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. For this reason we support restrictive laws on experiments on animals, while recognising that some such experiments are justified in the cause of finding cures for diseases.

As they wish to reduce suffering, humanists will be concerned about the treatment of food animals, both during their lives and when they are slaughtered. Many bodies, including the Farm Animal Welfare Council, recommend that pre-stunning of animals prior to slaughter is the best way to minimise suffering. Pre-stunning is mandated by law but there are exemptions for religious groups to provide kosher and halal meat. We believe these exemptions should end, as has happened in some other countries. We note that there is in fact widespread certification of meat as halal with pre-stunning.

What are we doing?

In June 2010 the European Parliament approved legislation that obliges producers of halal and kosher meat to label their produce as ‘’Meat from slaughter without stunning’’.

This was achieved through the adoption Amendment 205 of the Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers, and pertains to all ‘Meat and meat products derived from animals that have not been stunned prior to slaughter, i.e. have been ritually slaughtered’.

In July 2010 we wrote to Defra concerning the government’s position on Amendment 205 and religious slaughter in general. Jim Paice, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food responded stating the government has no plans to review their approach to ritual slaughter and would wish to see such issues to member states’ discretion.

In April 2011, the issue returned again to the European Parliament as two new amendments (353 and 359) were tabled to the ‘Proposal for the Provision of Food Information to Consumers EU Regulations’which called for the label ‘Meat from slaughter without stunning’. The BHA wrote in support of these amendments and will continue to campaign until these amendments are adopted. We will update on the process of these amendments as they go through the European Parliament.

In May 2011, Jim Paice MP, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has responded to our letter and said that the government also considers the issue of labelling of non pre-stunned meat to be primarily an issue of animal welfare, and that the government supports the principle that consumers should know what they are buying. The Minister said he was keen to work with the BHA on this area of work as it develops.

For more detailed information on our position, read our response to the Defra consultation on the proposal for a Council regulation on the protection of animals at the time of killing and our response to the consultation on the Farm Animal Welfare Council Report on the Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing. We want the removal of the exemption from the law allowing the ritual slaughter of animals for food.

Read a summary of the present situation concerning ritual slaughter, including recommendation of the Farm Animal Welfare Council Report to end the religious exemption for slaughter without pre-stunning, and the Government’s response which rejected that recommendation.

In 2010, in response to a number of reports in the media concerning the sale of products that have not been correctly labelled as having been ritually slaughtered, the BHA has written again to food retailers to see if they are committed to only to selling meat that has been pre-stunned.

We will publish the responses as they are received below:

What can you do?

Email your MEP to urge them to support the accurate labelling of all meat products that have been slaughtered without pre-stunning.

Email your MP requesting that s/he support any legislative changes to abolish religious exemptions from animal welfare laws that permit slaughter of fully conscious animals, and to require that all meat and meat products are clearly labelled as to whether the animal was slaughtered humanely or not.