Parliament debates religious slaughter, again
Categories: Latest News
Wednesday February 25 2015
Parliament debated the issue of religious slaughter again yesterday as the threshold passed by the petition supporting a ban on non-stunned slaughter reached over 100,000 signatures thereby securing a Westminster Hall debate.
A number of MPs spoke in the debate introduced by the MP for Kettering, Philip Hollobone. Hollobone posed some questions to which he invited the Government’s response: “Do the Government agree that all animals should be stunned before slaughter for animal welfare reasons? Why are they allowing non-stunned meat to go outside the communities for which it was intended, contrary to EU and UK legislation? Will they support the introduction of compulsory labelling of meat, fish and products from non-stun slaughter as “non-stun”? Will they look at introducing mandatory post-cut stunning, as has been done in some countries, including Finland, Austria, Estonia, Slovakia and Australia? Finally, will they consider the German approach of abattoirs having to prove the religious needs, and to define the number of animals to be slaughtered to satisfy the needs of the religious community concerned, before being granted a licence?”
Many of those contributing to the debate raised the question of why, after a debate in the Chamber occurred in November last year, was a second debate secured so soon after the last. Members representing constituencies with significant Muslim and Jewish populations highlighted the anxieties in these communities at what appeared to be undue attention and, at times, perceived hostility, towards religious minorities.
MPs Shabana Mahmood, Anas Sarwar contributed to the debate with Mahmood repeating many of the points raised in the debate last year about more information being made available to consumers and the beliefs, among religious adherents – Muslim and Jewish – that religious slaughter is a humane method.
The debate saw references made to the rival petitions in circulation with the ban on non-stunned slaughter securing around 116,000 signatures and another, supporting the right to religious slaughter, attracting 125,000 signatures.
The debate touched on the proportion of meat slaughtered according to halal and kosher methods and its being greater than the proportion of Muslims and Jews within the UK population. In relation to the point about proportionality and meat from religious slaughter entering the main food chain, the practice observed in Germany, where a derogation exists to permit non-stunned slaughter for religious communities but is regulated in proportion to the size or consumption of meat by those respective communities, was highlighted as a possible solution to keep religious slaughter for religious communities and out of the main food chain.
The question about media coverage of the issue was also raised with MP Mike Freer pointing to the widespread coverage of animal abuse uncovered in secret footage from a halal abattoir in North Yorkshire but virtual silence on later coverage taken from an abattoir which used stunning and in which animal abuse was also observed.
Freer also referred to emails received from members of the public who wrote: ““I don’t want my meat touched by a dirty man in a beard” or “I don’t want Muslim meat”— whatever Muslim meat is.””
Freer, and fellow MP Diane Abbott, remarked on how the animal welfare debate revealed that “perhaps ignorance, racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism lurk behind some of the respectable arguments.”
George Eustice, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, side stepped the issue of establishing an equivalence between stunning and non-stunning methods in animal slaughter citing scientific evidence from a number of studies which appeared to confirm that stunning was considered the more humane method saying “It is not because we think that somehow religious slaughter, be it halal or shechita, is a more humane way to slaughter animals than what mainstream abattoirs do today. It is because we respect the religious rights of those communities and we have accommodated them in the long-standing derogations that we have in place.”
Touching on the issue of animal abuse arising from secret film footage from abattoirs, the Minister confirmed that slaughterhouses will now face unannounced inspections.
It is expected that the subject of halal slaughter will be back in the Chamber very soon as the rival petition having attracted 126,000 signatures is also afforded a Westminster Hall debate led by MP Diane Abbott.