Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Government Urged to Ban Religious Slaughter

Over 70% of British population want an end to religious exemption on prestunning

Release date: 
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

On the eve of the publication of the Government’s response to last year’s Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) report on slaughter, campaigning vegetarian organisation Viva! has again called on the Government to ban religious slaughter without prestunning. FAWC’s report stimulated great controversy last year when it made the same call but an NOP opinion poll commissioned by Viva! has shown no public acceptance for the practice. Just 22 per cent believed it should still be permitted, seven per cent didn’t know but 71 per cent thought that killing animals in this way should not be allowed to continue.

All food animals in Britain are killed by having their throats cut but the law requires that they are first rendered unconscious. However, animals killed for Muslim halal and Jewish kosher meats, can be slaughtered by throat cutting without prestunning. It can take a cow 60 seconds to lose consciousness – a calf twice this time. FAWC’s report spoke of the “very significant pain and distress …” caused by throat-cutting and called for the exemption permitting religious slaughter without prestunning to be repealed.

Viva! has filmed both mainstream and religious slaughter for its video Sentenced to Death which includes legal and illegal Muslim slaughter and what is believed to be the only available footage of Jewish Shechita slaughter in the UK. In addition to the opinion poll, Viva! has also tabled a Parliamentary Early Day Motion (No 104) on the subject which calls for the Government to work with Muslim and Jewish communities for an end to slaughter without prestunning. As of today’s date, 77 MPs have signed the EDM.

Viva! campaigner Alistair Currie says “Slaughter without prestunning is far from the only severe welfare problem at slaughter but it’s the only one that can be solved with a single act – the repeal of the current exemption for religious slaughter. No one wants to see the law intruding on religious practice but a complete voluntary end to this kind of slaughter arising from within the Muslim and Jewish communities simply isn’t going to happen. Ministers and officials have been shelving this issue for years and years because it’s such a hot potato politically – that must not continue. Over 70 per cent of the British people want to see an end to it and so does every animal welfare organisation in the UK. Religious tolerance is important but it doesn’t justify everything and it certainly doesn’t justify the severe animal suffering caused by slaughter without prestunning.”

Notes for Editors

The survey was carried out by NOP World between 12-14 September 2003 amongst 1000 adults aged 15 +. The question asked was: “You may or may not know that in Britain, the law requires that all farmed animals are stunned and are unconscious before being killed by having their throats cut. However, some groups for religious reasons, are allowed to cut the throats of fully-conscious animals without prestunning them. Do you think that this practice should or should not be allowed to continue?”

Copies of the video are available from Viva!. Viva! has also published an extensive referenced report on this issue, Going for the Kill, which can be viewed online at http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/ritual_slaughter/Goingforthekill.htm

An estimated 9-10 million animals are slaughtered without prestunning each year, although no complete official record of numbers is kept.

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Viva!
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