In March last year, an article appeared on this website reporting that the president-elect of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), John Blackwell, said he wanted to discuss the issue of kosher and halal non-stun slaughter with Jewish and Muslim groups, in order to find a compromise on ritual slaughter that put more emphasis on the welfare of the animals.


Sheep - Alton, UK, 2012

Sheep - Alton, UK, 2012

The BVA then started an official petition to the British government calling for an end to slaughter without stunning in the UK. Such a petition requires a response from the competent government department if it is signed by at least 10,000 British citizens. In fact, this petition has already been signed by over 105,000, which shows how strong feelings are among the population on this issue.


An investigation conducted by Animal Aid inside Bowood slaughterhouse in Yorkshire is likely to reignite this debate and make it difficult for the British government to continue issuing generic responses and dismissing this issue as irrelevant.


The disturbing Animal Aid footage, which was taken over three days in December, shows:
•    Sheep being kicked in the face, smashed into solid objects headfirst, picked up and hurled by the legs, fleeces, throats and ears.
•    A worker standing on the neck of a conscious sheep, then bouncing up and down.
•    Slaughterhouse workers bursting into laughter at a sheep bleeding to death with spectacles drawn around her eyes in green paint.
•    A worker holding a sheep by her throat and pulling back his fist as if to punch her.
•    Slaughtermen taunting and frightening the sheep by waving knives, smacking them on the head and shouting at them.
•    Slaughtermen hacking away at the throats of still-conscious sheep.


The halal code stipulates that animals must be killed quickly with one sweep of a knife. They should not see the knife, or witness the death of other animals. Under UK law, slaughtered animals that have not been stunned must remain in position for at least 20 seconds after their throats have been cut, to ensure loss of consciousness.


Four slaughtermen at the North Yorkshire abattoir have had their operating licences suspended by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) following this investigation. Clearly, this footage unveils practices that up to now had been denied by opponents of pre-stunning, who have claimed that controls on ritual slaughterhouses were extremely tight.


To make matters even worse, some British supermarket chains such as Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and the Co-op have officially admitted that some of the meat they sell to the general public is produced according to halal rules.


So far, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has repeated that it has no intention of banning religious slaughter. It said the Government preferred animals to be stunned before they were killed, but respected the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their beliefs. This position is increasingly untenable.


You can read a summary of the investigation and watch some of the video footage on the Animal Aid website. Warning: the video content is very distressing.


You can also read more on The Independent website.





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