jews, are being abused on a wide scale. We urge the Government to take action to stop these abuses.’


For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at or 020 7324 3072.

Read more on our campaigns on animal welfare:

We support the reduction of animal suffering resulting from human behaviour and see compassionate attitudes to animal suffering as a hallmark of a humane society. As we wish to reduce suffering, humanists are concerned about the treatment of food animals, both during their lives and when they are slaughtered. Pre-stunning is mandated by law but there are exemptions for religious groups to provide kosher (or shechita) and halal meat. We believe these exemptions should end, and we note that there is in fact widespread certification of meat as halal with pre-stunning. If the exemptions enabling religious slaughter are not brought to an end, then we think at the very least rules should be introduced requiring all such meat to be labelled clearly so that consumers can choose to avoid it.

About Humanists UK

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association:


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