(JTA) — A senior British veterinarian has called for a halt to slaughtering animals without first stunning them, which is prohibited according to both Jewish and Muslim law.
Bill Reilly, a former president of the British Veterinary Association, wrote in the May issue of its publication, the Veterinary Record, that the practice of slaughtering animals without stunning is "unacceptable."
While pointing out that the United Kingdom and the European Union permit ritual slaughter for Jews and Muslims, Reilly wrote that "The challenge to society is to enable religious slaughter without compromising animal welfare."
He qualifies by saying, "My concern has nothing to do with the expression of religious belief but with the practice of killing by throat cutting without pre-stunning."
Reilly believes that the animals suffer greatly during slaughter without stunning. He described the "distress, fear and pain" he witnessed in the animals when seeing shechitah, or Jewish ritual slaughter, for the first time.
He said about 2 million animals, mostly chickens, were killed without stunning in the UK each year for the Jewish community, and that halal meat for Muslims makes up a quarter of the UK meat market, though Muslims comprise only about 4 percent of the population.
Reilly said he believes that most secular people would avoid eating the meat if they knew the animal had suffered when it was killed.
Last June, a bill requiring animals to be stunned before slaughter passed the lower house of the Dutch Parliament. The Dutch Senate in December delayed its vote on banning ritual slaughter, appointing a commission to study putting new standards for such slaughter into place.
In 2010, New Zealand banned any slaughter without stunning. The ban was partially turned back to allow for the kosher slaughter of chicken.