Please be reassured that animal welfare is extremely important to me and I will not tolerate unnecessary cruelty of any kind.
The Government shares that view so there are strict legal requirements in place. In slaughterhouses, these requirements are monitored and enforced by Official Veterinarians of the Food Standards Agency to ensure that animals are spared unnecessary suffering, distress or pain during the slaughter process.
I was very pleased when the Government recently announced that it would be making CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses.
Turning to religious slaughter, I understand how you feel about this. As you are probably aware there are long-standing provisions in UK law that, subject to specific requirements, permit the slaughter of animals without prior stunning to meet Jewish and Islamic religious requirements. I would prefer all animals to be stunned before slaughter, but the Government has to balance this with the religious freedom afforded in this country.
I am, however, determined to ensure that religious slaughter is only carried out by licensed slaughtermen in approved or regulated slaughterhouses. Slaughter must not be permitted in any other place. Consumers should have the information they need to make an informed choice about what they eat. Most halal and kosher meat is already labelled voluntarily, but because there is a single market for food across the European Union any mandatory labelling system would need to cover more than just the UK. The European Commission is currently reviewing this, and the Government and I await their report.