Is there a big increase in religious slaughter of animals?

A recent report by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) quickly became front page news due its focus on religiously slaughtered meat. The Times dedicates a large section of its front page to news that non-stun slaughter ‘soared’ due to Muslims (although no figures are presented) campaigning for ‘traditional methods of slaughter’. Its headline ‘Big increase in religous slaughter of animals’ is most dramatic.

Awal Fuseini, certification manager of the Halal Food Authority, whose members pre-stun meat did mention that some Muslims did push for non-stun meat under a false assumption that stunning equals death.

The assessments were carried out at 232 red meat slaughterhouses and 69 white meat slaughterhouses during a week in September. In the report, it stressed that data on slaughter methods is not routinely catalogued “The FSA does not currently collect data on the method of slaughter at an aggregated level on a routine basis,” so the figures only offer a snapshot.

Drawing comparisons to the previous report in 2011 is something the FSA wants to avoid but it does acknowledge the rise in non-stun slaughter.

Viewing the figures in isolation and just percentage points distorts the actual figures – whilst 25 per cent of cattle slaughtered under halal methods used non-stun methods the number was just 366 out of 1,437. In fact, on this strand of data, kosher slaughter (that uses no pre-stunning) outscored non-stun halal at 475 (1 per cent of overall 44,216 figure) but this trend does not follow with other meats.

For sheep and lamb, the total figure of non-stun halal totalled 37 per cent and 41 per cent for pre-stunned halal. But the former totalled just under 45,000 as pre-stunned halal totalled 121, 472. The overall figure was 295,500 and kosher totalled 601 (under one per cent).

The Times correctly points out that 16 per cent of halal slaughtered poultry involved non-stunning. Yet in the context of the report, the 84 per cent figure for pre-stunned halal totals over 3million (out of 17million). Kosher meat totalled less than one per cent.

In spite of a strongly worded editorial that called slaughter without stunning is ‘indefensible’ the overall total is in the minority:

“The results indicate overall that the number of animals not stunned prior to slaughter accounted for 2% of cattle, 15% of sheep and goats and 3% of poultry.”

Yes, there is an increase in non-stun religiously slaughtered meats but in the context of the above caveats it remains a minority practise.