The government has been accused of relaxing animal welfare standard in order to ramp up sales of Islamic Sharia-law compliant halal meat to Saudi Arabia.
A massive deal, worth around £25 million over the next five years, was recently struck with the hard-line Islamist nation, with plans to sell British non-stun lamb to the Muslim state.
Marc Cooper, the head of the RSPCA’s farm animal department, said that 84 per cent of halal meat in the UK was stunned before slaughter.
It is European Union (EU) law to stun animals before they are killed and animal rights groups say it is critical for welfare, but religious exceptions are made.
“This [deal with Saudi Arabia] is very disappointing news. Non-stun slaughter causes serious suffering for animals,” Mr Cooper told iNews.
“The Government has committed to maintaining and improving animal welfare under the current Brexit discussions.
“To minimise unnecessary animal suffering, we believe it should follow other European nations and ban the export of meat from non-stunned animals.”
In June, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) highlighted statistics showing 22 percent of sheep and goats are not stunned before slaughter in the UK – an increase from 15 percent in 2013.
They also criticised the deal with Saudi Arabia and called for more data to be collected on how much halal meat, which they say is cruel to produce, is exported.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 10, 2016
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted the move would not lead to lower welfare standards in the future. A spokesman said:
“It is not true to suggest the agreement to lift the 20-year ban on lamb exports to Saudi Arabia was a move to increase sales of non-stun meat.
“All slaughter, whether stun or non-stun, must comply with strict rules on animal welfare and we have been clear these standards will not be watered down as we leave the EU.”
Earlier this year, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, said animal welfare will be tightened after Brexit and farming minister George Eustice said clear labelling of halal food will be investigated when the UK leaves the EU.
And, as Breitbart London revealed last year, some London hospital canteens only sell halal, leaving those who object on ethical grounds only able to eat vegetarian options.