RSPCA calls for all farm animals to be stunned before slaughter

The RSPCA is renewing its calls for improved welfare of all farm animals at the time of slaughter and clear production method labelling of meat as the House of Lords prepares to debate the subject of religious slaughter this week (Thursday Jan 16).

More than 900 million farm animals are slaughtered for meat in the UK every year. The vast majority are stunned pre-slaughter. However, the law permits the Jewish and Muslim communities to kill animals by religious methods without any form of pre-stunning.

While the RSPCA recognises that religious beliefs and practices should be respected we also believe that animals should only be slaughtered under the most humane conditions.

RSPCA Dr Julia Wrathall, head of the RSPCA’s farm animal science department said: “Farm animals deserve to be treated with care and respect throughout their lives, from the time they are born right up to their final moments in the abattoir.

“We want to see all animals rendered unconscious before slaughter. Until that time we are calling for clear labelling so shoppers are armed with information that can enable them to make an informed choice about whether they buy meat from animals which have not been stunned before slaughter.

“Until there is better, universal labelling, shoppers should look for the blue and white Freedom Food label. Meat produced under this RSPCA assurance scheme comes from animals inspected to the RSPCA’s farm animal welfare standards which do not permit slaughter without pre-stunning.”

Scientific research shows that slaughtering animals without pre-stunning (to render them insensible to pain and distress) can cause unnecessary suffering.

David Bowles, head of public affairs for the RSPCA, who has written a report for the House of Lords debate, added: “We know this is a subject that our supporters feel passionately about. We share their welfare concerns and that is why we have continued to campaign for religious slaughter to be discussed at the highest possible levels.”

The RSPCA works with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to publish the results of the FSA’s Animal Welfare Survey undertaken in abattoirs across Great Britain.

The latest survey* results shows:

·         Over 40 million cattle, sheep, pigs and calves and around 900 million poultry are slaughtered each year in the UK.

·         3% of cattle, 10% of sheep and goats, and 4% of poultry in Great Britain are not stunned before slaughter.

·         Most animals slaughtered for the Halal market were stunned before slaughter. None of the animals slaughtered for the Kosher market were stunned before slaughter.

The RSPCA believes mandatory labelling should be introduced so that all meat that has not been stunned is labelled and we will press for European rules on this in 2014.



Notes to editors:

*The Animal Welfare Survey 2011 published May 2012 is available from the FSA website:

The value of the Halal market is estimated to be between £1 and £2 billion and could represent 25% of the UK meat market.

It has previously been estimated that less than half of the meat from animals slaughtered by the Jewish method is sold in Kosher shops. The consumption of certain parts of the animals’ hindquarters such as veins, lymphatic and sciatic nerve and its branches, is forbidden under

Jewish law. To remove them is a specialised task, which has not been practised in the UK since the 1930’s. Consequently, all hindquarters are rejected as not Kosher, as are any carcasses which cannot be consumed as Kosher meat for other reasons (for example, damage to the carcass). A high proportion of the meat which is declared non-Kosher is therefore sold on the open market but is not labelled as meat from animals that have been slaughtered without pre-stunning.

It is currently not possible to tell whether or not meat simply labelled ‘Halal’ comes from animals that have been stunned before slaughter.

In 2011, the RSPCA supported amendments to the EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation which proposed to label meat products from 'special slaughter', for which the labelling would include: 'Meat from slaughter without stunning'. The Society was very disappointed that this change to the legislation was rejected.

In April 2012, the RSPCA supported a Ten Minute Rule Bill on Food Labelling (Halal and Kosher Meat) which was taken through Parliament by MP Philip Davies. The Ten Minute Rule Bill was pushed to a vote and although the voting was very close, the Bill wasn’t carried.

Freedom Food is the RSPCA’s higher welfare farm assurance scheme. For more information see:

For more information on the RSPCA farm animal welfare standards, including the standards for slaughter and killing, see:

For more information or a copy of the RSPCA report please contact the press office.

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288  Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email:  Website:

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