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Religious slaughter

Slaughter without pre-stunning (for religious purposes)

We are opposed to the slaughter of any animal without first ensuring it is rendered insensible to pain and distress.


We recognise that religious beliefs and practices should be respected. However, we also believe animals should be slaughtered under the most humane conditions possible. Evidence clearly indicates that slaughter without pre-stunning can cause unnecessary suffering.


What is religious slaughter?

In the UK, Jewish and Muslim communities are exempt from legal requirements to stun animals before slaughter. Shechita (Jewish) and Halal (Muslim) slaughter methods involve cutting the animal’s throat with a very sharp knife, often without pre-stunning. There are different interpretations of the religious laws on slaughter within both communities.


Key welfare issues of slaughter without pre-stunning

The Farm Animal Welfare Council (now Committee) (FAWC) report on the ‘Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing’ June 2003 concluded:

  • The level of restraint of conscious animals required for slaughter without pre-stunning was far greater than for conventional slaughter.
     
  • A large cut made across the neck of a conscious animal would “result in very significant pain and distress” before the animal loses consciousness (around 5 to 7 seconds for sheep, 22 to 40 seconds for adult cattle).
     
  • “Slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and that the Government should repeal the current exemption”. Until then any animal not stunned before slaughter should receive an immediate post-cut stun.


What is the RSPCA doing?

We’re pressing for law changes to improve animal welfare at slaughter. Until this occurs, we propose:

  • UK Jewish and Muslim communities review their slaughter practices.

    The Food Standards Agency (FSA) Animal Welfare Survey undertaken in abattoirs across Great Britain during one week in September 2011 showed around 88 per cent of animals slaughtered by the Halal method were stunned before slaughter and 10 per cent of cattle and calves slaughtered by the Shechita method received a post-cut stun
  • Meat produced from animals not stunned before slaughter should be clearly labelled to allow consumer choice.


Further information

Slaughter without pre-stunning (for religious purposes) information sheet (PDF: 186KB).

Welfare at slaughter – joint statement of principles by the British Veterinary Association, Humane Slaughter Association and the RSPCA (PDF 20KB).