The Department of Agriculture should move to reduce the number of cattle and sheep slaughtered without prior stunning as a matter of priority, Veterinary Ireland has said.
The vet group’s position remains that no animals should be slaughtered without being stunned first.
However, in acknowledging that a complete ban is unlikely, it is seeking that the numbers processed this way should be just enough to satisfy demand from religious communities.
It is also pushing for meat to be labelled with information that would let shoppers know whether an animal was stunned or not before slaughter, although “market forces” would not be sufficient to reduce the practice, vet Brendan Smyth told the Veterinary Ireland conference on Friday 25 November.
Smyth said that in 2019 around 980,000 sheep and 140,000 cattle were killed in the State without being stunned first. “We feel as if there are a lot more animals being slaughtered not stunned [first] than is required,” he said.
“It should be the aim that we have all animals at least electrically stunned before slaughter in this country.
“We also call that any meat or products from these sources should be clearly labelled to enable all consumers to make an informed choice.”
Differing slaughter protocols between religious groups see some religious slaughter practices allowing for electrical stunning, while others do not permit the practice.
Veterinary Ireland supports the European vet body in asserting that “the slaughter of animals without prior stunning is unacceptable under any circumstances” and it called on the Department to “stop the extensive use of slaughter without stunning as a priority”.
Some 12 EU countries have either banned or placed restrictions on the practice of slaughtering without stunning, Smyth told the conference.