He argued that free votes were granted on every other issue that concerns ethics or religious conviction and that the political parties should step back and allow parliament to address deficiencies in the law under a free vote.
In a speech in a Westminster Hall debate in parliament on Tuesday, July 2, he pointed out that there had been an alarming rise in the number of sheep being slaughtered without stunning - up to 25 percent of all sheep last year.
He proposed a package of improvements that Parliament should consider including:
• A requirement for a “post cut stun” on all bovine animals recognising that the physiology of cattle means that they will have a slow and lingering death if not stunned first. This would enable slaughter in accordance with religious custom with the cut taking place before the stun but with immediate action to stun the animal afterwards to prevent suffering.
• A requirement to increase the length of time taken to proceed to the next stage of slaughter for an un-stunned chicken and to strengthen the requirement to check the animal for signs of consciousness before the next step of the slaughter operation. Furthermore, consideration to increasing the so called stand still time for sheep to make it less attractive to slaughter without prior stunning.
• A German style quota system to place a strict limit on the number of animals allowed to be slaughtered by religious methods to prevent the mainstreaming of religious slaughter and reinforcing the current law and long-standing requirement that this should be a very limited derogation.
Mr Eustice said: “There has been an alarming rise in the proportion of farm animals slaughtered without stunning and our regulations in this area are outdated. We are falling behind other developed countries. On every other issue that concerns religion, the political parties allow their MPs a free vote to wrestle with difficult moral dilemmas. It is time for all the main parties to make religious slaughter a free vote issue so MPs can improve the law.”
He argued that successive governments had found it difficult to address the issue because it is contentious and divisive and, as a result, are being left behind by other developed nations when it comes to our legislation on religious slaughter. In Australia and New Zealand, non-stun slaughter is not permitted. In many European countries there is either a requirement that there should be an immediate post cut stun where a derogation is used or in some cases a prohibition on non-stun slaughter. In Germany, there is a strict quota system in place to ensure that abattoirs are only allowed to use the religious derogation where they are able to prove the actual need for the final market of the animals being slaughtered.