Farming News - Deal to sell British lamb to Saudi Arabia condemned over fears animals will be slaughtered using 'cruel' non-stun method

Deal to sell British lamb to Saudi Arabia condemned over fears animals will be slaughtered using 'cruel' non-stun method

24 Aug 2018
Frontdesk / Livestock

The government has been accused of watering down animal welfare standards after it emerged that British lambs sold to Saudi Arabia in a major new trade deal may not be stunned before slaughter.

The deal, understood to be worth £25 million over the next five years, has been criticised by MPs and animal welfare groups.

Picture of welsh lamb with knife and fork

The British Veterinary Association has called on the government to clarify whether the lambs would be killed using a ‘cruel’ non-stun method, which the body condemns as causing ‘unnecessary suffering’ saying :

“The BVA believes all exported meat should come from animals that have been stunned before slaughter, but there is ambiguity around the details of the deal, which UK halal certification bodies it will involve and whether the meat that will be exported will come from stun or non-stun sources.

“Defra has not yet clarified these points and, in April 2018, stated it did not hold data on what percentage of meat from non-stun religious slaughter is exported.”

The statement continued: “In the UK and Europe, all animals must be stunned before slaughter, but there is a derogation for animals killed for religious purposes. The BVA strongly believes this derogation should only apply to meet the needs of the local community.

BVA President John Fishwick said : ‘The fact that we’ve got a trade deal for British lamb to Saudi Arabia is really good and we should welcome that. It shows the high quality of British produce.

‘The concern is that we don’t have clarity on whether or not these animals are going to be stunned when they’re slaughtered.

‘We have campaigned for many years that only animals that have been properly stunned should be slaughtered in the UK for any consumption – home consumption or for export.’

Currently the law in the UK and EU prohibits the slaughter of animals without stunning them first, but exceptions are made for a small number of religious communities.

It is understood that the lamb sold to Saudi Arabia will be certified by the Halal Monitoring Committee, which does not permit any form of stunning, according to Vet Record.

Mr Fishwick warned that a deal could suggest a lowering of welfare standards in the UK in the interests of increasing exports.

He said: ‘I think there is a danger that, if we’re willing to sign up to a major trade deal and all those animals are going to be slaughtered in a non-stunned method which we consider causes unnecessary suffering, that would be a very, very bad sign about standards here in the UK.’

A Defra spokesperson said: ‘Earlier this year, the Government announced it had reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia to lift the 20-year ban on lamb exports, which was introduced after the BSE crisis.It is not true to suggest the agreement to lift the 20-year ban on lamb exports to Saudi Arabia was a move to increase sales of non-stun meat.

‘Whilst 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. We have been clear these standards will not be watered down as we leave the EU.’

A 2003 Farm Animal Welfare Council study found that killing livestock without stunning causes ‘very significant pain and distress’.