Farming Minister Victoria Prentis has confirmed Defra’s upcoming food labelling consultation will cover religious slaughter.
Ms Prentis was clear that the Government respects people’s religious right to slaughter animals in the way they choose, but said ‘this is the moment’ to tackle the issue of whether food labelling can provide consumers with better information about methods of slaughter and improve animal welfare.
The consultation is expected to be published by the end of June, though there is a possibility that the timeline may slip depending on what happens with the pandemic.
Speaking to MPs on the International Trade Select Committee last week, Ms Prentis said: “We want the UK to be genuinely world-leading in this area.
“It is going to be difficult. These are deeply sensitive issues for many people and rightly so. It is right that we consult, but it is also right that we are quite open about what exactly happens when animals are slaughtered.
“This is the moment to have these difficult conversations.”
Ms Prentis also confirmed the UK Government would be looking at the New Zealand system of partial stunning for halal slaughter.
Many Muslim communities have accepted this method of slaughter, because abattoirs can demonstrate animals recover from electrical stunning.
Defra Secretary George Eustice is known to want to do more to tackle non-stun religious slaughter, citing his failure to do so in the brief time he was outside the department as one of his chief regrets.
Other issues that will be covered in later, separate consultations include carbon capture and environmental labelling.
Ms Prentis said: “Some have suggested we move towards a traffic-light system as one being easier for consumers to understand.
“This will be very complex to bring in, and I do not see us being in a position to consult on that until early next year, at the earliest, truthfully.
“But it is definitely an ambition of mine. The more information we can give to consumers, the better.”