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Non-Stun Slaughter in the UK

UK legislation requires animals to be stunned prior to slaughter, however, an exemption exists where animals can be killed without stunning in accordance with religious rites. Therefore, whilst the majority of animals are pre-stunned, a proportion is not, meaning they are conscious and able to experience pain during the slaughter process.

For example, 25% of sheep in the UK are slaughtered without prior stunning. All RSPCA Assured animals are stunned prior to slaughter and there are currently no RSPCA Assured products labelled as halal or kosher.


Which Religions Require Non-Stun Slaughter?

The exemption to slaughter animals without prior stunning extends only to the Islamic and Jewish faiths.

What is Halal?
What is Kosher?

In Islam, food must be certified as halal, which means “permissible”. For meat to be halal, there are certain conditions that must be met, such as the slaughter person being a Muslim, and the animal must be alive and healthy at the point of slaughter. A dedication, either tasmiya or shahada, is also recited at the point of slaughter. If meat is not slaughtered within these conditions, it is haram (“forbidden”). Today, many Muslims accept stunning and, according to an FSA survey in 2018, 58% of animals slaughtered through the halal method were stunned prior to slaughter.

Animals slaughtered for halal meat can be pre-stunned through an electrical method that produces narcosis- temporary unconsciousness which, if the animal is left to recover, is fully reversible. For example, head-only electrical stunning is commonly used to stun sheep for both halal and non-religious slaughter.

In Judaism, kosher (translated as “clean” or “pure”) relates to foods that are acceptable for consumption. For meat products to be kosher, the animal must be slaughtered through the shechita method, which has a number of requirements such as the animal must be uninjured and healthy, the person slaughtering the animal must be a trained Schochet (Jewish slaughter person), and an extremely sharp knife (chalaf) must be used to kill the animal. Stunning prior to slaughter is not permitted in shechita slaughter, and meat from an animal slaughtered in this way would be neveila (forbidden).

How Many Animals are Not Pre-Stunned in the UK?

The FSA estimated that in 2018 25% of sheep, 1% of cattle and 10% of meat chickens were slaughtered without prior stunning. As an organisation that values compassion and understanding, we respect everyone’s right to their own beliefs. However, we will never compromise on our mission to protect the welfare of animals and advocate that all animals must be slaughtered through a humane method with prior stunning.

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