British Vets “appalled” by halal board letter

The non-stun slaughter debate between the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Halal Authority Board (HAB) has intensified, with the BVA saying it was appalled by suggestions made in an HAB open letter.

The HAB letter, addressed to BVA president Robin Hargreaves, was in response to the vets’ campaign to stop non-stun slaughter. It said the group is “racially or politically motivated”, and criticised the BVA for focussing only on the last few second of an animals’ life, ignoring the many other welfare issues. The HAB letter also read: “It appears that there needs to be more of a balance in their comments and avoid unfair criticism on the Muslim and Jewish methods of slaughter as, probably, they are seen as soft targets. Any such criticisms they make against religious slaughter methods show them to be ill-informed and insensitive to the halal and kosher consumers as well as ignorant of the huge halal market in the UK, Europe and throughout the world.”

Hargereaves yesterday (14 August) replied: “I am appalled by the suggestion that veterinary surgeons would have any motive other than improving the welfare of animals at slaughter. Our government e-petition states that ‘We must differentiate between religious and non-stun slaughter.’ And that ‘Our concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter.’

“BVA is active across a whole range of health and welfare issues relating to food production animals and we are committed to improving the welfare of animals at all stages of their lives, from birth and rearing to transport and slaughter. BVA, and individual veterinary surgeons in practice, are active in promoting best practice in relation to welfare, as well as lobbying for improvements across a number of areas. We have championed ‘whole life’ labelling to inform consumers of higher welfare standards throughout the process. It is false, therefore, to suggest that we have focused on one issue to the detriment of others.

“We recognise fully that these are sensitive issues and that is why we have held meetings with some of the key stakeholders, including representatives of Shechita and Halal, to encourage a more open dialogue. While our position remains that every animal should be stunned before slaughter, if this is not possible we have been calling for clearer labelling to differentiate between stunned and non-stunned products. This is an issue on which we will continue to engage all stakeholders, including meat producers, for the benefit of all consumers.”

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