RSPCA calls for a ban on exporting non-stunned meat from the UK

The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) is calling for a ban on exporting non-stunned meat from the UK.

This follows the confirmation by the latest Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the proportion of meat exports from animals that are not stunned is on the rise.

The FSA figures show there has been a significant reduction in the number of animals slaughtered without pre-stunning from a predicted 94 million in 2018 to 25.4 million in 2022.

David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA, said: “We are pleased that the numbers of animals slaughtered without pre-stunning has dropped significantly since figures were last released four years ago.

“However, it is concerning to see that, based on predictions, nearly half a million animals are slaughtered without stunning every single week.

“We have long campaigned to bring an end to non-stun slaughter as a change in the law would make an enormous difference to the welfare of millions of farmed animals.”

Bowles continued:“We acknowledge that religious beliefs and practices should be respected. However, all animals should be treated humanely at the time of killing and therefore be stunned prior to slaughter as not doing so seriously compromises their welfare.

“We would also like to see a ban on exporting non stunned meat from the UK which we believe breaks the tenet if not the wording in our slaughter legislation.

“It is worrying to see that, according to the FSA figures, we are still exporting the equivalent of 800,000 sheep that have not been stunned despite the law only giving an exemption for this if it is for the local religious community.

“Countries like New Zealand have shown you can have a vibrant export trade in stunned meat for overseas religious communities and we expect the UK to follow their example.”

The RSPCA is now calling on the UK governments to ensure the export of non-stunned meat is banned and has long-called for an end to non-stun slaughter altogether.

Legislation in the UK requires all farm animals to be stunned before they’re slaughtered. Stunning ensures animals are unconscious at the time of slaughter, so they cannot feel pain or suffer.

For slaughter to be humane, it’s essential that animals are effectively stunned.  However, laws in UK nations, inherited from the EU, contain exemptions that permit the slaughter of sheep, goats, cattle and birds without pre-stunning.

This exemption is made when the slaughter is for religious purposes, i.e. Halal and Kosher meat for Muslim and Jewish communities, respectively.

It can be considered permissible under Islamic law for the animals to be pre-stunned. In fact, around 87% of animals slaughtered in the UK by the Halal method are stunned first, a rise from 84% in 2018, showing that animal welfare and religious slaughter can work together.

David Bowles concluded:“While we believe that no animals should suffer from avoidable pain and distress and we support a full ban on the practice of non-stun slaughter, any amendments to stop the export of meat from animals that have not been stunned could offer vital interim changes to how we slaughter our animals.

“This is not a perfect solution, so whilst this is a much-needed change, we will continue to campaign to end non-stun slaughter in its entirety.”