Amendment 236A

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 10:45 pm on 23rd July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench 10:45 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, I, too, address myself to Amendments 254 and 258 and the issue of slaughter. Across the animal world, killing is done in ways that we do not like to think about. These amendments are a deliberate targeting of methods of slaughter of meat in the expectation that the consumer will read the label, understand it and be affected by it. No doubt there would be a campaign to persuade consumers not to buy certain products if regulations were made under these amendments. I want to draw attention to the selectivity in them.

This is a country in which fishing is a national pastime. It has recently been reported that even fish that are approved by eco-labelling schemes and sold in leading supermarkets have lived in grossly overcrowded cages and died slowly and painfully. Wild-caught fish are gutted or have their gills cut while fully conscious. Farmed fish are starved for a fortnight before they are killed. I have never understood how a kind person who enjoys fishing for himself can leave the fish to suffocate on the ground next to him. Trillions of fish not covered by these amendments suffer globally as a result of these methods of slaughter. In the UK, we shoot stags and pheasants for pleasure. Rabbits are killed for food by decapitation, breaking the neck and blows to the head. Millions of lobsters are killed every year by being semi- frozen and then thrown into boiling water, where they are left to thrash around for several minutes. Secret videos of horrors within UK slaughterhouses abound.

No doubt we will be told that stunning is humane and that non-stunning is not, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, has pointed out, it does not always work. Poultry slaughter is highly mechanised for speed rather than for the minimising of suffering, and it frequently goes wrong. According to the European Food Safety Authority, 180 million chickens and other poultry were killed in the most recent count using an insufficient electric charge. According to Compassion in World Farming, 1 billion chickens are ineffectively stunned in the EU each year, and millions of pigs that are stunned before slaughter with CO2 gas suffer.

My point is that our concerns should extend to all; they should not be crudely divided into stunning and non-stunning. The kosher requirement in this country is so tiny it is likely that many times more cattle were inadequately stunned, and therefore suffered, than were non-stunned and killed according to the kosher method. Consumers have every right to know what they are eating, but there should be honest, non-discriminatory labelling which should not deceive the consumer or insult faith communities. If you wanted to be comprehensive, every chicken leg would have to have a little booklet attached to it.

The European Commission’s Study on Information to Consumers on the Stunning of Animals in 2016 concluded that:

“for most consumers information on pre-slaughter stunning is not an important issue unless brought to their attention. However, this is an issue for a certain proportion of motivated consumers. It is by no means clear that consumers would actually act on this information if it were to be available.”

Its clear conclusion was that there is little accurate consumer understanding of the slaughter process. Kosher and halal meat is already labelled, so it is difficult to see a need for any further labelling. What then is the purpose of these amendments, in so far as they affect slaughter, because they are selective and pejorative in effect? They do not promote honest labelling, and they should be opposed.