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British vets launch online drive against ritual slaughter

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(JTA) — The British Veterinary Association launched an online petition calling for the end of slaughtering animals without first stunning them, as is done in kosher slaughter.

The government petition launched this week by the association — with the support of RSPCA, a British animal welfare charity — had garnered nearly 8,100 signatures by Thursday afternoon. The association is aiming for 100,000 signatures to convince the House of Commons to hold a debate on the subject.

Stunning before slaughter is forbidden for both Jewish kosher and Muslim halal ritual slaughter.

“We must differentiate between religious and non-stun slaughter,” the petition says. “Our concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter.”

British law requires stunning before slaughter except for religious slaughter.

The petition also calls for clear labeling on meat and meat products, so consumers are aware they are buying meat that was not stunned prior to slaughter. The hindquarters of animals killed by ritual slaughter, or shechitah, are not kosher and often are sold in the mainstream market.

Calls in Britain for stunning animals before all slaughter have been increasing in recent years.

A March 2013 poll by the Jewish Chronicle of London found that 45 percent of Britons favored banning Jewish ritual slaughter, with another 28 percent saying they were undecided and 27 percent opposed to a ban.

“BVA has long believed that slaughter without pre-stunning unnecessarily compromise animal welfare at the time of death,” said Robin Hargreaves, BVA’s president and a veterinary surgeon. “It affects millions of animals every year and action is long overdue.”

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