Concern over animal welfare as muslim festival approaches

13 March 1998

Concern over animal welfare as muslim festival approaches

FRANCE, Britain and the EU Commission are locked in debate over alleged animal cruelty at the annual Muslim festival of Eid-el-Kebir held near Paris.

More than 1.5m sheep are expected to be slaughtered in this years festival, which takes place on Apr 7. Animal Welfare group Compassion in World Farming claims thousands of British sheep will have their throats cut while fully conscious at open-air sites around Paris, breaking both EU and French animal welfare laws.

And junior farm minister, Elliot Morley, has urged producers to consider that sheep they sell in the coming weeks could be exported for slaughter at the festival. He regretted that the government could not ban live exports, but added that he had written to the commission and French government calling on them to minimise animals suffering at the festival.

EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, has also told the French authorities that practices at the festival contravene EU law, which states that animals must not be slaughtered outdoors. He told them to take action to ensure community law was respected.

Mr Fischler added that other member states had ensured that practices at similar festivals fell within EU law. And he warned the French authorities that the commission could take action before next years festival in Paris.

But the French government claimed that abattoirs around Paris could not cope with the number of sheep slaughtered in one day. And imposing restrictions on the festival would lead to slaughter at secret sites around the capital where conditions could be worse.

CIWF is now highlighting the festival in its campaign to ban live exports. It will organise port protests later this month.

But National Sheep Association chief executive, John Thorley, said the CIWF stance would have far greater legitimacy if its criticism was directed at the French authorities who flouted national and EU law.

Producers had to rely on the law to protect animal welfare after sheep were sold. The government and the commission should do everything to ensure that the French obeyed EU laws, said Mr Thorley.

An NFU official said that animal welfare was a high priority and the union endorsed pre-slaughter stunning. But it could not advise members against exporting sheep, and could not influence practice overseas. &#42

Jonathan Riley

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