In May, an article on this website reported that British Jewish and Muslim leaders had called for “comprehensive labelling” of meat products, saying that this “should be supported by faith communities and animal welfare groups alike”.
This statement followed the admission by some major supermarket chains, including Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and the Co-op, that some of the meat they sold to the general public was produced according to halal (Islamic) rules.
In March 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 with Jewish and Muslim groups in order to find a compromise on ritual slaughter that puts more emphasis on the welfare of the animal.
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.
Although there have been over 67,000 signatures, the government response falls short of taking the signatories’ concerns seriously. The official answer published on the British government’s website on the one hand says, “The Government encourages the highest standards of welfare at slaughter and would prefer to see all animals stunned before they are slaughtered for food”. On the other hand, it respects “the rights of the Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs. Recently, the Prime Minister has confirmed that that there would be no ban on religious slaughter in the UK”.
No action is announced, other than “awaiting the results of a European Commission study on method-of-slaughter labelling which is due this summer. We will look at possible options in light of that report.”
The acceptance of some forms of stunning before ritual slaughter has been discussed for many years, and unfortunately the debate has sometimes been hijacked by those with anti-Semitic or racist agendas. Nevertheless, from the perspective of God’s love for His creation, some voices have emerged both in the Jewish and Muslim worlds which see the adoption of techniques that spare the animals further suffering as a valid interpretation, not a negation, of kosher and halal rules.
The petition calling for an end to slaughter without stunning in the UK remains open to signatures of British citizens until April 2015, and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100,000 signature threshold. Over two thirds of them have already been collected.