Religious slaughter concern over welfare reforms

A halal group has expressed concern over introduction of new welfare regulations, claiming a lack of time to contribute to the consultation process and calling it a “threat to religious slaughter”.

The Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) claimed Defra’s publication of its consultation on the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) was six months late and “is now being pushed through to be effective in statute in a few months’ time”.

According to HMC, the delayed publication now only leaves the Muslim and Jewish authorities six weeks to defend religious slaughter before the EU regulation comes into effect. In a statement, it said: “The Muslim and Jewish communities has already called the consultation exercise a monologue, holding deep reservations and fears that its aim are to further curtail religious freedoms of expression, but this is disguised with bias, unproven science and often unfounded animal welfare concerns.

“The legislation obliges business operators to ensure animals are spared avoidable pain, distress or suffering, and requires measures to be taken to ensure key animal welfare concerns. Islam and Judaism both have this as a core concern and, in principle, would therefore would welcome this legislation if that was the real motive.”

However, a Defra spokesman refused to comment on whether the consultation had been delayed, but denied the claims the government was looking to ban religious slaughter: “We would prefer to see all animals stunned before slaughter, but respect the rights of the Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs.

“The government has no plans to ban religious slaughter. However, changes to all rules on welfare at slaughter will be required when a new EU regulation on welfare at the time of killing comes into effect in January 2013.”

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