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Call for All Farm Animals to be Stunned Before Slaughter

16 January 2014

UK - The RSPCA is renewing its calls for improved welfare of all farm animals at the time of slaughter and clear production method labelling of meat as the House of Lords prepares to debate the subject of religious slaughter today (Thursday, 16 January).

More than 900 million farm animals are slaughtered for meat in the UK every year. The vast majority are stunned pre-slaughter. However, the law permits the Jewish and Muslim communities to kill animals by religious methods without any form of pre-stunning.

While the RSPCA recognises that religious beliefs and practices should be respected we also believe that animals should only be slaughtered under the most humane conditions.

RSPCA Dr Julia Wrathall, head of the RSPCA's farm animal science department said: "Farm animals deserve to be treated with care and respect throughout their lives, from the time they are born right up to their final moments in the abattoir.

"We want to see all animals rendered unconscious before slaughter. Until that time we are calling for clear labelling so shoppers are armed with information that can enable them to make an informed choice about whether they buy meat from animals which have not been stunned before slaughter.

"Until there is better, universal labelling, shoppers should look for the blue and white Freedom Food label. Meat produced under this RSPCA assurance scheme comes from animals inspected to the RSPCA's farm animal welfare standards which do not permit slaughter without pre-stunning."

Scientific research shows that slaughtering animals without pre-stunning (to render them insensible to pain and distress) can cause unnecessary suffering.

David Bowles, head of public affairs for the RSPCA, who has written a report for the House of Lords debate, added: "We know this is a subject that our supporters feel passionately about. We share their welfare concerns and that is why we have continued to campaign for religious slaughter to be discussed at the highest possible levels."

The RSPCA works with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to publish the results of the FSA's Animal Welfare Survey undertaken in abattoirs across Great Britain.

The latest survey* results shows:

  • Over 40 million cattle, sheep, pigs and calves and around 900 million poultry are slaughtered each year in the UK.

  • Three per cent of cattle, ten per cent of sheep and goats, and four per cent of poultry in Great Britain are not stunned before slaughter.

  • Most animals slaughtered for the Halal market were stunned before slaughter. None of the animals slaughtered for the Kosher market were stunned before slaughter.

The RSPCA believes mandatory labelling should be introduced so that all meat that has not been stunned is labelled and we will press for European rules on this in 2014.

*The Animal Welfare Survey 2011 published May 2012 is available from the FSA website:

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