The new head of the British Veterinary Association has called for a ban on the religious slaughter of animals for halal and kosher meat.

John Blackwell, BVA president-elect, said there should be a total ban on killing animals without prior stunning.

Denmark became the latest country to ban the religious slaughter of animals this month, but the practice is still legal in the UK.

About 6,000 animals are killed by non-stun slaughter in UK abattoirs every week.

Religious slaughter is carried out according to religious requirements of Jews and Muslims because traditions prohibit pre-stunning. Animals are typically slaughtered with a razor-sharp knife and left to bleed to death.

But Mr Blackwell said the practice means some animals die a slow and painful death as they remain fully conscious for up to two minutes before they die.

See also: Animal slaughter without stunning ‘major welfare issue’

In an interview with Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “Our view has always been that animals should be stunned. They should be impervious to pain as death supervenes.”

Mr Blackwell also urged clearer labelling of halal and kosher meat to give consumers clarity on the methods used to produce the meat they are buying.

“We are looking for a meeting of minds to review the evidence base that clearly shows slaughtering animals without stunning compromises welfare.

“If that can’t happen I would like labelling at the point of sale that allows the consumer to make an informed choice. If that is not possible we would be looking for a ban for killing without stunning.

“There is no insensibility for these animals by cutting their throats – they remain conscious for seven seconds, for sheep, and two minutes for cattle and that is not acceptable. As a vet and scientist welfare is top of my list.”

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But Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, hit back at Mr Blackwell’s comments.

“I really regret John Blackwell’s remarks, which are completely misleading,” he said.

“Animals that are killed for the Jewish or Muslim markets do not bleed to death. Animals that are killed for the general market or the Muslim and Jewish market are killed in exactly the same way.

“A large animal has its throat cut and this renders it insensible to pain and unconscious. The Jewish method is designed to bring that about instantly, and using tendentious language is not helpful.”

EU rules require animals to be stunned before they can be slaughtered. But exemptions can be made on religious grounds.