Tag Archives: Welfare

BVA AWF Discussion Forum 2015

The Veterinary Policy Research Foundation (VPRF) took part in the popular and enjoyable BVA Animal Welfare Foundation Discussion Forum once again this year.

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Lord Trees and Chris Lawrence at the BVA AWF reception

The topics covered, including antimicrobial resistance, welfare at slaughter, population control and indiscriminate breeding, and the use of advanced veterinary practice. We took particular interest in Professor Steve Wotton’s talk on the latest research on the stunning of animals before slaughter and the nuances of appropriately stunning poultry to both effectively stun the birds regardless of their size and yet not induce cardiac arrest so that the stun is demonstrably irreversible – a necessity for Halal consumers.

There was a great deal of discussion and debate around the enforcement, or lack of, animal welfare law with particular reference to import/export and indiscriminate breeding. The general impression given by the veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in attendance was one of frustration that these oft discussed issues are still not being effectively addressed and impotence that when they are faced with a potential animal welfare issue there is no clear path to follow.

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Parliamentary Veterinary Intern and guests at the 2015 BVA AWF Reception.

The 2015 Discussion Forum concluded with a reception on the House of Commons terrace hosted by Neil Parish MP.

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Westminster Hall debates

Tuesday 4th November saw two interesting debates in Westminster Hall. In the morning Neil Parish MP moved a debate on Animal Slaughter (Religious Methods), and in the afternoon Chris Williamson MP moved a debate on Badger Culls (Assessment). I will focus on the animal slaughter side of things in this post.

Animal Slaughter (Religious Methods)

The animal slaughter debate was called following the publication of the APPG for Beef and Lamb’s inquiry into the welfare of animals slaughtered in accordance with religious rites. This report identified several areas in need of further research. During the course of the debate a number of matters were discussed, including the role of exporters subject to various conditions on slaughter, the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses, the effect of animal stress on meat quality, the labelling of meat (stunned vs non-stunned) and a call to accurately record all mis-stuns and mis-cuts. A lot of well-trodden ground was once again re-covered during this debate and ultimately it boils down to the question: Does the right to freedom of religious expression outweigh animal welfare considerations?

Government response

During his response, George Eustice MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

“Our position is that we would prefer that all animals are stunned before slaughter, but we recognise and respect the needs of religious communities, so we have always maintained this limited exemption, which is to be used only for meat produced for Jewish and Muslim communities. Last year, the Prime Minister made it very clear in a speech that the Government have no intention of abolishing religious slaughter in this country. However, it is equally important to note that none of the derogations that we have in place, which are set out through the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995, exempt anyone from the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which requires all abattoirs to avoid causing an animal avoidable pain.”

“It is not that we believe that there is no difference between the two types of slaughter, nor that we believe shechita is a more welfare-friendly method of slaughter, but because we respect the rights of religious communities. That has been the long-standing position of every UK Government, going back some 100 years.”

HOC Hansard, 4th Nov 2014, Column 168WH.

Labelling

The Minister’s round up also included (another) new date for the publication of the European Commission report on labelling – now expected to conclude in December 2014.

Mis-stunning and mis-cutting

He briefly covered the issue of mis-stunning and -cutting. Historically, the Food Standards Agency only reported incidents observed by official veterinarians in the slaughterhouse. Following review, the FSA intends to monitor and record all incidents. He reiterated the point that a mis-stunning event does not always mean the welfare outcome for a particular animal will be dire as a second, back-up stun can be applied within seconds.

CCTV in slaughterhouses

Last, but not least, the subject of CCTV in slaughterhouses is an issue. The Minister clarified that the Farm Animal Welfare Committee is reviewing it as an option. The issue remains as to exactly who would monitor the CCTV footage were it made compulsory in slaughterhouses. Several supermarkets already demand that CCTV is taken in their slaughterhouses as a matter of course – perhaps the success/failure of this intervention could be investigated.

Badger Culls (Assessment)

 

APGAW: Humane Slaughter

Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW)

Humane Slaughter

After a long Easter recess that caused the previous date to be postponed, Lord Trees participated in a much anticipated meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) on Tuesday 6th May. The meeting was due to follow the publication of a report by the European Commission on whether consumers want to see stunning or slaughter method information on meat labels. Unfortunately, the release date of the report was pushed back and the meeting had to go ahead without this update. The meeting was well attended and there was a robust exchange of ideas around the question:

“What Is Humane Slaughter and How Do We Ensure Welfare Standards Are Met?”

The Panel, chaired by the Rt. Hon. Neil Parish MP, was as follows:

  • Kenneth Clarke BSc, BVSc MRCVS-Veterinary Consultant (formerly oversaw Public Health and
    Food Safety)
  • Robin Hargreaves BVSc MRCVS – President of the British Veterinary Association
  • Russell Fielding – Retired slaughterman.
  • Rizvan Khalid – Euro Quality Lambs Ltd
  • Shimon Cohen – Shechita UK
  • Leon Pein – Biblical Foods Limited

Outcomes are yet to follow.