Government backs down on religious slaughter ban

A confrontation between ministers and Muslim and Jewish communities was avoided yesterday when the Government backed down from legislating on the religious slaughter of animals.

A confrontation between ministers and Muslim and Jewish communities was avoided yesterday when the Government backed down from legislating on the religious slaughter of animals.

In a move that angered animal welfare groups but was welcomed by Muslim and Jewish leaders, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said legislation would not change, to enforce the stunning of livestock before slaughter.

The decision will no doubt raise suggestions that the Government is bending over backwards not to antagonise Muslim leaders when it needs their support to help counter the threat of Islamic terrorism.

Strict halal and kosher practises require that animals are conscious when their throats are cut for bleeding, and slaughterhouses operating under religious supervision are exempt from some animal welfare legislation. Most slaughterhouses stun animals before killing.

Ben Bradshaw, a minister at Defra, said that in a multicultural society it was important to respect the views of all religious groups.

Acknowledging that the issue was "deeply contentious" Mr Bradshaw said: "We ... accept that there are deeply held beliefs on both sides of this argument. We will not ban the production of halal or kosher meat. A ban could in any case simply result in kosher and halal meat being imported. We would, therefore, be exporting the problem, resulting in no overall improvement in animal welfare."

The decision goes against the recommendation of a report last year by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, a government advisory body, which said it was "unacceptable" not to stun livestock before slaughter.

Mr Bradshaw said there was "some merit" in the council's recommendation that cattle slaughtered by having their throats cut should receive an immediate post-cut stun because it normally took about two minutes for the animals to lose consciousness. But, he said, Defra did not want to legislate on the issue. Ministers will consult with the Jewish and Muslim communities on the way forward.

The religious stipulations in both faiths stem from the belief that animals should not eat an animal that has undergone hurt or injury in dying. They say the swift severance of the jugular vein and the draining of blood, consumption of which is forbidden, causes the animal to feel virtually nothing.

Almost all halal meat is slightly stunned before slaughter, although this is not acceptable to strict Muslims. Jewish law does not allow this option in shechita, the kosher method.

The RSPCA said it was unhappy with the decision. Dr Julia Wrathall, head of the charity's farm animals department, said: "By rejecting these changes the Government is accepting that animals will continue to suffer and is denying consumers the chance to make an informed choice about the meat they eat."

Muslim leaders had indicated that any changes in legislation were liable to be challenged under the Human Rights Act's guarantees of religious freedom.

Dr Shuja Shafi, chairman of the health and medical committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the council was "pleased and content" with the Government's decision.

He said the council was still considering its response to the idea of a "post-cut stun" which required further investigation of problems such as contamination of meat by brain tissue which might be infected with BSE.

Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said that while he welcomed the Government's commitment to allow Jews to practise shechita, he was "deeply concerned" that the council's claims about the pain suffered by animals had been accepted. "Their conclusions have been reached without any published scientific confirmation. We are particularly concerned by the false message that this sends about shechita and the Jewish approach to the treatment of animals.''

More than 90 other recommendations of the FAWC report on the welfare of red meat animals were accepted by the Government, but they are also being put out for consultation.

Suggested Topics
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected