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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:18 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip 4:18 pm, 3rd April 2019

That is spooky, because the next point in my speech was to say that one of the key things we have done in recent years—adding to the list of things that we have talked about already—is to add CCTV in slaughterhouses. That is a major step forward and it helps to deal with all the welfare issues that we have talked about today. It was introduced in May last year and I think that it is now effective in all slaughterhouses.

Let me just try to get to the most important part of my response to the debate. Andrea Jenkyns talked about animals being imported into the UK and asked whether they should be slaughtered to UK standards. Yes, they should; it is a legal requirement.

Angela Smith talked about blockchain technology and whether we could use it to improve traceability. Yes, I think the industry should consider that; indeed, it probably will consider it, as it considers how to move things forward.

The heart of the discussion today has been about labelling. [Interruption.] I know, but I am just trying to answer the question, so I do not lose track of that point. We know that concerns have been voiced about meat from animal slaughter without stunning being sold to consumers who do not require their meat to be prepared in that way. The Government are clear that we want people to have the information they need to make informed choices about the food that they buy. The Government believe that consumers should have the necessary information available to them to make an informed choice about their food, and the issue of revised labelling is something that the Government are considering in the context of the UK’s exit from the EU, as I set out in a speech at the annual dinner for the BVA back in February.

It is important to note that there are other groups that want to know not only whether the meat is from a stunned or non-stunned animal, but what method of slaughter has been used. That will need to be considered in the wider review of labelling.

As I begin to wind up, it is important to recognise that the labelling of meat is something that we want to take a closer look at. I set out earlier that that will be part of a much wider review of labelling, which will include consideration of welfare standards, sustainability and, of course, safety for consumers. I also highlight that we want to go on respecting the rights of Jews and Muslims to eat meat that is prepared in accordance with their beliefs. However, in seeking to address the welfare standards and issues that have been discussed today, we will continue to explore ways to further improve the welfare standards for all animals, including when they are slaughtered.

Our next step—this relates to an important point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury—will be further discussion with a range of interested parties across the debate at a forthcoming roundtable meeting to talk through many of the issues that have been raised today. I think that that is the way we need to do things: talk about the issues and see what we can do to improve welfare, but at the same time respect religious rights. Labelling will be key, but we will continue to encourage an active dialogue with all interested parties as part of our wider objective to enhance our already world-leading animal welfare standards.

I will leave it at that, but I thank hon. Members for their important contributions to this vital debate.

Question put and agreed to.