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Animal welfare
Lords debate welfare at slaughter

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CONSUMERS have a right to know how an animal was slaughtered when they decide which meat product to purchase.

This was the view expressed by several members of the House of Lords during a short debate on welfare at slaughter on January 16. Introducing the debate, veterinary peer Lord Trees asked Her Majesty's Government what assessment it had made of ‘the ethical, legal and religious factors that influence the way in which some animals are slaughtered in the United Kingdom’.

He reminded peers that, throughout the UK and the EU, the law required cattle and sheep to be stunned before their throats were cut, except when animals were slaughtered to produce either halal or kosher meat for the Muslim and Jewish faiths, where an exemption was in force. While he recognised that both faiths had serious concerns for animal welfare and he defended and respected the freedom of expression of all groups, religious or non-religious, within reasonable limits acceptable to society, it was his contention that ‘unnecessary suffering is being caused to a very substantial number of animals by slaughter without stunning’.

He addressed the issue under the headings of ‘inconsistency’, ‘injury’ and ‘insult’. Regarding inconsistency, he noted that, in Britain, ‘we rightly pride ourselves . . . on our animal welfare regulations and our humaneness’. However, while it had recently been made an offence to dock a puppy's tail – and he was happy with that – it was still permitted for the throats of adult animals to be cut without rendering them unconscious first. ‘Is that a consistent approach to humaneness?’ he asked.

Turning to biological tissue injury, Lord Trees cited a 2003 report from the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), part of which considered the injury caused to the neck as a result of throat cutting. It …

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