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UK: Lord Sheikh on Religious slaughter

27/3/14   Press release


The British Muslim community has recently been alarmed at the sudden and rather aggressive publicity surrounding the issue of religious methods of slaughter of animals for food. The Conservative Peer, Lord Sheikh, has been particularly concerned and hence decided to take up the cause and take appropriate action.

On 16th January, a debate was held in the House of Lords, during which several Peers provided insights from both religious and scientific points of views. The debate was of a high quality and was well-received.


Lord Sheikh spoke in the debate and was clear; “Islam forbids the mistreatment of animals; the welfare of animals is enshrined in Muslim beliefs”.


His speech can be accessed at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/140116-gc0001.htm#14011665000504.


In February, Denmark passed a law banning the religious slaughter of animals for the production of Halal and Kosher meat. This followed bans in Poland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.


The Danish Minister for Agriculture and Food stated that “animal rights come before religion”. The campaign group Danish Halal collected more than 13,000 signatures opposing the law change. They stated that the new law was a “clear interference in religious freedom and limits the Muslims and the Jews’ right to practice their religion in Denmark”.


Earlier this month, the new President-elect of the British Veterinary Association, John Blackwell, said that he felt the UK should follow in the footsteps of Denmark and outlaw the religious slaughter of animals that have not been stunned first.


Mr Blackwell suggested that British Muslims should allow animals to be stunned before slaughter in the interests of their welfare.


Following these comments, Lord Sheikh wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph, which was published on 15th March. He outlined his concern at the misunderstanding that could result from Mr Blackwell’s comments and provided clarity about the Halal method of slaughter:


“…The Muslim method of slaughter, known as zabiha, ensures an extremely quick and near-painless death. A properly-trained practitioner will cleanly sever the structures at the front of the neck with such speed and precision that blood empties rapidly, from both the body and the brain, and consciousness is lost immediately. Any claims that animals are cut and left to slowly bleed to death are simply not true.


In other methods, when stunning is used, the animal is paralysed and unable to display signs of pain. Animals can even regain consciousness before the point of slaughter.”


The full letter can be accessed at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/10698809/Ritual-slaughter.html. It is also provided as an attachment to this e-mail.


In order to take the matter further, Lord Sheikh also wrote to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.


Mr Cameron, during his first visit to Israel as Prime Minister, made a pledge to the Jewish community to defend Kosher Shechita in the United Kingdom.


Lord Sheikh congratulated the Prime Minister on this announcement and was keen to obtain a similar assurance from the Government to defend Halal zabiha.


Lord Sheikh, along with the Jewish Peer Lord Palmer, also met with Lord de Mauley on 19th March as the Minister with responsibility at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Lord de Mauley gave assurance that the existing methods of religious slaughter will be retained


A press release, approved by DEFRA, is attached to this e-mail. Lord de Mauley has said:


“The Government has no intention of banning religious slaughter. We would prefer animals to be stunned before slaughter but respect the rights of religious communities and will retain the existing longstanding national rules on religious slaughter in our new domestic regulations protect the welfare of animals at slaughter”.


Lord Sheikh, along with members of the Muslim community, believe we must pay much greater attention to the wider welfare of animals throughout their lives, including the conditions in which they are bred, housed and transported.


Lord Sheikh feels that we should introduce an efficient system of self-regulation for upholding welfare standards. Such a system would have a rigorous code of conduct at its heart and would reassure non-Muslims that such animals are being respected and standards are being adhered to.


Furthermore, he believes that everybody, regardless of race or religion, is entitled to transparency over how their food is produced. Consumers must be able to make an informed choice about the meat they buy.


In that respect, he is calling for a non-discriminatory system of universal meat labelling, to indicate the manner of stunning for stunned meat as well as highlighting non-stunned meat.


The Lord Sheikh

House of Lords


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