Veterinary Record 170:468-469 doi:10.1136/vr.e3100
  • Viewpoint

Slaughter without stunning

  1. Bill Reilly
  1. e-mail bill.reilly{at}

Bill Reilly has spent his professional life working in public health and is a past-president of the BVA.

The current situation is not acceptable, says Bill Reilly

AS a postgraduate veterinary public health student in the late 1970s I was appalled to witness Schecita slaughter, something I had not seen as an undergraduate. The distress, fear and pain were there for all to see (and hear) in the abattoir. Fortunately the Weinberg rotary crate in use at that time has since been outlawed in the UK (although rotation is still used in some parts of the EU), but the legacy of non-stun slaughter remains and appears to be increasing. From an animal welfare perspective this cannot be acceptable. However, we are fortunate to live in a tolerant society and respect the religious beliefs of different faiths and must reconcile animal welfare with religious freedom.

It is important to differentiate between ‘religious’ and ‘non-stun’ slaughter. My concern has nothing to do with the expression of religious belief but with the practice of killing by throat cutting without pre-stunning. UK (and EU) legislation gives a derogation for non-stun slaughter for the ‘food of Jews’ and for the ‘food of Muslims’ with the overriding principle of ‘without the affliction of unnecessary suffering’. The challenge to society is to enable religious slaughter without compromising animal welfare.

I do not believe that there is any scientifically robust evidence to support the contention that non-stun slaughter has the welfare of the animal at its core. I do accept that the initial religious texts reflected concern with the health and welfare of animals and were a major step forward in protection for both humans and animals. Since that time science and practice have developed that allow us to go further to protect both human health, through the …

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