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Government finds 97% support for labelling of non-stunned meat

Humanists UK today called on the UK Government to listen to overwhelming public demand for clear and simple labelling of meat obtained from animals that haven’t undergone stunning prior to slaughter.

It follows publication of a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) report detailing results of its ‘call for evidence’ consultation on animal welfare labelling. A near-unanimous 97% of individuals responding strongly supported the Government introducing a method of slaughter labelling, with almost all the rest partially supporting this. 83% of organisations also strongly supported this, with 5% partially supporting it.

Currently, UK animal welfare law requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter in order to eliminate unnecessary pain and suffering. However, exemptions permit non-stun slaughter for religious purposes, providing kosher and halal meat for Jewish and Muslim communities respectively. All kosher and some halal meat is not stunned.

Humanists believe that animals are sentient beings and support the reduction of animal suffering resulting from human behaviour. They see compassionate attitudes to animal suffering as a hallmark of a humane society.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘By clearly labelling how an animal has been slaughtered – whether it has been stunned or not before being killed – consumers can exercise their freedom of choice about their food in accordance with their beliefs and preferences.

‘We believe that clear mandatory labelling will also increase people’s wider understanding of animal welfare and raise standards of care and accountability at slaughterhouses across the land.

‘This report plainly shows that people wish to know if the meat that they choose to eat has been humanely slaughtered. There is no reason for the Government not to act and draft legislation that the public so overwhelmingly supports.’

Commenting on the regulation of non-stunned slaughtered animals, Mr Thompson added:

‘Further to the inhumanity of the non-stunned slaughter of animals, there is also the significant issue of such meat finding its way into general supplies.

‘Indeed, latest Government figures show 23% of all sheep and 25% of all goats slaughtered were killed without stunning. The number of animals slaughtered in this way far exceeds the size of the Jewish and Muslim consumers – even without taking into account that most Muslims believe pre-stunning is acceptable as a form of halal – meaning a substantial amount of non-stunned animals are unlawfully being sold on the general market.

‘People have a right to know whether the meat they consume has been processed in line with animal welfare rules or not.’

As part of the Defra consultation, almost every individual respondent said that the UK Government should reform labelling to promote greater consistency and understanding of animal welfare information at the point of purchase.

Based on the findings in the report, next year the UK Government says it intends to consult on proposals to improve and expand current mandatory labelling requirements for animal welfare.


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

Read more about our work on animal welfare.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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