A leading British veterinarian has criticized the "unacceptable" rise in the number of animals killed in ritual slaughter.
Prof. Bill Reilly, former president of the British Veterinary Association, said estimates suggested more animals were slaughtered than was necessary and that action is needed to curb, if not halt, the slaughter of animals for meat consumption without prior stunning.
He also suggests that some abattoirs might be refusing to stun animals before slaughter simply to cut costs.
Ritual slaughter is lawful in the UK and the EU in order to satisfy the dietary requirements of Jews and Muslims.
He said he was "appalled" to witness Shechita slaughter for the first time as an undergraduate student.” The distress, fear and pain were there for all to see (and hear) in the abattoir." The former Farm Animal Council (FAWC) had concluded that throat-cutting resulted in "very significant pain and distress", Reilly said.
He continued to note that an estimated two million animals, mostly poultry, were killed in the UK each year without stunning for the orthodox Jewish community.
A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the number of animals not stunned prior to slaughter was relatively low, accounting for 3% of cattle, 10% of sheep and goats, and 4% of poultry.
Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK said Prof Reilly's "deeply flawed" statements appeared to have been based on discredited science. "The fact is there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support his arguments at all," Mr Cohen said.
"If he is truly concerned about animal welfare, his time would be better spent campaigning against the so called 'humane' methods of mechanical stunning including captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning and clubbing, not to mention the many millions of animals who are 'mis-stunned' every year," Cohen stated.