The ongoing debate about whether specific exemptions from regulations regarding the religious slaughter of animals for human consumption should be ended has been a cause of great concern for many Brent residents. Following the debate brought forward by a Conservative backbencher on 23rd February 2015 in the House of Commons, Barry has set out his position below:
Currently both UK and EU law require that animals are stunned prior to slaughter for human consumption, however there is an exemption for religious slaughter carried out by members of the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Whilst I appreciate that organisations including the RSPCA and British Veterinary Association have expressed concerns about the animal welfare implications of non-stun slaughter and that there has been widely published evidence of abuse of animals at some abbatoirs where non-stunning slaughter takes place, it has always been my view that the specific exemptions for slaughter in accordance with religious practices should be continued and I have always challenged any bid to bring this exemption to an end. I assure you that I will continue to do so.
Sadly, it is often overlooked that religious communities are also concerned with animal welfare and that the regulations which govern animals slaughtered for religious purposes require oversight in licensed slaughterhouses. In fact, a 2012 Food Standards Agency report noted that 88% of animals killed in the Halal method were stunned prior to slaughter. In addition, the Animal Welfare Act, introduced by the previous Government in 2006, places a requirement on abattoir operators not to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal.
Despite the debate brought forward by Conservative MP, Mr Philip Hollobone, it is my understanding that the Government has no plans to ban religious slaughter and I have repeatedly sought confirmation at the highest level from the Labour Party that no such proposals would be introduced by a future Labour Government either. Indeed, following comments by the British Veterinary Association this time last year, Ed Miliband confirmed to me directly that he remained committed to preserving such religious traditions.
I can assure you I will continue to monitor this issue closely and I will always work to protect the rights of the community in respect of these matters.