The number of animals slaughtered without stunning has dramatically increased in recent years in the UK due to the demand of the UK Muslim population demanding prophetic slaughtered halal meat. From April to June of 2017, 24.4% of sheep and goats were killed without stunning, a rise from 15% in 2013.
Around 40 million cattle, sheep, pigs and calves and around 900 million poultry are killed each year in the UK. Rules on slaughter are set by the Welfare at the Time of Killing Regulations 2015 (WATOK) which transpose the relevant piece of EU law into the UK statute book. Under WATOK, all animals must be stunned (rendered insensible to pain) before they are slaughtered. However, there is an exemption in these rules which allows slaughter without pre-stunning for religious communities. As a result, recent estimates suggest that 3% of cattle, 27% of sheep and goats and 4% of poultry slaughtered in Britain are not pre-stunned.
The RSPCA believes that consumers have a right to know where their meat comes from, how it was reared, and how it was killed at the time of slaughter. We would like to see meat sold in supermarkets, shops and other food outlets clearly labelled where non-stun slaughter methods have been used.
An EU-wide survey reported that 72% of consumers wanted to know the method of slaughter for the meat products they eat. Currently, this is not the case. It is understood that non-stunned kosher slaughtered meat enters the secular market, and it is also not clear whether meat labelled Halal has come from animals that have been stunned (it should be noted that the majority of meat that comes from Halal slaughter is stunned). ‘Stunned’ or ‘Non-stunned’ are appropriate, non-contentious, factual labels for meat that provide sufficient information for the consumer to make an informed choice.
According to official figures, sheep slaughtered without being stunned first has doubled in the past six years to more than three million.
The growing demand for Halal sheep meat and “an enhanced religious observance” are reasons for the increase, according to government ministers.
Former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Alexander Trees, Baron Trees said the UK is “moving backwards” on its animal welfare commitments during a Lords debate on the issue.
Environment Minister Lord Gardiner replied back to Lord Trees, saying the government is “very clear” on “respect” towards the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to consume meat according to their religious beliefs.
Furthermore the recent debate in February in the House of Lords on the issue of halal labeling stated should all halal meat stun or non-stun be labeled as such would have a detrimental effect for halal as Muslim customer would shy away from anything labelled stunned halal.
However, the growth in the halal market does represent huge market potential for British farmers.
In 2015, the global halal spend was $1.2 billion, and 16.6 percent of the total food expenditure. By 2021 this figure is expected to rise to $2.2 billion.
For Key Facts on non stun and stun slaughter by the Veterinary Policy Research Foundation