Thank you to all those who have contacted me about this issue.
I hope you know by now that I am an animal lover and absolutely understand the importance of these issues. The UK’s strong commitment in this area is also reflected in the World Animal Protection’s recent Animal Protection Index. This judged 50 countries on their policy and legislation for animal welfare and saw the UK ranked joint first alongside New Zealand, Austria and Switzerland. Recent changes to legislation regulating the quality of cages for hens shows this protection in action.
I was delighted at the Secretary of State’s recent announcement to make CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses. Indeed, you can my response to this here:
Turning to your point about mandatory labelling. Currently, the method of slaughter is not a labelling requirement but many consumers would prefer to have this clearly signalled on any packaging. This legislation is currently provided for through a piece of existing EU legislation. Indeed, the EU Commission published a report on food labelling and religious slaughter in February 2015. The then Minister George Eustice confirmed that the Government welcomed this report and was studying its’ findings. Furthermore, in the most recent parliamentary question, Lord Gardiner of Kimble said that the government was looking at how to provide more information and increase transparency in the light of Brexit:
“There are currently no specific rules covering the method of slaughter labelling for meat products. We welcomed the findings of last year’s European report into the labelling of meat and religious slaughter, and will assess any proposals that come forward from the EU Commission…We will give further consideration to labelling issues in the context of the UK’s exit from the EU.”
Leading supermarkets can opt in to a voluntary labelling scheme. For example, Morrison’s halal meat policy states that all animals killed for branded fresh meat are stunned and no prayer is read at slaughter:
“Customers who do not wish to purchase halal or kosher products can choose Morrisons-branded fresh meat in full confidence that all animals are stunned and no prayer is read at slaughter. The same applies to all of the meat sold from our in-store butchers counters.”
Even so, other supermarkets like Tesco state that all their branded fresh meat comes from animals slaughtered to its own animal welfare requirements but they have acknowledged that some suppliers prepare all their meat to halal standards because they also serve Middle Eastern markets.
Under current European Union single market rules, it is illegal to ban the export of animals to other EU countries; there are instead EU and UK laws to protect the welfare of live animals during transport. I know that the new Secretary of State for Defra is considering this amongst the other needs and requirement for the UK and is in discussions with numerous stakeholders about this. You might wish to sign up for alerts about this on the Defra website at the link here:
Finally, turning to the point about antibiotics. Ministers are fully committed to ensuring that antibiotics are used responsibly. In September 2016 further plans were announced to tackle the issue, including a commitment to significantly reduce antibiotic use in animals. Long term, sector-specific reduction targets are also being set at the moment that will bring sustainable change across the agricultural industry.
I hope you find this information helpful.