The SDP and non-stun slaughter: a two-minute digest

[Before you start: I have written five substantive pieces on this topic. This is the shortest one. For a four-minute overview, click here. For a longer piece, where I develop my argument in detail, click here. I have analysed a widely-shared news report on the topic here. In this post, I look at the scientific evidence on which the current policy is based.]

  1. If you run a slaughterhouse in the UK, you can currently lawfully kill an animal either by stunning it first (“pre-stun slaughter”), or without stunning it first (“non-stun slaughter”).
  2. Non-stun slaughter is permitted in order to accommodate the religious requirements of Jews and Muslims: broadly speaking, meat cannot be kosher or halal if the animal is stunned before being killed.
  3. In the “Animal Welfare” section of its policy platform, the SDP proposes that “A ban will be applied on the use of non–stun slaughter as requested by the British Veterinary Association and RSPCA.
  4. If this policy became law, all kosher and some halal slaughter in the UK would effectively become illegal.
  5. Although this policy appears well-intentioned, it is flawed for three reasons:
    • While some scientists claim that stunning the animal before slaughter reduces pain, there are others who challenge the premises of such research and/or who claim the precise opposite. In particular, Professor Joe Regenstein of Cornell University has robustly challenged the scientific papers upon which the position of the BVA and RSPCA is based.
    • The various methods of  pre-stun slaughter are themselves contentious.
    • The policy is a clear infringement of the religious liberty of observant Jews and Muslims, who would therefore be forced to become vegetarian, buy expensive imported kosher/halal meat*, or emigrate!
  6. [* This could become particularly expensive in the event of a WTO Brexit (which is SDP policy) and the potential imposition of high tariffs on imported meat.]
  7. The SDP is a communitarian party which is committed to religious tolerance.
  8. The party should therefore think very carefully about restricting the religious liberty of two significant segments of the community.
  9. It is nonetheless recognised that (i) much non-stunned meat makes its way on to the general market and (ii) not everyone wants to eat it.
  10. How can policy respect both the religious liberty of Jews and Muslims and those who do not wish to eat non-stunned kosher/halal meat?
  11. The answer is to require all meat products to be clearly labelled, so that the consumer can make an informed choice.
  12. The party should therefore consider replacing the current policy with the following alternative: (i) rigorous enforcement of existing standards in all abattoirs; (ii) all meat products should be clearly labelled as to the means of slaughter; and (iii) public bodies should provide suitable alternatives for those who do, or who do not, wish to eat kosher or halal meat.
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4 Responses to The SDP and non-stun slaughter: a two-minute digest

  1. Pingback: Communitarianism, animal welfare and religious liberty: why the SDP needs to rethink non-stun slaughter [LONG VERSION] | Large Blue Footballs

  2. Pingback: Contested science makes bad policy: why the SDP can ignore the BVA and RSPCA on non-stun slaughter | Large Blue Footballs

  3. Pingback: Why the SDP’s new policy on non-stun slaughter still falls short | Large Blue Footballs

  4. Pingback: How the SDP still discriminates against Jews and Muslims | Large Blue Footballs

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