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Petition started by Occupy for Animals on August, 19, 2012.

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The ritual slaughter of animals decreed by Jewish and Muslim dietary laws require that the animals are conscious when they have their throats slit. In the European secular food industry, regulations strive to minimise "the risk of causing pain, fear or distress to the animals" in their being slaughtered for food. Crucially, these rules require the stunning of animals before being killed, either with a bolt to the brain, or with electricity. However, the law kowtows before the Jewish kashrut and Islamic halal guidelines in permitting avoidance of stunning.

In 2009, New Zealand veterinarian scientist Craig Johnson was given an award from the Humane Slaughter Association, for his body of work that demonstrates that animals suffer more without stunning. In one crucial experiment, Johnson et al administered mild anaesthetics to calves so that they could not feel the pain of the incision, but the pain response was still measurable. It remained present in the animals without stunning, but was immediately erased by stunning.

"I think our work is the best evidence yet that it's painful", Johnson told New Scientist. While this may appear to come from the oft-referenced University of the Bleeding Obvious, in fact defenders of Jewish shechita and Muslim dhabiha slaughter cite scientific evidence that the practice is not painful to the animal. In 2003, the Muslim Council of Great Britainclaimed that "the brain is instantaneously starved of blood and there is no time to start feeling any pain." Johnson's work says otherwise. [A. Rutherford 2009]

Since then at least two studies have been published in Europe (Lambooij 2008 and DIALREL 2011). 

In the DIALREL report of last year, nine researchers (among them Lambooij) concluded that throat cutting without anaesthetic carried the highest risks of animals suffering: 'Pain, suffering and distress during the cut and during bleeding are highly likely.' Sedation methods are admittedly not without risks for animal wellbeing, but they are considerable smaller, claim the researchers. They cite from about 300 scientific articles and base their views on observations by veterinary researchers in slaughterhouses in Germany, Spain, England, France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Israel and Australia.

The European Union directive, "European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter", generally requires stunning before slaughter, but allows member states to allow exemptions for religious slaughter: "Each Contracting Party may authorize derogations from the provisions concerning prior stunning in the following cases: – slaughtering in accordance with religious rituals ...".

In May 2009 the European Parliament voted in favour of allowing ritual slaughter in member states.

What is the difference for the animals?

Non-stunned animals are slaughtered in vivid mindfulness, they experience unacceptable suffering. Their agony can last several minutes.

In the context of slaughter with stunning, the animal does not suffer at the time of slaughter, since there is loss of consciousness. Scientists have clearly stated: "Because of the serious animal welfare associated with slaughter without stunning, stunning should always be carried out before the slaughter."

In some countries, ritually killed animals are stunned before bleeding (Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand). The steps are then the same as for conventional slaughter.
The video (graphic!) in the following link demonstrates the difference between slaughter with prior stunning, vs slaughter without stunning (ritual or religious slaughter). While the animal in the first method is rendered unconscious immediately, the animals slaughtered without prior stunning experience their agony in full consciousness. You don't need to be an expert to see that this causes immense unnecessary suffering to the animals. 

If we, as the dominant species on Earth (!), are to use and consume animals, it is our duty to minimize their suffering in doing so. The anachronism of slaughter without stunning has no place in the modern world and should be outlawed. This special indulgence to religious practices should be replaced with the evidence-based approaches to which the rest of us are subject. 

For us, religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins.

Our petition requests that the European Parliament prompts the Council to delete from Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the Protection of Animals at the Time of Killing the derogation whereby animals can be killed without prior stunning where such methods of slaughter are prescribed by religious rites (Art. 4.4).

By signing this petition, the letter that you can read under the tab 'Petition Letter' will be sent instantly to Mrs Erminia Mazzoni - Chair of the Committee on Petitions at the European Parliament.

Thank you very much in advance for your signature. 

Letter to
Chair of the Committee on Petitions at the European Parliament Mrs Erminia Mazzoni (Chair of the Committee on Petitions at the European Parliament)
I hereby request that the European Parliament prompts the Council to delete from Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the Protection of Animals at the Time of Killing the derogation whereby animals can be killed without prior stunning where such methods of slaughter are prescribed by religious rites (Art. 4.4).

Such derogation is in contradiction to the overall objective of the Regulation, i.e. the protection of animals from pain, anxiety and suffering during the slaughter process. Despite the statement in the Recitals, whereby it is emphasized that “animal welfare is a Community value that is enshrined in the Protocol (No. 33) on protection and welfare of animals, annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community (Protocol No. 33)”, the Regulation allows for the methods of slaughter which, according to the contemporary standards, must be viewed as unquestionably cruel and causing unnecessary pain and anxiety, in terms of both physical and mental distress, and making animals die in extreme suffering.

This fundamental inconsistency in the Regulation was articulated already by the European Economic and Social Committee, in their opinion on the proposal for Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 (see EESC opinion of 25 February 2009). The EESC also indicated that with innovative stunning systems it is possible to comply with religious rules while ensuring that animals are properly stunned but still alive prior to slaughter. Serious objections to the derogation on ritual slaughter have been also expressed by numerous organizations of scholars, animal welfare experts, food safety consultants and veterinarians (e.g. FAWC, HAS, EFSA, FVE), as well as by the experts involved in the DIALREL project funded by the European Commission. Unfortunately, none of these opinions has been taken into account in the said Regulation.

The underlying reason for the derogation on ritual slaughter was the Commission’s concern about the needs of some of the EU citizens, stemming from the special dietary requirements of certain Muslim or Jewish communities. However, the experience of the past few years shows that the current derogation for non-stunned slaughter is abused to a large extent in some Member States, with the result that the meat and meat products from animals slaughtered without pre-stunning enters the mainstream food chain without being labelled, depriving European consumers of their right to make an informed choice on whether they wish to eat such products. This issue was addressed by the European Parliament in the Resolution of 4 July 2012 on the European Union Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015 (Art. 49). The extreme example of such abuse is Poland, where – despite the fact that non-stunned slaughter is not allowed under the Polish Animal Protection Act and the Muslim and Jewish communities are a minute percentage of the country population (less than 0.05%) – ritual slaughter according to Halal and Shechitah methods is done on an enormous scale in dozens of slaughterhouses throughout the country (according to the official 2011 statistics – over 150,000 tons of beef and over 50 million of chickens!). Almost 100% of the meat and meat products from non-stunned slaughter is exported from Poland, mainly to the Muslim countries and Israel. Thus, the non-stunned slaughter in the Polish slaughterhouses does not serve the purpose which the European legislator had in mind when adopting the derogation, i.e. respecting the religious rites of certain European citizens, but is done merely for commercial reasons – to maximize the profits of Polish entrepreneurs, who are becoming the leading meat suppliers to the Muslim and Jewish markets worldwide.

Furthermore, the alleged need to maintain the derogation on ritual slaughter in the European legislation is not supported by the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. Although the Court admits that eating the meat from ritual slaughter is an element of the freedom of conscience and religion, yet it is explicitly stated “there would be interference with the freedom to manifest one’s religion only if the illegality of performing ritual slaughter made it impossible for ultra-orthodox Jews to eat meat from animals slaughtered with the religious prescriptions they considered applicable” (case of Cha’are Shalom Ve Tsedek vs France, judgment of 27 June 2000). In the said case, the Court concluded that religious freedom was not restricted as long as the special kind of meat could be imported from another country.

In view of all the above described circumstances, I believe that it is only right that the European Parliament prompts the Council to delete from Regulation No. 1099/2009 the derogation on ritual slaughter and adopts uniform European legislation under which non-stunned slaughter is totally banned in all the Member States.

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