Saturday, 2 December 2006

When Is Cruelty not Cruelty?

To follow up the article by Mark Nixon in January’s edition of Identity where his last paragraph touched on the subject of ritual slaughter, I would like to put a bit of “meat on the bones” (excuse the pun) of this subject.

In the U.K. it is a requirement that all animals should be stunned before slaughter under the Welfare of animals (slaughter or killing) regulations 1995. Stunning is a process that causes animals to lose consciousness, making them insensible to pain and suffering. The Jewish and Muslim communities are exempt from this law as their religious teachings state that an animal must be fully alive before it is slaughtered.

Does Religious Slaughter Cause An Animal To Suffer?

In June 2003, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (F.A.W.C.) published a report based on evidence from many individuals and organisations as well as observing instances of religious slaughter itself.

Their report focused on three particular animal welfare issues with regard to slaughter without pre-stunning.
These were:
• Pre slaughter handling
• The potential for pain and distress
• The time to loss of brain responsiveness.

On the first of these issues the F.A.W.C. concluded that the level of restraint required to expose the throat, perform an effective cut and hold the animal still until it had bled out was far greater than that needed for conventional slaughter.

With regard to the potential for pain and distress, they concluded that such a drastic cut would inevitably trigger off a barrage of sensory information to the brain of a conscious animal and therefore, “We are persuaded that such a massive injury would result in very significant pain and distress before insensibility supervenes.”

On the issue of time taken to loss of brain responsiveness, the F.A.W.C. cited work on calves, which had shown a variation in the period to insensibility from 10-120 seconds. (Not a long time? Try hanging yourself up by the feet and holding your breath for 2 minutes!)
This report was submitted to the government with the recommendations that “Slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and the government should repeal the current exemptions.”

In April 2004, the government issued its response to this report stating that they were not intending to adopt the F.A.W.C. recommendations.
The R.S.P.C.A. responded to this by urging the government to consider more carefully the animal welfare implications of allowing continuation of slaughter without pre-stunning. However, in its final response to this issue in March 2005, the government again stated that it would not change the law and slaughter without pre-stunning would continue for the Jewish and Muslim communities.

How Many Animals Are Slaughtered By Religious Methods?

The Meat Hygiene Service (M.H.S.) Animal Welfare Review (March 2004) stated that during a one-week period in September 2003, the numbers of animals killed for Kosher meat were; 742 cattle and calves, 1,704 lambs and 39,184 poultry.
A total of 856 cattle and calves, 139,843 sheep, lambs and goats and 2,136,805 poultry were slaughtered for Halal meat during the same period.

Although at the moment no Kosher meat is produced in the U.K from animals that have been stunned before slaughter, the M.H.S. indicates that the majority of cattle (but not other species) are now stunned immediately after being cut. Data also reveals that some Halal slaughter now involves pre-stunning.
However, bearing in mind the total numbers of animals involved, there is still substantial room for improvement in this area.


At this point it is worthwhile comparing the government’s refusal to amend the law on what is basically a mediaeval, barbaric and unnecessary act and their obsession in banning foxhunting with hounds.

Foxhunting has been debated for decades, but the government decided to implement the Parliament act and steamroller the bill through when it became obvious that it was not going to get past the House of Lords. Why?

My own view is that the timing was most important. It was a diversion to the general public who were becoming uneasy about the war in Iraq and it was a “trade off” to certain Labour politicians who were becoming increasingly uncomfortable and vociferous about the legalities and justification of that same war.

There is also the fact that the government weren’t going to lose anything by imposing the ban. Foxhunting is deemed to be a sport of the upper classes; “Hooray Henrys on horses” as it was once described to me, and these people are traditional Tory voters. (Maybe there was a bit of “pay back” due for the way the Tories, under Thatcher, destroyed the mining communities, traditional Labour heartlands.)

I don’t entirely agree with this upper class assumption. My local hunt had many followers who could hardly be described as “upper class.”

Moreover, some of the local lads were less interested in “following the hounds” and more interested in discovering the whereabouts of the hares and rabbits in order to conduct their own private hunt, with long-legged dogs and lamps at a later date.

Labelling Of Religiously Slaughtered Meat

I come towards the conclusion of this article on a Sunday morning eagerly anticipating Sunday lunch and we can be content in the knowledge that the meat we are going to enjoy has been provided from an animal that has not had to endure undue suffering in order to provide us with that meal.
Or can we?
Well I’m sorry, but the answer is no. The consumption of certain parts of the animal hindquarters such as veins, lymphatic and sciatic nerve and its branches is forbidden under certain religious law. To remove them is a specialised task and one that has not been practised in the U.K. since the 1930’s. Consequently, all hindquarters are rejected as not fit for consumption (by certain religious groups), as are damaged carcasses and a high proportion of this meat is sold on the open market. (For you and me.)

A previous F.A.W.C report (1985) highlighted this issue and recommended that all meat from animals slaughtered by religious methods should be clearly labelled in order for the general public to have an informed opinion on whether they wish to buy meat slaughtered by this method. In the March 2005 government report, mentioned earlier, it was stated that they would be willing to discuss this with various stakeholder groups.

However my last information, dated 8th February 2006, says that these discussions have yet to take place.

My article was headed by a question. There are no prizes for the answer. It’s all too obvious.

The sickening pandering by this government to certain minority groups goes on and on in their bid to retain power at all costs.

When is cruelty not cruelty? When it may cost votes

The above article was written by Len who is Secretary of Cleveland branch..

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