MPs debate slaughter and stunning issues
Published:  05 November, 2014

Neil Parish MP, chairman of the All-Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Beef & Lamb called for a reduction in the number of animals that are not stunned at the time of slaughter, during a debate on Meat Slaughtered in Accordance with Religious Rites yesterday (4 November).

MPs attended the 90-minute session at Westminster Hall, focused on the findings of an in-depth report published by the APPG, which carried nine recommendations, including that: labelling should be carried out on a stun versus non-stun basis, and that more research was needed into the shechita method of slaughter and the likelihood and duration of pain felt when the cut is made.

Another issue discussed during the 90-minute debate was whether mechanical stunning methods were more humane than the non-stun approach. “What is clear is that there are gaps in our understanding of the slaughter process,” noted Parish.

He said it was a “vital debate”, as much of the previous discourse on the topic had been polarised and misunderstood. “In an ideal world, I would like to see all livestock stunned before slaughter,” he said.

However, this view was challenged by a number of MPs who said they had visited both traditional and non-stun slaughterhouses, and that it “appeared” the non-stun method was more humane.

It was also suggested that if the underlying premise of this debate was about animal welfare, then it must be extended to all forms of slaughter, not just those carried out in accordance with religious rites.

Shabana Mahmood MP said she supported the government’s current framework, which allowed for the non-stunning of animals in certain circumstances, and she said she hoped it would stay that way, as a ban on non-stun slaughter could result in religious communities being “forced to import meat or consider their long-term future in this country”.

Speaking to Meat Trades Journal after the debate, Parish said that while he wanted to reduce the number of un-stunned animals, a blanket ban was not on the cards, as this would only drive communities to import meat from abroad, where the animals might not be subject to the strict welfare standards of the UK.

He also said he was particularly keen to see post-stunning brought in for bovines, and would like to see restrictions on the numbers of animals killed by the shechita method of slaughter to only the specific number needed in order to fulfil consumption requirements.

Farming minister George Eustice’s remarks about how post-stunning is carried out in other countries such as France – where animals must be stunned post-cut if they are conscious after 90 seconds – were interesting, he said. “It would be interesting to see what happens with the Jewish communities in those countries,” he added.

Parish refuted claims made by a number of halal organisations that the debate on non-stun slaughter is anti-Muslim, stating: “It is all about the welfare of the animal, and about reducing the pain it suffers at the point of slaughter.”