Halal-chicken-(c)Rex

The British Veterinary Association has targeted political leaders as it ratchets up the pressure for a ban on non-stun animal slaughter.

BVA president Robin Hargreaves has written to all of the party leaders in both the Welsh Assembly and Scottish parliament. Mr Hargreaves called for an outright ban on an exemption that allows animals to be slaughtered without stunning for religious reasons.

In the letter, Mr Hargreaves emphasised the animal welfare issues involved in non-stun slaughter and the strength of public feeling about the issue.

He also urged them to take forward the debate about clearer food labelling so that shoppers could make a more informed choice.

See also: Fresh calls for clearer labelling on non-stun meat

The BVA has made it clear that it wants the debate to move away from “halal” or “kosher” labelling and instead for labels to show whether meat is from stunned or non-stunned animals.

Mr Hargreaves wrote: “We have always made it very clear that we are not concerned with the practising of religious belief, but with the throat cutting of animals that have not been rendered insensible to pain.

“Proposals to label all halal and kosher products will do nothing to inform the public about the very proper concerns regarding welfare at slaughter and could fuel further confusion and potentially feed prejudice.”

He added: “Halal labelling does not recognise that about 88% of halal slaughter in the UK is pre-stunned. At the same time, the 12% that isn’t stunned, along with the hindquarters of animals slaughtered by the Shechita method that are not kosher, could continue to enter the mainstream food chain unlabelled.”

The pressure on the regional administrations is the latest move in the BVA’s campaign, which includes a nationwide petition that has amassed 72,000 signatures since its launch in April. It requires 100,000 signatures to trigger a House of Commons debate.

Rob Davies, president of the BVA Welsh branch, said: “We are hoping to gain cross-party support for our campaign from the main parties in Wales, because this is not only a major animal welfare issue, but one of consumer choice and confidence in the food chain.”

At the recent Royal Welsh Show, RSPCA Cymru also launched a petition calling for the Welsh government to follow Sweden, Latvia and New Zealand by introducing a ban.

And the BVA’s Scottish branch president, Ronnie Soutar, said concern about the welfare of animals at slaughter was one of the top priorities for vets.

“Although very little non-stun slaughter takes place in Scotland, that is no assurance that non-stun products aren’t on Scottish supermarket shelves or sold in food outlets,” Mr Soutar said.

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