The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warmly welcomed reports in 20 December, Daily Telegraph that environment minister George Eustice is giving serious consideration to labelling meat and fish as “stunned” or “non-stunned”, in line with BVA’s campaign on non-stun slaughter. Such a move would give a clear indication to consumers about the welfare of animals at slaughter, an issue that BVA has campaigned rigorously on. The report comes as BVA’s government e-petition calling for an end non-stun slaughter in the UK reaches nearly 80,000 signatures.
Scientific evidence shows that non-stun slaughter allows animals to perceive pain and compromises welfare. This position is supported by the RSPCA, the Humane Slaughter Association, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe.
While BVA continues to call for all animals to be pre-stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain, the Association believes that clearer labelling in the short term would help consumers to make a pro-animal welfare choice. Currently meat from animals that have not been pre-stunned is entering the foodchain unlabelled.
In May this year BVA called on party leaders to reject calls by some MPs to compulsorily label food as “Halal” or “Kosher” and instead called for food labelling to state whether the animal has been stunned in line with European and UK welfare legislation or not stunned under a legal derogation.
BVA argues that labelling Halal and Kosher would do nothing to inform the public about animal welfare concerns, and could fuel prejudice. >From an animal welfare perspective labelling meat as “Halal” does not recognise that nearly 90% of Halal slaughter in the UK is pre-stunned.
Commenting on the report, BVA President John Blackwell said:
“This announcement from Defra Minister George Eustice is very welcome, and could make a significant difference to the amount of meat from non-stun slaughter entering the general foodchain without consumers’ knowledge.
“BVA continues to campaign for all animals to be pre-stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain until death supervenes and our government e-petition has attracted nearly 80,000 signatures. But if it non-stun slaughter is to continue we must have clearer labelling.
“As we have said before, the answer to labelling is very simple. Food should be labelled as ‘stunned’ or ‘non-stunned’. This is a measure supported by the European Parliament in June 2010, and strongly supported by our members. In our own Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey 94% of respondents said that consumers should be better informed about slaughter methods and 9 out of 10 would not buy meat from non-stunned animals.
“It is extremely important that the issue of welfare at slaughter is not hijacked by other agendas and the clear, simple labelling being suggested by George Eustice keeps the sole issue of animal welfare to the fore. We are still campaigning vigorously to end non-stun slaughter in the UK, but we believe this is a step in the right direction for consumers who care about the welfare of animals when they purchase meat and fish.”
The BVA government e-petition to end non-stun slaughter in the UK can be signed at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/64331. To tweet about the petition use #stunb4slaughter and include @BritishVets
Daily Telegraph “Shoppers will be told how their meat has been killed”, 20 December 2014: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/11305308/Halal-and-kosher-food-labelling-shoppers-will-be-told-how-their-meat-has-been-killed.html