Beef hanging in a slaughter house©Tim Scrivener

A vets’ group has called for the government to end non-stun slaughter of animals following a parliamentary debate.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) made the call after a debate on its e-petition, which calls for an end to non-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare, took place in Westminster Hall in parliament.

During the debate, farm minister George Eustice said the government had no plans to ban religious slaughter practices.

See also: Non-stun slaughter e-petition hits 100,000 signatures

However, Mr Eustice said the government would review systems introduced in other countries, such as Holland and France, to increase the welfare of animals in non-stun slaughter methods.

“The prime minister has been absolutely clear that there is no intention to ban religious slaughter,” said Mr Eustice.

“However, everyone agrees that we need good enforcement of our existing legislation.”

MPs also raised the option of introducing an immediate post-cut stun in order to reduce the suffering and pain of animals not stunned before slaughter.

Under UK and EU laws, all animals must be stunned before slaughter to ensure they do not feel pain. However, a derogation allows animals to be slaughtered without stunning in Muslim and Jewish communities.

MPs speaking at the debate were keen for the government to consider measures that would better control volumes of meat required by religious communities.

They highlighted the practice in Germany, where abattoirs have to prove the “religious” needs and define the number of animals to be slaughtered for the communities concerned before being granted a licence.

Speaking after the debate, BVA president John Blackwell said the government had yet to take action to ban non-stun slaughter despite agreeing that without pre-stunning animals feel pain and animal welfare is compromised.

“This delay to act in the face of overwhelming evidence is completely unacceptable,” he added.

The BVA noted that more than 80% of Halal is pre-stunned, but there is already more non-slaughter in percentage terms than the size of the Muslim and Jewish populations in the UK.

This means that some Halal meat must be going outside of the communities for which it was intended.

While non-stun slaughter is still permitted, the BVA called for clearer slaughter-method labelling of products and post-cut stunning to improve welfare.

More than 117,000 people have now signed the BVA’s e-petition, supported by the RSPCA, which calls for an end to non-stun slaughter.