John Blackwell of the British Veterinary Association (Letters, 24 February) says that the “campaign to end non-stun slaughter is… not about religion, but about the welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter”. While I cannot comment on halal, I am familiar with shechitah, the Jewish method of slaughter.
It is carefully supervised by the rabbinic authorities who dismiss any shochet (person officially certified to slaughter animals) whose knife was not razor sharp, ensuring that the blood flows so fast that the animal loses consciousness before it could feel any pain; in effect it is stunned. The BVA claims that electric shock stunning is more humane but in about 20 per cent of cases it fails and has to be repeated. It is essentially the same as electro-convulsive therapy, which has been banned unless the patient is first anaesthetised.
Unfortunately, disregard for animal welfare is prevalent throughout the industry. Animal Aid surveyed eight randomly chosen British slaughterhouses and found evidence of cruelty in seven, involving mishandling animals before slaughter by the “Christian” staff.
It took nine months of campaigning against the “cruelty of ritual slaughter” for the BVA’s e-petition to end non-stun slaughter to gain 115,000 signatures, whereas one calling for its continuation received 122,000 in two weeks. So much for Dr Blackwell’s claim that it “clearly shows the strength of feeling”.
Much needs to be done to improve animal welfare, but the BVA’s obsession with ritual slaughter is a red herring – it should concentrate on real abuses rather than whip up xenophobic prejudices.
Martin D Stern