One step closer to ethical consumer choices: meat from cruel religious slaughter methods and sold on open market may soon be properly labelled

The European Parliament Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has passed amendments requiring meat derived from animals which have not been pre-stunned prior to slaughter to be labelled as ‘meat from slaughter without pre-stunning’.

All animals killed for kosher diets, and most for halal, are slaughtered without first rendering the animal unconscious by pre-stunning, in order to adhere to religious doctrine. This is permitted through an exception in European law on animal welfare specifically to allow these methods of religious slaughter. The BHA has long campaigned for that exception to be abolished and until such time, campaigns for accurate labelling. Up to two thirds of meat slaughtered without pre-stunning ends up on the open market, with consumers unaware that they are purchasing meat which has not been killed in a more humane way, that is, with pre-stunning. We believe that consumers have the right to be able to make the ethical choice for themselves about whether they buy meat that has come from that type of slaughter, and that can only be made possible through proper labelling of meat.

The BHA is therefore very pleased that this amendment was passed by committee, as although it is only the first step in getting these requirements made into EU regulation, it is nevertheless a crucial step, and demonstrates that there is significant support for accurate labelling of meat which has not been pre-stunned. After being passed by the committee, the legislation on food labelling is due to be debated and voted in plenary by the whole European Parliament in July. If the European Parliament passes the legislation, it will then go to the European Council, which is unfortunately where similar previous legislation on labelling failed last time around.

The Council rejected the proposal to include such labelling in June last year, but if this regulation gets halted again by the Council, it does not necessarily mean the end of the issue. The European Commission is due to make proposals on methods of welfare labelling later this year, where debates about methods of slaughter labelling will no doubt arise again, and where the BHA will continue to campaign to achieve accurate labelling of non-stunned meat products.

BHA Head of Public Affairs, Naomi Phillips, commented, ‘Accurate labelling is crucial to allow consumers to make ethical choices about the meat they buy, as scientific evidence suggests that animals suffer greater and prolonged pain if they are not pre-stunned before they are slaughtered. This regulation is not about religious discrimination, but is about animal welfare and consumer choices. We urge people to continue to write to their MEPs to ensure that this great first step is carried through and wins support from the whole parliament in July.’

Notes

Further information on the BHA’s work on ritual slaughter.

Listen to the committee vote on amendment 353/359 (at 10:04:08)

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on [email protected] or 020 7079 3585.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination based on religion or belief. It exists to support and represent people who seek to live good and responsible lives without religious or superstitious beliefs.