VEGA News Item

Who Insists on Cutting Animals' Throats Without Prior Stunning? - 30/07/2008
Ritual slaughter increases political will
1. Writing in the Meat Trades Journal, Anthony Whitear felt impelled to state that "Now we are in the 21st century all ritual slaughter should be outlawed as barbaric." He described himself as "a former slaughterhouse and butcher shop owner, so I am speaking from experience."

2. He continued: "I have seen ewes having their throats cut, free themselves from the hoist and run around the slaughterhouse for several minutes until they drop to the floor from sheer exhaustion caused by a lack of blood. If the meat trade wants to get a better image, it should stop this cruelty immediately. As I understand it ritual slaughter is used to ensure no blood remains in the animal so the carcase keeps slightly longer, especially in hot climates. But now with everyone in Great Britain that argument is dead. So there is absolutely no reason for this cruelty to go on."

3. As a PS he added: "I still keep in contact with several people in the meat trade and they all agree it is a black mark on their name." His remarks were published on 22 July 2004, but the challenges still rankle, although they have been muted or ignored by the trade, consumers, so-called animal welfarists, setters of standards and labelling for too long. Those friendly sheep farmers who would aver, as their flock was drafted to "go down the road," that the animals would be spared the horrors of Jewish or Muslim methods of killing, welcomed the rescuing outlet that transhipments of sheep to the Continent for religious eids (festivals) which gave the lie to such insincere assurances in a market whose unsavoury dealings each outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease exposed increased evidence of the corruption and cruelty entailed in religious methods of slaughter.

4. Prince Charles, who arrogated to himself pretensions of elevation to be Defender of all the Faiths ostentatiously sponsored consumption of mutton, which is a popular meat for Muslims, much of which is derived from older "spent" breeding stock of sheep (ewes, rams, or tups) or goats. The meat industry saw this as a useful means of value adding at a time when business in younger animals (as lambs and hoggets) was flagging while the emergence of profitable value adding in the pet food and halal trades beckoned some relief for the disposals of 5th quarter products. Sales of clippings for wool barely paid for the cost of the work, much of which was done by antipodean experts in gangs imported for the purpose. This year, as in other aspects of farming economics, gangmasters have been unable to meet the demands for Australian and New Zealanders finding it worthwhile to undertake work that British farmers are loathe to tackle.

5. The plight of spent animals has to raise concern for those from breeding flocks and other species, so extension of care and monitoring must embrace the destinies of those from other species including dairy herds (which would include rejected calves) and poultry flocks (eg day-old male chicks and spent hens), some of which may have originated from Prince Charles' farms and enterprises monitored and run under RSPCA's and the Soil Association's management procedures, as well as those bearing other signs of "good", organic practice.

6. Some believers in religious principles imagine that only specially "fit" animals are selected for ritual slaughter. In most instances this is a delusion: the animals lives are abruptly terminated for the very reason that they are deemed prematurely "useless" (eg overworked, unable to reproduce, emasculated or otherwise mutilated or broken-mouthed, or because they arrive at slaughter and are rejected by routine veterinary procedures because they are dirty. Rejections at the entrance to the abattoir entail further handling, treatments, and transport, with further violations of the Five Freedoms and possibly return to the farm where the husbandry was of a poor standard. Cows with calves at foot or ewes with their or a fostered lamb may arrive at a slaughterhouse door, possibly from a livestock market. In Jewish ritual the pair must be separated, the youngster being killed first. These are examples of avoidable bad husbandry in which religious dogma transcends the promptings of kindness and mercy; and the rituals now have no extra relevance as hygiene precautions exceeding those in normal practice.

7. VEGA takes an understandable objection to all forms of killing or culling, especially when they can be avoided. Unfortunate shams under the name of "humane" slaughter represent indifference and neglect after the campaigns of many year years ago to ban the pole-ax and to connive at the continuation of stun-stick-kill procedures without prior attempts at stunning or gentler methods of inducing insensibility before the intended killing by sticking (bleeding out) or death by gassing or electric shock. Recent growth in halal procedures has attracted more attention, culminating now in imminent potential directives and possible bans in EU legislation, and reinforcing the urgency and pressure the Farm Animal Welfare Council has been trying to maintain, sometimes at the costs of offending Jewish and Muslim interests. Recent events have emphasized other environmental matters: acceptance of obligatory culling and vaccination arouses concerns of producers and consumers and the surveillance and labelling required of the Food Standards Agency (which will have admit its difficulties in another aspect of this evil industry: the rituals of corruption).

8. VEGA has spent much time interceding in the arguments, emphasizing its status as "an honest broker" representing a constituency prepared to exercise restraint offending no religious principles nor undue dietary abstinence nor interference. Our Portfolio of eating plans can demonstrate the benefits of chronic scruples. There are subsidiary factors concerned with treatments of rescued animals in sanctuaries with various religious and ethical affiliations and observances especially where they are entangled in some free ranging disregard of the veggy ethic in dairying, egg production, and commercial fishing.

9. Lapses in the labelling regulations and control of corruption - and even pet-lovers appraisals of their animals' diets - may conceal from objectors to ritual killing some unwitting consumption of meat obtained by methods they profess to abhor.

10. It's not only labelling; it's the reading of what is on the label and tests of the retailer's exercise of "due diligence." So the FAWC, FSA, British Veterinary Association (BVA) and RSPCA must be open about the enquiries they have made to their suppliers of victuals. Rituals over victuals are laborious and testing in an if-in-doubt-leave-it-out way but it is essential for consumers to read and act on labelling and claims and to leave the Consumer Relations departments in no doubt of their demands for information on products that as purchasers they act in a contract with the producers. There are great opportunities here for volunteers to back us up effectively in campaigns that they must surely ally with and illuminate. The FAWC is showing good signs of requiring good standards of its suppliers.  

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