Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Do You Know This About Meat? Update

On 13 February I posted about the exemption under the slaughtering of animal regulations for Kosher and Halal requirements. The exemption from stunning before slaughtering was specifically for food for Jews and Muslims. So it is unlawful to slaughter meat for other people except as prescribed in the regulations. Yet many restaurants, takeaways, supermarkets and butchers offer kosher and halal meat for sale. There is no requirement to prove adherence to either religion when buying such meat.
I sent an FOI request to DEFRA to enquire how many prosecutions there had been since 2000 for breaching the regulations. This is the relevant section of its reply:

"I can confirm we have reviewed our record of prosecutions under WASK (Welfare of Animals Slaughter and Killing) and we have no record of any prosecutions  involving the Schedule 12(2) requirements conducted by the Department since 2000."

Either the regulations are obeyed  in law and spirit or there have been infractions but no prosecutions. That's fair enough as there are two sizeable hurdles to clear in the prosecution process:

1    Is there sufficient evidence to enable at least a 50% chance of conviction;

2    Is prosecution in the public interest?

If the matter is not prioritised then investigation and obtaining evidence to build a case will be under-resourced. The question of whether prosecution is in the public interest is a political one. Does the government want to potentially offend the loud Jewish and Muslim lobbies?  The wrong end of the stick will be grasped and it will be wrongly claimed that human rights about religious freedom are breached by stricter control of the animal slaughter and killing exemption. Or can mainstream animal welfare activists be bought off with the cynical wording of Schedule 12(2) within the WASK regulations?

So it would appear that a soft-pedal approach is applied in this instance. However, another paragraph of the FOI reply states:

Regulation 1099/2009 is here. It's got added derogation and subsidiarity to protect slaughter in accordance with religious rites to protect Article 10 Human Rights. Note that there will be full consultation with all interested parties before any final decision on implementation takes place. Your comments as an individual carry the same weight as those of an organisation.

As I wrote in my previous post I disapprove of the unconventional slaughter methods on moral grounds, but do not seek to have the exemptions repealed because I respect the beliefs of the communities that require slaughter by religious methods and wish that the number of farm animals so slaughtered is kept to the necessary minimum. If you agree, please contact the Animal Welfare Team at DEFRA to register your interest and views. If selling off the Forestry Commission in England was U-turned so quickly, we have a chance here. Welfare of animals should be one of the pillars of the Big Society.

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