There has been an unbalanced continued focus on Halal and Schecita slaughter methods in the media with a drive to only label non-stun meat creating concern that there is inherently something wrong with these methods with regards to animal welfare. No mention of the wider secular methods of using stunning methods and the associated pitfalls that occur.
It is wrong to lead the reader into thinking that stunning methods make the process more humane. The notion that stunning resolves animal welfare problems during slaughter is simply untrue. Stunning certainly helps the handler control the animal and speed production. Animal welfare concerns must be addressed in an objective manner.
There’s no mention of the real Public Health risk of BSE through the use of the captive bolt stun in cattle (where there are chances of brain tissue being propelled into the blood stream) and of the incidences of mis-stuns which leave the animal in severe pain.
Informed choice is what all consumers want, the truth. If governments wish to enforce proposals to apply the label only to non-stun meat (which would only affect Halal and kosher meat) then they have a moral duty to ensure they are objective.
In-conclusive evidence of slaughter without stunning
As it stands there is no conclusive evidence to support that slaughter without pre-stunning is inhumane. The research conducted to date is not as extensive, scientific or conclusive as portrayed to the wider public.
On Monday 4th April 2011, Jim Paice Minister for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs met Muslim representatives at the start of a wider consultation to discuss the labelling of meat and the EU Slaughter Regulations. At a meeting with representatives of the Muslim community, the minister confirmed “I have no intentions of banning religious slaughter and not made up my mind with regards to labelling”.
Labelling needs to be factual if informed consumer choice is the motive. It must indicate the actual method or process of slaughter to give a fuller picture to inform consumers. However, this is not as easy as it sounds with a vast array of methods with different risks to welfare e.g. electric head only stunning, captive bolt stunning, electrified water bath stunning. How do you label if there have been missed stuns or stunning has been carried out in front of other animals that are petrified.
Labelling is being practised and supported by both the Muslim and Jewish community. It’s not the religious requirements that are at fault but practises which need improving.
A little evidence to show unacceptable animal welfare practises on the secular side
Animal Aid, the UK’s largest Animal Rights group found some startling information about animal cruelty: Essex Slaughterhouse EXPOSÉ finds ‘unbearable cruelty and suffering’ (http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/NEWS/news_slaughter//2331//
And more recently we have the Mail’s reporter Danny Penman visit an abattoir ‘The Mail went undercover at an abattoir to find the truth’. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1328616/Halal-meat-served-schools-hospitals-pubs-Vets-say-Islamic-slaughter-cruel.html#ixzz1Jedp9szk)
That is not to say that conventional abattoirs operate without fault. Earlier this year, I investigated an organic slaughterhouse, certified by the Soil Association, that had been secretly filmed by the welfare group Animal Aid.
Inside, the staff were caught beating animals and failing to stun them before cutting their throats.
Steve McGrath, chief executive of the Meat Hygiene Service, later said: ‘I have watched the film and have seen abject cruelty by the slaughtermen to the animals being killed; ineffective stunning; animals having their necks dislocated and heads decapitated before being fully bled; pigs being kicked; and shackling before stunning.’
Similar problems were found in every one of the seven slaughterhouses that Animal Aid secretly filmed, despite the presence of Government appointed vets. At least in this halal abattoir, I do not witness any deliberate mistreatment.
Surely, anyone could pick on one area and focus on that area and blow it out of context. There’s no objectivity in that and that’s what’s being asked for.
Click here to see an objective overview of the associated risks with each method (please click on link and a pdf of the tables will open for you to view or print):