A part of the Hippocratic Oath which every Vet must commit to, before acceptance as a member of the profession in the UK, requires that he or she pledges to act at all times to relieve suffering in the animals under their care; and so the veterinary profession is focused on doing everything it can to reduce animal suffering.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the RSPCA have been in the headlines recently following a debate in the House of Commons over “Non-Stun Slaughter”.
Most animals passing through Abattoirs in the UK are stunned to render them unconscious, prior to being slaughtered. However, some religions insist that the meat they eat comes from animals that were not stunned prior to being slaughtered.
The opinion of the Veterinary Community is that this may cause an increase in the suffering of animals that are not stunned and so, towards the end of last year, the BVA launched an e-petition against so called Non-Stun Slaughter. The petition has received in excess of 115,000 signatories demonstrating the widespread concerns over this practice.
Groups who practice Non-Stun Slaughter claim that the act of slaughter itself is instantaneous (a fact that is hotly debated by many) and they also point to instances of mis-stun where the stunning is unsuccessful.
Each side of the debate produce studies that claim to prove their side of the argument.
For me, the very first discussion should be centred on food labelling. Whether you agree or disagree with stunning, as a consumer, we should know what we are being presented with on the Supermarket shelf. Currently, meat that has come from animals that were not stunned, does not need to be marked as such and so those who are opposed to non-stunning have no way of knowing whether they are unwittingly endorsing the practice. It is likely that non-stun meat is not only being consumed by those who require it on religious grounds but also by those who are purchasing it unwittingly.
I think that the consumer should be aware of the origin of their food so that they can then make an informed decision. It is essential that the meat industry creates a watertight mechanism for tracking the product from the field to the plate to ensure that the labelling is accurate and can be trusted.