Defra withdraws stun legislation at 11th hour

After a judicial review was launched on behalf of over 20 abattoir operators, Defra has revoked the implementation of an EU regulation which would require increased currents for stunning poultry, the day before it was due to come into force.

The decision to implement the regulation was made on Friday (16 May), but in a dramatic U-turn, this was revoked today (19 June), meaning that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will not have the power to enforce any of the provisions.

Both the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), who launched the legal action, and the Halal Authority Board (HAB) have been fighting against the regulation as the increase in stun current would not only be costly to suppliers, but has the potential to kill birds, rendering them unacceptable for halal consumption.

The decision coincides with the launch of the judicial review against Defra, and both AIMS and HAB told MTJ that this is unliklely to be a coincidence.

Norman Bagley, policy director at AIMS said: “The decision to withdraw is obviously directly connected to the judicial review which was launched some weeks ago.”

However a Defra spokesperson said: “We want to give it some further consideration. It’s not linked to the juidicial review, it’s a complicated issue and we wanted to give it more thought.”

AIMS said that this was a “stunning victory”, but bemoans what it believes is the incompetence and ignorance from Defra that has caused the situation. Bagley added: “Why Defra got themselves into this mess in the first place is beyond comprehension and as far as we are concerned well documented. Quite simply, whoever gave the veterinary advice should be held to account as the whole thing was a farce once defending the indefensible took over from common sense and dogma.”

A spokesperson from HAB was similarly disatisfied with Defra attempts to bring in the regulation: “Muslims will not accept this new stunning form. Defra has no experience of working in slaughterhouses, and there was no discussion or conversation, they just went ahead. Unless they work with the Muslim community how can we get anywhere? They are totally ignoring the halal market, they only listen when you take them to court.”

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