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Government consults labelling for non-stunned meat

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched a consultation on the introduction of a new labelling system for meat products. This includes considering whether the system should indicate if the animal was stunned before slaughter. Humanists UK, which campaigns to repeal religious exemptions to animal welfare legislation which allow animals to be slaughtered without pre-stunning, has welcomed the consultation. Method of slaughter labelling would allow consumers to make informed choices about the food they eat.

Current animal welfare laws mandate that all animals must be stunned so that they are insensible to pain before the lethal cut is made. But there are exceptions to this for religious slaughter, which are used in the preparation of halal and kosher meat. Around 80% of animals undergoing halal slaughter are actually stunned, as certain stun methods are accepted by many halal certification bodies. All kosher meat is unstunned. Much unstunned halal and kosher meat enters the general market for consumption by people other than Muslims and Jews. It is estimated that 118 million chickens, three million sheep and goats, and 24,000 cattle were slaughtered without pre-stunning in 2018 across England and Wales.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We are pleased that DEFRA has launched this consultation. Every major animal welfare and veterinary organisation in the UK opposes non-stunned slaughter. They have arrived at this position after careful consideration of the scientific evidence, which shows that stunning significantly reduces the distress and suffering caused to the animal by the slaughtering process.

‘While we appreciate the desire of religious groups to observe dietary requirements connected to their faith, this has to be balanced against competing animal welfare considerations. The introduction of method of slaughter labelling will not in any way impact upon the rights of religious communities. But it will give consumers the information they need to make informed decisions in accordance with their own conscience and beliefs.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the Government’s statement regarding method of slaughter labelling.

Read more about this consultation.

Read more about our work on animal welfare.

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