If you answered ‘yes’, what definition should be used, and should the list of needs in the Animal Welfare Act 2016 be changed?
As a humanist, I believe that society has a duty to reduce animal suffering arising from human behaviour. I am concerned that the current definition of ‘welfare needs of animals’ does not include a duty to prevent pain and suffering to animals during slaughter.
At present, the law requires all animals to be pre-stunned before slaughter, so that they are insensible to pain and distress. However, there are exceptions to this law for Muslims and Jews who wish to slaughter animals using halal and kosher methods. These methods, which include cutting the animal’s throat with a knife and slowly bleeding it to death, are incompatible with the welfare standards applied more generally, take no account of the suffering and pain caused to the animal, and can only be described as cruel. I believe that these exceptions, to otherwise sensible welfare laws, should be ended. My view is shared by many animal welfare and veterinary organisations, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the British Veterinary Association, the Humane Slaughter Association, and Humanists UK. The Government’s own Farm Animal Welfare Committee is also of this view.
This could be achieved through expanding the fifth part of the definition of an animal’s welfare needs to include the need to pre-stun animals before slaughter. It should read ‘the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease whilst alive and during the the process of slaughter (including by the use of pre-stunning), euthanasia, and culling.’