On March 7, British ministers rejected a petition seeking to ban the religious slaughter of animals without being stunned first, thus accepting the practice of Muslim halal and Jewish shechita in the United Kingdom.
The petition, supported by over 115,000 individuals, had sought the ban for non-stun animal slaughter, calling the practice inhumane and demanding ministers to acknowledge the strength of public sentiment over animal welfare. Proponents of the petition said while they respect all religious traditions, animal welfare needed to take precedence. They also raised questions over the meat being sold across UK markets, claiming there is no indication of how the animals are slaughtered, thus often misleading uninformed consumers.
In a speech last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron had promised to offer certain exemptions for animal slaughter carried out for religious purposes. Evidently, the parliament lived up to that promise by dismissing this last petition and implying that is has no intention to illegalize religious slaughter in the country.
“The government had no intention of banning religious slaughter,” said a government spokeswomen. “We respect the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their beliefs.”
This was the second time in three months that the parliament debated over the future of religious slaughter. On February 23, a three-hour long debate was held at Westminster Hall after British Veterinary Association backed the aforementioned petition seeking the ban of non-stun religious slaughter. Quite obviously, the proposition was opposed by both Muslims and Jews, some of whom created a counter-petition in favour of religious slaughter. This petition, backed by the Conservative Muslim Forum, managed to attract more than 124,000 signatures in less than a week.
The issue of Jewish shechita goes back to Judaism not allowing animals to be stunned before being slaughtered, a practice considered inhumane by most animal welfare activists, who say such ritualistic slaughter does not enable an animal to lose consciousness from one knife cut. However, both shechita and halal experts say that that is a false claim.
While European regulations insist that animal slaughter be carried post-stunning, British law still recognizes Muslim and Jewish slaughter practices, thus allowing both communities to prepare their meat as per ritualistic traditions.
Photo Credits: Occupy for Animals