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Why the head of British Veterinary Association is correct on religious slaughter



The call by John Blackwell, head of the British Veterinary Association, to ban the religious slaughter of animals is, in fact, in accordance with the recommendation repeatedly made by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (Top vet calls for reform of halal and kosher slaughter practices, 6 March). FAWC's advice was first set out in 1985 and then reaffirmed in 2003: the "council considers that slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and that the government should repeal the current exemption". However, both the Thatcher and Blair governments rejected the advice. The reasoning of the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs in 2003 was that "the government is committed to respect for the rights of religious groups and accepts that an insistence on a pre-cut or immediate post-cut stun would not be compatible with the requirements of religious slaughter by Jewish and Muslim groups".

In other words, heightened religious sensitivities, combined with the fear of Jewish and Muslim religious lobbies, have led to successive governments ignoring the advice of their scientific advisers and the pleas of animal welfare organisations. By so doing, they have provided an exemption to the law on animal cruelty, which not even advocates for fox hunting are granted.

It is important to note that a number of other European countries have already outlawed religious slaughter (including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Poland); those countries that take the prevention of cruelty to animals seriously ought to follow suit.


Published in The Guardian 11th March 2014