Reports that environment minister George Eustice is giving consideration to labelling meat and fish as stunned or non-stunned, has been “warmly welcomed” by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
The move would give a clear indication to consumers about the welfare of animals at slaughter, according to the association, and is in line with its campaign on non-stun slaughter.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Decemeber 19 that when addressing MPs Mr Eustice appeared to rule out UK products being labelled halal or kosher, but said meats could be in future sold as stunned or unstunned.
The report comes as BVA’s e-petition calling for an end non-stun slaughter in the UK reached nearly 80,000 signatures.
Evidence claims non-stun slaughter allows animals to perceive pain and compromises welfare. This position is supported by the RSPCA, the Humane Slaughter Association, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe.
While BVA continues to call for all animals to be pre-stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain, it believes in the short term clearer labelling would help consumers to make a pro-animal welfare choice. Currently, meat from animals that have not been pre-stunned is entering the foodchain unlabelled.
In May BVA called on party leaders to reject calls by some MPs to compulsorily label food as halal or kosher and instead called for food labelling to state whether the animal has been stunned in line with European and UK welfare legislation or not stunned under a legal derogation.
BVA argues labelling halal and kosher would do nothing to inform the public about animal welfare concerns, and could fuel prejudice.
It says from an animal welfare perspective, labelling meat as halal does not recognise that nearly 90 per cent of halal slaughter in the UK is pre-stunned.
Commenting on the report, BVA president John Blackwell said: “This announcement from George Eustice is very welcome, and could make a significant difference to the amount of meat from non-stun slaughter entering the general foodchain without consumers’ knowledge.
“BVA continues to campaign for all animals to be pre-stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain until death supervenes and our government e-petition has attracted nearly 80,000 signatures. But if it non-stun slaughter is to continue we must have clearer labelling.
“As we have said before, the answer to labelling is very simple. Food should be labelled as stunned or non-stunned. This is a measure supported by the European Parliament in June 2010, and strongly supported by our members.
“In our own Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey 94 per cent of respondents said consumers should be better informed about slaughter methods and nine out of 10 would not buy meat from non-stunned animals.
“It is extremely important the issue of welfare at slaughter is not hijacked by other agendas and the clear, simple labelling being suggested by George Eustice keeps the sole issue of animal welfare to the fore.”