Australia – Roger Fletcher on Halal pre-stunning

Australia’s largest sheepmeat processor — and largest halal
sheepmeat exporter in the world — said most of the industry opposed
religious ritual slaughter on conscious animals.

International Exports owner Roger Fletcher said slaughtering without
electrical stunning was undesirable not only because of animal cruelty
issues but because it slowed productivity and created workplace health
and safety concerns.

Mr Fletcher’s company exports halal meat
— killed with prior stunning — to 95 countries from his plants in
Dubbo, NSW, and Albany, Western Australia, that have a combined
capacity to slaughter 90,000 sheep and lambs a week.

“All the
major processors that are killing a heap of sheep want to stun their
sheep and I’ve been able to convince my clients … that it is
acceptable,” he said.

But federal Minister for Agriculture
Peter McGauran, who announced a review of the ritual slaughter
regulations earlier this month, said there was strong demand for meat
exports slaughtered without stunning.

“There is strong demand
for halal and kosher products in communities, both in Australia and
overseas, that have religious beliefs that require slaughter without
stunning,” he said.

The review was announced after it was
revealed that Midfield Meats of Warrnambool had an arrangement with
regulators to kill animals without stunning for halal markets and were
seeking to kill animals without stunning for kosher markets overseas.
Three Victorian domestic abattoirs at Kyneton, Carrum and Geelong also
have approval to slaughter without stunning.

Mr McGauran said
he encouraged halal and kosher markets to accept slaughter with
stunning but the new regulations would be decided solely on the science
of the animal welfare issue. “It’s either an acceptable practice on
animal welfare grounds or it’s not. The commercial judgements are for
the processors.”

Mr Fletcher and industry sources said they
were concerned negative publicity about ritual slaughter could lead to
a backlash against the industry within Australia and overseas.

of the animals killed in Australia are stunned but I am concerned that
this small sector could tarnish us and put the whole industry at risk,”
Mr Fletcher said.

“Over the past 10 years, Australia has
killed only about 50,000 sheep a year in a non-stunned method worth
only $2-$3 million out of a $10 billion industry.”

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union also has called on the
Federal Government to ensure animals were slaughtered in a humane way
while unconscious.

Union secretary Graham Bird said meatworkers did not want to have to slaughter animals that were conscious.