A relaxed attitude to ritual slaughter in some EU member states has led to systematic slaughtering without stunning, regardless of consumer need, according to EU welfare experts.
Denis Simonin, head of unit with DG Sanco, is working on producing EU guidelines on the ritual stunning of animals, due to be published in 2014. He said: “Under the Lisbon Treaty there’s an article on freedom of religion which means it possible for countries to derogate from stunning based on religious rights. How that is granted varies from member state to member state, and it’s a matter for each state to decide.”
However, he said countries that have allowed a more relaxed approach to granting the derogation might have encouraged an unnecessary amount of non-stun slaughter within some processors. “There has been some systematic slaughter without stunning, and its not because the religious community is asking for more, its down to operational ease.”
He said processors looking to keep costs down would rather run just the one line, enabling them to sell ritually slaughtered meat to the ethnic market, and also supply the same meat to the mainstream market. “That’s the risk of the present system,” he added.
He said the good news was that the topic had recently become one of discussion within the community, and pressure from consumers would hopefully start to force processors to be more selective in their production. A study of consumer views on the subject is being carried out and will be complete in 2013, he said.
France: no stigma
In France, agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire held a press conference yesterday, reminding journalists that the criteria for granting ritual slaughter derogations are very specific. “When it comes to slaughtering practices, stunning is the rule, ritual slaughter is the exception,” he said.
Le Maire added that ritual slaughter represents 14% of the French production, and said: “Knowing the way the animal was slaughter is the consumer’s legitimate right. It means clear labelling, without stigmatising consumption habits or a community.”
As of yesterday 8 March 2012, French abattoirs applying for a non-stun derogation must be able to justify it with accurate data on on consumer demand for ritually slaughtered meat.