Shoppers could unwittingly be buying non-stun slaughter meat

15.02.19

Latest UK Government figures reveal that meat from more than 90,000 animals slaughtered without stunning could have been sold in supermarkets unlabelled.

Sheep crammed on truck © RSPCA

The figures, which were due last autumn but were only released yesterday (after we joined forces with the BVA to put pressure on the Government) reveal that 90,500 animals, mainly chickens, slaughtered for religious purposes, could have ended up in UK supermarkets unlabelled.

As the law stands, there is no mandatory requirement to label meat which has been slaughtered without stunning. This means consumers are unaware that they're buying meat produced in this way.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) report revealed that more than 94 million animals were slaughtered without stunning in 2018 - averaging three animals per second. We're now renewing our calls for the UK Government to introduce a ban on this practice.

Dr Marc Cooper, head of our farm animals department, said:

We're encouraged that these important Food Standards Agency slaughter figures have been released today, following a joint letter last week from the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association (BVA), urging the UK Government to release these crucial statistics.

The report highlights that over 94 million animals were slaughtered without stunning in 2018. We're against any slaughter of farm animals without stunning as the scientific evidence, and the view from the UK Government's own advisors, concludesthat this practice can cause unnecessary suffering.

What's particularly disturbing is that 90,000 of the 2.9 million non-stunned animals slaughtered for kosher certified meat were rejected as being 'unfit for religious consumption'. We're concerned that this meat could be entering the conventional market unlabelled.

This report highlights the serious welfare, trade and consumer concerns

The FSA report states that: 'It's unclear whether or not hind quarters [from animals killed for kosher certified meat] are generally sent on for wider consumption.' So meat from tens of thousands of rejected animals and the unused hind quarters of accepted animals are being killed using non-stun methods and we fear the meat could be packaged unlabelled and sold to unsuspecting public as conventional meat.

The figures also revealed that the proportion of animals that had been stunned prior to slaughter for halal meat last year (2018) had dropped significantly from previous years.

Another concern in the report is the trade of non-stunned sheep meat as it's been revealed that 750,000 of the animals slaughtered in this way were being sent abroad. We believe that the exemption which allows non-stun slaughter for religious purposes should purely meet the needs of religious communities in the UK.

Dr Cooper added:

Finally, we have further concerns over the proportion of sheep slaughtered in the UK last year that were not stunned. As well as the meat from over 750,000 of those sheep being sent abroad. EU and UK slaughter regulations allow a derogation for non-stun slaughter, providing that the meat from the animals is only used to meet the requirements of the religious communities. We believe this breaches the spirit of the law which allows an exemption for religious communities which we believe should apply only for those in the UK while the ban is not in place.

This report highlights the serious welfare, trade and consumer concerns around the practice of non-stun slaughter in this country.

We've been calling for an end to non-stun slaughter for many years, as it seriously compromises animal welfare. Our concern does not relate to the expression of religious belief but the welfare of animals.

We need to follow the lead of other countries that have successfully banned non-stun slaughter: Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark, and, more recently, the Flanders region of Belgium. We've seen how some countries, such as New Zealand, have a vibrant export trade in stunned meat to Muslim countries such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia showing that trade need not be a barrier to better protection of farm animals.

There's a willingness to end non-stun slaughter

The latest figures also come the same day that the European Parliament voted for action from the EU Commission to end non-stun slaughter, showing a willingness to end this practice across the EU.

Until there's a change in the law to end non-stun slaughter, there are several measures the UK Government could introduce to reduce the suffering involved in this practice. For example, by ensuring trade deals with other countries don't include non-stun meat or live animals for non-stun slaughter. Clear labelling should also be adopted to enable consumers to make an informed choice about the meat that they buy and how it was slaughtered.

Take action to end non-stun slaughter

We, together with the British Veterinary Association (BVA), have written to the Defra Minister, Michael Gove MP calling for urgent action to end non-stun slaughter in England.

Join the campaign by signing our open letter or join the debate online using: #EndNonStun