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Non-stun Slaughter of Animals — [Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury 4:00 pm, 3rd April 2019

I made it clear at the beginning that the debate is about animal welfare, and I certainly do not want to suggest what is right and wrong with regard to religion; the debate should not be seen as that in any way. I have given way an awful lot, so I will have to move on a bit. I was going to go through the EU law on slaughter, which is contained in a council regulation, but I will have to speed up, otherwise the Minister will not have a chance to respond.

In response to the hon. Lady’s point, as I have mentioned, while some slaughter practices do not allow pre-stunning, in accordance with religious rites, some halal authorities consider that pre-stunning is permissible, provided that the stun does not kill the animal and that the animal could have theoretically regained consciousness. That is an important point, because many consumers of meat may not buy it if it is signified as halal because they believe it is from an animal that was not stunned. That represents an unnecessary loss to the market.

I ask the Government to address the evidence being put forward by organisations such as the BVA and RSPCA. There have been a number of stark illustrations, which I referred to earlier. I will not go through them all again, but I am happy to send hon. Members copies of the BVA submission if they would like.

In the absence of a ban, we could move forward in other ways. The first way forward is to look at over-production. If non-stun slaughter is to continue, I ask that we ensure that supply only meets demand and does not exceed it. For example, in Germany, abattoirs are permitted to slaughter animals without stunning only if they show that they have local religious customers for the request. To obtain that permission, applicants need to fulfil several requirements, including on slaughter procedure, species and the number of animals. I ask that the Government take steps to require abattoirs to illustrate levels of demand and issue licences on that basis.

A second way forward is to ensure that the supply of non-stunned meat is for domestic demand. I ask the Government to examine export patterns and consider whether the export of non-stunned meat from the UK reflects the intentions of the derogation from EU law. Again, I could give figures on how the export of non-stunned animals has increased considerably over the past few years, but time does not permit it.

A third way forward relates to the important issue of labelling, which several hon. Members have raised. It is essential for a number of reasons, including the misconceptions that people may have about certain products such as halal, and on the basis that consumers have a right to know where their meat comes from, how it was reared and how it was slaughtered. There is a wider issue about food labelling, and many people want the country of origin of food to be labelled more precisely and accurately. That can form part of the discussions about labelling.