The practice of not stunning animals beforeslaughter is not common, even in meat intended for the halal market, says theNational Sheep Association (NSA) in an attempt to clarify some of confusion inthe national press this week.
Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, says: Iflamb and mutton is processed as halal it does not automatically mean the animalis not stunned before slaughter and, right around the globe, the practice ofnon-stun is decreasing. Sheep farmers work hard every day to ensure high welfarestandards for their sheep and we all want to see this understanding of goodwelfare continue beyond the farm gate to the point of slaughter. Stunning atslaughter is best practice and desirable but a proportion of followers of somereligious faiths insist on slaughter without stunning and we have little optionbut to respect those beliefs and continue to work on awareness and explorealternative options such as post-slaughter stun. A major unintended consequenceof misinformed discussions about halal in the past has been an increased demandfor non-stun product, not less, so raising this issue so publicly can have theopposite effect and drive things backwards not forwards.
NSA is in support ofresponsible labelling of all food products, but suggests that to overcome theproblems we face when we are talking about mainstream supermarket outlets astun/non-stun label may be more useful than a halal label. Conversely in ethicfocussed outlets the halal label may be the preferred option in order not to drawattention and potentially drive up demand for non-stunned product. This showshow complicated the subject of labelling is and that we should always thinkhard to avoid unintended consequences.
We urge consumers tocontinue buying British lamb and not to assume welfare standards have slippedat the end of the animals life. If you are in any doubt look for the RedTractor logo or organic certification, as these assurance schemes insistanimals are stunned in the abattoir.