A campaign by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to end non-stun slaughter and provide consumers with better information about the welfare of animals at slaughter has received a positive response from ministers, it has said.

Responding to the e-petition, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) stated it would prefer to see all animals stunned before slaughter, but respects the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs. The response also, said the BVA, agrees better information for consumers is required.

According to the BVA, its e-petition is one of the fastest growing on the HM Government website, where it reached 50,000 signatures in just two weeks. It is part of its campaign to end non-stun slaughter to improve animal welfare at the time of death and has received more than 66,000 signatures since it was launched in April.

European and UK legislation does require all animals to be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain until death supervenes. However, a derogation in the legislation allows animals to be slaughtered without stunning for certain religious communities – dhabihah slaughter for halal food and shechita slaughter for kosher food.

BVA president Robin Hargreaves said the association was “encouraged” by the Government’s reaction, but was “disappointed” it would not consider an outright ban.

“This is an animal welfare issue that affects millions of animals every year and the strong response to our petition shows many people agree that action is long overdue,” he said.

“However, we will continue to work with ministers and stakeholders on measures to improve animal welfare, such as post-cut stunning, and clearer labelling.”

The BVA – along with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), which is supporting the campaign – are also concerned, they say, that meat from non-stun slaughter is entering the market unlabelled as such.

In its response, Defra also confirmed ministers will consider the issue this summer in light of a European Commission study on method-of-slaughter labelling.

For more information or to sign the petition, visit the HM Government website.

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