The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has called for a ban on all non-stun meat exports after it was revealed millions of pounds’ worth of UK lambs slaughtered without stunning are to be sent to Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year, the Government announced it had reached agreement with Saudi Arabia to lift its 20-year ban on UK lamb exports, which was introduced in the wake of the BSE crisis.
The deal is estimated to be worth £25 million over the next five years, but according to Vet Record magazine, all the exported meat will be certified by the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC), which forbids all forms of stunning.
At the moment, there are no restrictions on the export of non-stun meat, with Governments only responsible for ensuring health requirements are met in export trade veterinary agreements.
BVA president John Fishwick said: “The BVA believes all animals should be stunned before slaughter and has been calling for an end to non-stun slaughter in the UK for several years, in the interests of animal welfare.
“If non-slaughter is permitted, we believe non-stun meat and products should only be provided to match domestic demand and not be exported for consumption.
“When I met Defra Secretary Michael Gove last month, I raised our concern that non-stun meat and products may be exported to other countries, but the Government does not hold data on this.
“We consider such exports to be outside the spirit of the legislation which allows non-stun as a derogation from the law to meet the needs of religious communities.
“There is a pressing need for clarity on the quantities and destinations of exports of non-stun meat.”
A Defra spokesman said the Government would prefer to see all animals stunned before slaughter, but it accepts the right of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat killed in accordance with their religious beliefs.
“While there are currently no restrictions on exporting non-stun meat, all slaughter – whether stun or non-stun – must strictly comply with EU and UK rules on animal welfare,” the spokesman added.
“We have been clear these standards will not be watered down as we leave the EU.”