22nd December 2003
for immediate use
MPs Take A Stand On Controversial Religious
55 MPs have backed an Early Day Motion calling for an
end to religious slaughter in the UK. Recent opposition to
the slaughter of fully conscious animals for religious reasons
has aroused the anger of Jewish and Muslim communities and
is seen as highly politically-sensitive. Defenders of religious
slaughter claim it is humane and a matter of religious freedom.
Animal campaigning group Viva! who drafted the EDM, assert
that it is a serious animal welfare problem which must be
addressed as a matter of urgency. The support of 55 MPs, drawn
from all major parties, for this controversial Motion has
been welcomed by Viva! as a sign of a new willingness to address
All animals in the UK must be stunned prior to slaughter,
except those killed for Muslim halal and Jewish kosher meat.
It is estimated that this means approximately 10m animals
per year have their throats cut while fully conscious. Last
June, the prestigious Government advisory body, the Farm Animal
Welfare Council, published a report calling for the legal
exemption for religious slaughter to be repealed as the practice
caused "unnecessary suffering". They noted that,
for instance, a calf may take up to two minutes to lose consciousness
after throat-cutting. The Council was accused of racism and
anti-Semitism after making the call. The Government currently
defends religious slaughter on the basis of religious tolerance
but has not yet formally responded to FAWC's report and does
not expect to do so until the middle of next year.
Viva! campaigner, Alistair Currie said, "it is a very
healthy sign that so many MPs have recognized the need for
something to be done about this problem. Everyone acknowledges
that it is a difficult issue but, for that reason, it has
been shelved or ignored for years: that just can't go on.
It's time we had a rational, calm and informed debate about
religious slaughter and the support of so many MPs will help
us to achieve that."
Sponsoring MP Colin Challen said, "I am delighted with
the support this Early Day Motion has received - it shows
there is a growing demand in the House for this matter to
be looked at, and I believe if everybody approached the subject
with an eye on the sensitivities involved we could make progress
towards reducing animal pain and suffering."
Contact: Alistair Currie on 0117 944 1000.
Notes for Editors
A "rival" EDM (No 32) calling for a continued exemption
has so far gained 50 signatures.
Text of EDM 104, tabled on 26th November 2003:
Slaughter Without Prestunning
That this House notes that the Farm Animal Welfare Council
has recently called for the repeal of the exemption from stunning
prior to slaughter for animals killed by Moslem halal and
Jewish Shechita methods; further notes the Council's conclusion
that the act of throat cutting at slaughter would "result
in very significant pain and distress in the period before
insensibility supervenes"; further notes that scientific
evidence shows that sheep become insensible within 5-7 seconds
of the incision, adult cattle may take between 22 and over
40 seconds and calves may take up to two minutes to become
insensible; deplores all racism and religious intolerance
but believes that the profound suffering caused to many millions
of animals every year by slaughter without prestunning is
an urgent animal welfare problem; further notes that over
90 per cent of animals killed for halal meat are now prestunned;
further notes that slaughter without prestunning has been
banned in Norway, Sweden and New Zealand; and calls on the
Government to work actively and constructively in co-operation
with the Muslim and Jewish communities to bring about an end
to religious slaughter in the UK.
FAWC's report, "The Welfare of Red Meat at Animals at
Slaughter or Killing" was published in June 2003 and
can be viewed on their website, www.fawc.org.uk