Foremost in our dealings with other creatures should be a recognition that, if we take from them their lives for our own purposes, we should do everything rationally possible to do so in a way that minimises their suffering.
That is why slaughter using methods for religious purposes, such as Halal or Kosher should not be allowed. I will expand upon my reasoning.
A starting point could be that the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (formerly the Farm Animal Welfare Council) has recommended that non-stun slaughter should be stopped. Widely available evidence shows that properly and carefully stunned animals feel less pain than those killed without stunning, or with inadequate stunning.
Meat claimed to be produced for religious purposes (e.g. Halal or Kosher) is estimated to represent between 25% and 40% of all meat produced in the UK, around 10 times the total possible market for such meat. It is an inescapable conclusion that some operators are using this as a means of reducing costs to maximise profit.
It is worth noting the majority of slaughterhouses filmed by Animal Aid between 2009 and 2011 were stunning animals improperly, thereby causing significant and avoidable pain and distress. This could in some cases be a training or awareness issue, but in many cases it is a means for reducing costs. Therefore the opportunity for animal welfare standards to be sidestepped or watered down through the exploitation of religious considerations should be ended.
But whether due to profiteering, ignorance or genuinely held religious beliefs, non or inadequate stunning causes more suffering than is necessary so, for whatever reason, is unacceptable.
There may be a fear that this could be seen as an affront to – or even an assault upon – religious minorities, so the Government should show rational leadership on the issue to avoid such fears.
We have scientifically proven standards we regard as appropriate for animal welfare, whilst the majority of people regard religious faith as unproven (and even amongst those with religious beliefs there is no single consensus on this subject), so protection of animals from suffering should not be secondary to religious beliefs.
Given the beneficial impact it would have on animal welfare, the production of meat according to religious beliefs should be stopped.