Consumers may soon be able to see if meat they are buying is from animals who weren’t stunned before they were slaughtered, according to reports.
According to The Times, changes to food-labelling rules could see labels include whether animals were conscious when they were killed or had been stunned.
It said the change is being considered as part of a review of food-labelling rules set to be carried out after Brexit.
The move will mean shoppers can make sure they are eating meat from animals slaughtered in accordance with their beliefs or views.
Jews and Muslims are exempt from EU law requiring animals to be stunned before slaughter, but people who do not share their beliefs can end up eating it without realising.
Food Standards Agency figures analysed by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) revealed that more than 120 million animals were slaughtered without pre-stunning at abattoirs in England in the 12 months to September.
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The RSPCA and the BVA have called on the Government to repeal the legal exemption allowing animals to be slaughtered without pre-stunning, causing unnecessary pain and suffering.
In an open letter to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, they said until there is a legal change, measures should be put in place including: labelling meat with the method of slaughter; only allowing non-stun slaughter at levels that meet the local religious community demand; banning the export of meat from non-stunned animals or live animals destined for non-stun slaughter; and stunning animals immediately after their throats have been cut to reduce pain and distress.
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “We’re opposed to non-stun slaughter and we’re calling for an end to the practice as it seriously compromises animal welfare. Our concern does not relate to the expression of religious belief but the welfare of animals.
“Until there is a change in the law to end non-stun slaughter, there are several measures the UK Government could introduce to reduce the suffering involved in this practice.
“For example, by ensuring trade deals with other countries do not include non-stun meat or live animals for non-stun slaughter, clear labelling should be adopted to enable consumers to make an informed choice about the meat they buy and how it was slaughtered.”
BVA President Simon Doherty said: “The UK Government has repeatedly stated it would prefer to see all animals stunned before slaughter but has taken no action to address this critical welfare issue that affects millions of animals every year.
“It is doubly disappointing that data that would have provided a valuable benchmark for levels of non-stun slaughter in the UK has yet to see the light of day despite assurances throughout last year that it would soon be made public.”
He added: “If slaughter without stunning continues to be permitted in the UK, then meat and fish from this source must be clearly labelled, to help customers make informed choices about the food that they buy and eat.”
According to The Times, animal welfare minister David Rutley told the BVA’s annual dinner in London: “The government has a longstanding position that it would prefer to see animals stunned before they are slaughtered but it accepts the right of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat slaughtered in accordance with their own religious beliefs.
“However, the government believes that consumers should have the necessary information available to them to make an informed choice about their food. This is an issue we will be considering more fully once we leave the EU.”