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UK: Top vet urges end of non stun religious slaughter

He called on Muslims and Jews to allow the livestock to be stunned unconscious before they are killed.

By Miranda Prynne / The Telegraph / 07 Mar 2014

Religious slaughter of animals to produce halal and kosher meat should be banned if more humane methods are not adopted, the leader of Britain’s vets has said.

John Blackwell, who took over as president elect of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) last year, claimed killing animals by letting them bleed to death after slitting their throats causes unnecessary suffering.

He called on Muslims and Jews to allow the livestock to be stunned unconscious before they are killed.

The farm vet said the ritual slaughter of poultry, sheep and cattle which are still conscious should be outlawed, as it is in Denmark

“As veterinary surgeons, it is one of the most important issues on our radar. This is something that can be changed in an instant.,” he told The Times.

“The Danish unilateral banning [was done] purely for animal welfare reasons, which is right,” he added, insisting it was not a question of religious freedom.

“We may well have to go down that route. One of the Jewish politicians said it demonstrates [that] a continuing undercurrent of anti- Semitism still pervades Europe. That’s very emotive, isn’t it? That’s the difficulty with engagement.”

He added: “We have tried to keep it out of the religious sphere. It is not an attack on religious faith, it is a view that we have taken on animal welfare.”

More than 600,000 animals are bled to death in religious abattoirs in Britain every week.

Much of the meat produced by kosher and halal slaughterhouses is sold for use in general food supplies, according to The Times.

It is believed the European Commission is considering a “modified health mark scheme” to identify meat from animals slaughtered without stunning but Jewish campaigners, who are concerned a new labelling system could be seen as targeting their religious practices, are working with Muslim groups to lobby against it.

But Mr Blackwell warned animals were suffering as a result of ritual slaughter, based on ancient religious customs.

He said: “They will feel the cut. They will feel the massive injury of the tissues of the neck.

“They will perceive the aspiration of blood they will breathe in before they lose consciousness.”

Likening the feeling of blood in the windpipe to the pain felt when food is swallowed down the wrong way, he said: “When you check the lungs of these animals there is clearly blood that has been aspirated.

“People say we are trying to focus on the last five or six seconds of an animal’s life when it could be 18 months old. It’s five or six seconds too long.”

He added: "I don't think an outright ban is a long way off, there is enough of a view that this practice is inhumane and causes suffering at the time of death/"

It is the first time a veterinary leader has called for an outright ban.

The BVA’s has previously stated its opposition to slaughter without stunning but sought practical compromises like improved labelling.

The intervention by Mr Blackwell will increase pressure on ministers to act against religious slaughter.

Pressure for a ban on religious slaughter without stunning is supported by charities such as Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA.

Most animals killed for halal in Britain are stunned before slaughter but no creatures used for kosher meat are pre-stunned.

Mr Blackwell said he wanted a “collective meeting of minds [with religious groups] to review the science” and agree to stun all animals, mainly using a gun to the brain for mammals, and electric shock for poultry.

He said: “It would be more productive if we can have a meeting of minds rather than to say, ‘You can’t do it’.”

Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK which aims to educate people about Jewish slaughter customs, said bans on kosher and halal slaughter had been designed to drive out Jewish and Muslim populations since the 19th century.

He questioned by the Government was only considering labelling religious methods of killing and not including information on non-religious slaughter practices such as shooting, gassing, electrocution and drowning.

He said: “I will be seeing the Muslim Council of Britain shortly. We are at one on this.”


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