OUR CAMPAIGN FOR CLEAR LABELLING
OF RELIGIOUS SLAUGHTER PRODUCTS FOR CONSUMERS
WHAT IS RELIGIOUS SLAUGHTER?
In the UK it is illegal to slaughter an animal without first stunning it. But there is an exception to this law for Jewish and Muslim religions, who are allowed to slaughter animals without first stunning them, as some members of these faiths say it is against their religion. There are other rituals that contribute to religious slaughter but this is the aspect that we are opposed to.
Jewish products, including meat, are called Kosher, also referred to as shechita.
Muslim products, including meat, are called Halal.
The Meat Hygiene Service say 114 million animals are killed under Halal and 2.1 million under Kosher methods each year in Britain.
WHY IS RELIGIOUS SLAUGHTER WORSE THAN OTHER SLAUGHTER?
While we fully know that all slaughter is extremely traumatic for animals, we believe that religious slaughter is even more so. The animal's throat is cut and it is bled to death; it is fully conscious throughout this process. It can often take more than 10 minutes for the animal to die.
A study* showed that on a scale of 100 the agony of death by:
Throat Cutting (equal to Halal or Kosher methods) = 86. The 2nd worst death except for being burnt to death by fire
Gun Shot to Head (equal to the UK's legally required method of stunning) = 13.
The amount of meat products sourced using religious slaughter being sold in Scotland has risen dramatically in the past few years, now even being sold in major supermarkets.
Video here shows a slaughterhouse in USA where the practice is similar to UK: http://tinyurl.com/m4r63n
In certain religious slaughterhouses, tapes are played of religious chants in line with their religious practice. Some are played at very high speed because slaughtermen want to get the animals killed quicker to increase productivity. It's been described as a very upsetting noise for the animals.
(*Study Rhyne, et al. 1995. Dimensions of suicide: perceptions of lethality, time and agony.)
WHAT IS STUNNING?
Stunning = the practice of making an animal unconscious before killing it to minimise the suffering.
Some say that animals are stunned prior to religious slaughter. But the definition of stunning by many religious groups is not what is legally required in regular slaughterhouses. Often the voltage of the stunning is so low that it just paralyses the animal's body but they are still fully conscious; or they regain consciousness during the bleeding. There is anecdotal evidence that even this form of stunning is not practised despite claims that it is.
In May 2009 the EU passed a law saying that meat from religious slaughter must be made available. This sadly bypasses the existing laws of countries such as Switzerland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia who had already outlawed Halal and Kosher meats because of its cruelty. But we still have a chance to stop this - see below "what you can do".
Most stockists don't advertise that they're selling Kosher or Halal meats. While others simply have signs that are incomprehensible to people who don't speak Arabic or Hebrew.
Despite legislation saying consumers must be given enough information to make an informed purchase, authorities do not insist upon religious slaughter products being clearly labelled.
The symbols below are sometimes used to denote religious slaughter products.
Jewish/Kosher/shechita meat sign
Muslim/Halal meat sign
If you see these symbols without the words "kosher" or "halal" this is illegal due to 'Scotland for Animals' campaign to Trading Standards for enforcement. We are now pushing for yet more clear labelling of all religious slaughter products by law.
Many shops unwittingly sell such products as the meats are mixed up at the slaughterhouse. For example two thirds of Kosher meat ends up in non-Kosher shops This would not be the case if labelling was clearer.
Government Minister Lord Rooker has called for meat slaughtered without stunning to be labelled for the public's benefit.
The SSPCA also support this: "Until slaughter without pre-stunning is banned outright, the Scottish SPCA wishes to see all meat from animals killed in this way clearly labelled so that consumers opposed to the practice do not inadvertently purchase the product."
OTHER SUPPORTERS OF A BAN ON RELIGIOUS SLAUGHTER
SSPCA, Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals:
"The Scottish SPCA is opposed to the slaughter of any animal without rendering that animal insensible to pain and distress until death supervenes."
"While respecting all religious beliefs, the Scottish SPCA opposes these exemptions on welfare grounds."
The Al-Azhar University in Egypt appointed a Committee of Imams from the 4 acknowledged Schools of Thought in Islam. They unanimously agreed that stunning is acceptable.
Rabbi Eugen Kullman, Vice President, Friends of Animals Society:
"We are united against the slaughter of conscious animals, consider it a horror in itself, and an abomination when coupled with the vicious devices used to restrain conscious livestock. We have nothing to gain, neither on earth nor in heaven, by slaughtering God's creatures while they are conscious."
Struan Stevenson, Scottish MEP, supports a ban on religious slaughter. He attempted to overturn the exemption of religious slaughter products from stunning. Mr Stevenson was the MEP responsible for banning sales of dog and cat fur in Europe.
Farm Animal Welfare Council, the government advisory body consisting of scientists and animal experts recently stated "FAWC is in agreement with the prevailing scientific consensus that slaughter without pre-stunning causes pain and distress".
British Veterinary Association
"The practice of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is unacceptable under any circumstances."
Haluk Anil, who is coordinating a European Union project to examine legislation and welfare issues related to religious slaughter, both shechita and halal.
"Stunning does not impede blood loss, therefore this objection cannot be used any more."
The following countries already have a ban on these products:
Switzerland, Latvia and Estonia.
The following countries insist that stunning be done before slaughter:
Norway, Sweden and New Zealand.
Many parent groups have protested when Halal meat was introduced into school meals.
UK Government have admitted that slaughtering animals without stunning causes greatly increased levels of pain and distress. Yet they support keeping religious slaughter legal.
RSPCA, Royal Society for the Protection of Animals
"The RSPCA is opposed to the slaughter of any food animal without rendering that animal insensible to pain and distress until death supervenes."
"The 1995 Regulations exempt the Jewish method of slaughter, shechita, and the Muslim method of slaughter halal. While respecting individual religious practices, the Society opposes these exemptions on welfare grounds."
Glasgow Mosque leaders have now stated that stunning is forbidden in Islam and that animals should be conscious during slaughter.
Despite what many halal stockists, supermarkets, politicians, Government and even some animal welfare organisations claim no Islamic food certification groups support full and effective stunning.
Muslim groups/ slaughterhouses who claim to accept stunning use a method called "stun-to-stun" or "stun to immobilise", this technique is nowhere near the level of stunning recommended by vets and scientists to cause immediate unconsciousness. The method is usually used to paralyse the animal to make the slaughtermen's job easier.
If you receive any claims from anybody claiming halal meat is stunned get in touch: info@scotlandforanimals and we'll challenge them.
You can read details of most recent research showing ritual slaughter to be painful and stressful here:http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17972-animals-feel-the-pain-of-religious-slaughter.html
WHAT SCOTLAND FOR ANIMALS WANTS
Ideally we would like to see these products banned in Scotland. But for now:
1 We ask the public to stop buying Halal and Kosher meat and animal products.
2 We ask that Halal and Kosher meats be clearly labelled so consumers know what they are buying.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1 Do not buy Halal or Kosher meats or animal products. They are usually found in many takeaways and sandwich bars such as Subway, Baguette Express; curry houses, kebab shops, Tesco, Asda, KFC, etc. They and others all now stock a wide selection.
2 Write to the Equality and human Rights Commission and demand that they protect the rights of those who don't want to participate in or fund halal or kosher slaughter.
3 Write to your MP/ MSP - we still have an opportunity to stop the EU law mentioned above becoming law in this country. Please copy and email the letter below. This takes only 3 minutes.
2) Letter/ email to EHRC:
Re: Ritual Slaughter/ Human Rights Act. FAO Trevor Phillips
Dear Mr Phillips
I am alarmed to discover the widespread sale of ritual slaughter products (Halal/ Kosher) mostly without labelling or advertisement.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights declared in 2000 that this type of slaughter was legally a religious ritual/ rite. By purchasing these products without knowledge that they are such I am being forced to participate in and fund these religious rituals and the religious groups involved without my consent. This is both against my wishes and beliefs.
I do not adhere to, endorse nor do I agree with the specific religious doctrines or beliefs involved in Halal or Kosher slaughter. I believe that my right not to participate in the ceremonies of these religions/ religious bodies or fund them has been breached by ritual slaughter products being sold to me without my knowledge or consent.
My legal right not to participate in any religious belief or ceremony with which I do not support or subscribe to is protected by Article 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
The Welfare of Animals at Slaughter and Killing 1995 makes provision for the slaughter of animals by religious methods (i.e without stunning) for meat consumed by members of religious groups. Against the original aims of this exemption these products are now being sold on a huge scale to consumers outside these religious communities which has resulted in the vast majority of ritual slaughter products sold being sold to non Muslim/ Jewish consumers. (1)
As the UK is a secular nation with a secular legal code then it should be reasonable to assume that all products sold on the open market should not be sourced via religious ceremony or animal sacrifice. If any products have been sourced in this manner then this should be clearly stated at point of distribution or sale to protect the legal right of those who are not members of the religions involved, have no wish to support them or find the ceremonies conducted on behalf of these religions offensive.
I would be grateful if you could please provide me with representation and support on this matter.
I look forward to hearing from you. /Ref: (1) (Shechita UK)
email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or post to: 3 More London, Riverside Tooley Street, London, SE1 2RG
*Please include your full postal address at all times*
3) Letter/ email to MSPs and MP (please send to both).You can find the contact details of your MSPs and MP here www.writetothem.com just type in your postcode)
Labelling/Advertisement of Religious Slaughter Products
As I wish not to purchase these products due to the animal cruelty involved I am extremely concerned that there is no stipulation to label these products clearly. I feel that as a result of this I am being denied my rights as a consumer to be given information to make a purchasing decision.
I also think it is unreasonable to expect consumers to have to enquire whether a product has been subject to basic animal welfare laws (which these products are not) during the course of every food transaction because religious communities have secured immunity from national legislation.
From the charity Scotland for Animals (www.scotlandforanimals.org) I have learned that because of the extraordinary nature of the production of these goods the provision for compulsory labelling is given in 'The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008' under Part 2, Section 6 'Misleading omissions'.
I also believe this to be a breach of my rights under the Human Rights Act 1998, Article 9 as in purchasing these producst without my knowledge i am being forced to participate in religious ritual.
I have also discovered that the Food Standards Agency have claimed that they are not aware of any strong drive to have these products clearly labelled. This is untrue as most if not all public polls done in recent years have pointed to a sharp and increasing demand by consumers for higher welfare products where animals are the source with the public stating that the welfare of animals is a major and often the primary factor in deciding on a purchase.
As Halal/ Kosher meat is produced using slaughter techniques which have been proven to cause pain and distress to animals (contact Scotland for Animals for details) then it is obvious that consumers would wish the right to be informed if these had been employed.
Could you also please tell me if you support religious slaughter being permitted and if you support clear labelling by law of all products derived from this?
(INSERT YOUR NAME AND POSTAL ADDRESS HERE)
Supermarkets which sell halal products:
** N.b despite refusing to admit this Asda definitely sell halal meat **