Hidden cameras, planted by animal welfare charity Animal Aid, showed horrific treatment of sheep in a slaughterhouse in North Yorkshire.
Employees, at the Bowood Abattoir near Thirsk were filmed sawing at animals’ throats with seemingly blunt knives. Staff, at least one of which wore a Muslim kufi skullcap, were caught on camera stamping on sheep and kicking them in the head, as they attempted to transport them onto a conveyor belt, the Telegraph reports.
British law prohibits the slaughtering of animals unless they have been stunned, but there are legal exemptions for religious food producers; those animals being slaughtered for halal and kosher consumption. While religious leaders have always claimed that animals slaughtered using their methods are killed humanely, the footage from t is the latest in a line of cases where halal food has resulted from cruelty.
Veterinary and scientific bodies have claimed for decades that animals not stunned prior to slaughter, feel considerable pain. John Blackwell, the President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “Slaughter without stunning unnecessarily compromises animal welfare at the time of death and as such we call for an end to its practice.”
“The Animal Aid film is truly shocking. Whether in a stun or non-stun abattoir these abuses would warrant sanctions under the current welfare legislation.”
An online petition has gathered over 100,000 signatures calling for an end to non-stunned slaughter.It has gained the backing of celebrities including Ricky Gervais, actress Sadie Frost and Queen guitarist Brian May.
A 2003 report from the Farm Animal Welfare Council called for the end of the religious exemption and again, in 2009. Owing to scientific proof, animal slaughter in both Denmark and New Zealand requires stunning.
The RSPCA have responded angrily to the footage, telling Breitbart London: “This footage sounds absolutely shocking. The public has a right to expect that all farmed animals have as painless and humane an end to their lives as possible.”
A DEFRA spokesman has ruled out any change to the current exemption for religious animal slaughter and refused to concede any link between bad practice at slaughterhouses and religious practise. DEFRA claimed that it was simply a case of poor standards in individual slaughterhouses.
NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle said: “While the moral or religious questions on slaughter are not a matter for the NFU we do expect that whatever slaughter method is used, it should place animal welfare as a priority and employ sound scientific principles to its method.
“We expect the high levels of welfare on British farms to continue once livestock leaves the farms to go to slaughter. We are proud that the Red Tractor farm assurance standard requires that all animals are stunned before slaughter.
The Halal Food Authority, condemned the practices in the video as unrepresentative of halal slaughtering and against Islamic law. “Any imam [Islamic leader] who looks at this video would be disturbed. Every activity is a contravention of animal welfare standards – the operatives are poorly behaved and trained, the knives are not sterilised and do not appear sharp. These are very special circumstances and have nothing to do with stunning or non-stunning.”
In a worrying trend, according to the Food Standards Agency, the number of animals killed without stunning rose 60% to 2.4 million last year.
There have been a rise in the number of people calling for labelling on non-stunned food so consumers may have a choice to opt out of purchasing food killed in an inhumane way.
And an Australian housewife has launched a campaign for labelling, claiming that the method of production ‘funds extremism’.
Ms Smith uses her website to encourage consumers to lobby both companies and government with their wishes, suggesting the text:
“I do not wish to support any brand that pays an Islamic religious tax to have their product halal certified. Less than 2 percent of this population is Muslim and I do not want to fund special religious rituals or political campaigns to increase the presence of Sharia Law in Australia.
“Please respect consumers and give them/us the necessary information so we can make our own choices.”