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Government to consult on introducing labelling for non-stunned meat

The Government has confirmed that it intends to launch a consultation later this year into the introduction of labelling for meat products to indicate if the animal was stunned before slaughter. Humanists UK has welcomed the news, as it supports the introduction of such labels. Labelling will enable consumers to make informed ethical choices about animal welfare.

Animal welfare legislation in the UK mandates that all animals must be stunned so that they are insensible to pain before the lethal cut is made during the slaughtering process. However, there are exceptions to this for religious slaughter, which are used in the preparation of halal and kosher meat. In the UK, in practice around 80% of animals undergoing halal slaughter are actually stunned as certain stun methods are accepted by a number of halal certification bodies. However, all kosher meat is unstunned, and 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.

Whilst giving evidence to the Commons International Trade Committee, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis MP stated, ‘We are concerned about some of the welfare issues that are covered by the terminology “religious slaughter”… I think this is the moment to tackle whether this can be covered by labelling, and I would like to confirm that this will be part of our consultation on labelling shortly to be launched.’ She also said that ‘assuming things go to plan, and the road map goes to plan, I very much hope we will crack on with that animal welfare consultation in the first half of this year. Realistically, it will probably be June that we start.’

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented,

‘We are pleased that the Government has confirmed that it will be consulting on this issue. Pre-stunning is considered by most veterinary and animal welfare organisations to be the most humane method of slaughter. There is substantial evidence that meat that has not been pre-stunned for religious reasons is entering the general meat market contrary to animal welfare regulations. We support entirely ending of exceptions that allow for animals to be slaughtered without pre-slaughter. But failing that, we believe that the Government must introduce a clear labelling system  to make sure consumers are able to make informed decisions in accordance with their own conscience and beliefs.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please 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 more about the upcoming consultation on labelling.

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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