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To stun or not to stun?

The decision taken to ban ‘non-stun’ slaughter in Denmark reawakened the debate on Muslim and Jewish methods of slaughtering animals and whether animal welfare should take precedence over religious sensibilities

During February, the Danish Minister of Agriculture and Food, Dan Jørgensen, announced that the practice of slaughtering animals without prior stunning would be banned in Denmark. The announcement was made as part of the new Minister’s pro-animal welfare remit and he supported the decision with the claim that “animal rights come before religion”. The Minister said that, although non-stun slaughter of animals had not taken place in Denmark for many years, the action taken would ensure that it would not take place in future. EU legislation prohibits non-stun slaughter but Member States may make an exception for Muslim (Halal) or Jewish (Shechita) methods of slaughter.

The decision aroused predictable hostility from Muslim and Jewish interests and most UK press comment was critical of the Danish decision. The UK still permits slaughter according to Muslim and Jewish methods of slaughter without stunning.

The British Veterinary Association renewed its calls for a ban on non-stun slaughter of animals but, as reported in the Daily Mail and Independent, PM David Cameron gave assurances to both Jewish and Muslim audiences that he had no wish to ban religious slaughter methods.

The RSPCA and other campaign groups have also called for requirements for meat labels to indicate the method of slaughter used.