Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, has tabled an amendment to the Agriculture Bill to create mandatory labels for meat products, which will indicate the method of slaughter used, and whether the animal was stunned during the act of slaughter.
According to a recent survey, 72% of consumers want to know more about the method of slaughter used for the meat products they eat, and this change will ensure that consumers will always have that information to hand when purchasing these products. These labels will also indicate whether the animal was stunned or not during the act of slaughter, as millions of animals are slaughtered without stunning in the UK every year, which causes unnecessary suffering.
By design, these labels will stop consumers from, unknowingly, buying products that were prepared in a way that they do not agree with. For example, Government statistics from 2018 make clear that the supply of religiously slaughtered meat, some of which has not been stunned, is significantly exceeding demand and is entering the mainstream market unlabelled, even though many consumers do not want their meat products to be prepared in this way.
Moreover, in 2015, nearly 120,000 people signed a petition calling for an end to non-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare, and Giles’ amendment is already supported by a group of twenty-two colleagues from across the political spectrum. The issue of non-stun slaughter was also discussed in a Westminster Hall debate on 3rd April 2019. A transcript of that debate can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-04-03/debates/A6B3FD52-7243-4573-9580-48CD6C9A110A/Non-StunSlaughterOfAnimals
Speaking about the amendment, Giles said:
“I believe that the consumer is now incredibly conscious of animal welfare at the point of slaughter, as I am myself. My intention is to make use of the consumer’s concern and, through these clear labels, ensure that the consumer can always make an informed choice about the products they are buying. I also believe that this change will engender a better knowledge culture of slaughter methods amongst consumers, which makes use of the substantial information available, and this will enable consumers to choose products that were prepared in a way that they agree with.
“And rather than arbitrarily ban any products, I would argue that this change will make the animal welfare conscious consumer gravitate toward products that have utilised humane slaughter methods, with safe and efficient methods of stunning. I have no doubt that the market, and the producer, will respond accordingly to these changes in consumer spending habits.
“I fully recognise that my proposal may cause concern for some religious communities, and I would like to assure all faith communities that they will always be able to source meat products that meet their specifications. I would never want to do anything to change that. But the consumer also has a right to know whether the products they are buying were prepared in a way that they may consider inhumane, and these simple labels will ensure that is the case.
“So, I would argue that my proposal suits all parties: religiously slaughtered meat will still be available for those who need it, and mainstream consumers will have additional information to prevent them from inadvertently buying any products they do not agree with.
“Consumers should not have to forgo their animal welfare concerns for want of a simple label.”