According to Jewish law, animals cannot be stunned during slaughter. Vets and animal rights groups have attacked the ‘inhumane’ practice. Mail on Sunday finds meat butchered for Jewish market is being sold on. It then ends in the regular food chain alongside normally-slaughtered meat.

The Jewish ‘shechita’ method of slaughter – the practice of slitting an animal’s throat and allowing it to bleed to death – has been slammed as ‘inhumane’ by vets and animal rights groups because the creature is conscious when it happens.

Jewish law governing shechita strictly forbids pre-stunning,  as do some Islamic groups for  the production of halal meat. However, recent research suggests that unstunned animals can feel pain for up to two minutes.

In conventional methods of slaughter, animals are rendered unconscious with an electric shock before their throats are slit or they are shot.

Jews who observe strict kosher rules also eat only the front part of  a cow or sheep because the rump  and hind-quarters are deemed ‘unholy’.

But the MoS can reveal that a number of abattoirs in the UK and Ireland that practise shechita are selling these ‘unholy’ parts to British suppliers and retailers, including supermarkets and butchers.

As a result, many consumers are buying their meat unaware of how it was produced.

Although the number of animals killed in the UK under shechita rules is not known, Compassion In World Farming, which campaigns for humane slaughter methods, claims 1.4 million sheep and goats, 32 million chickens and 70,000 cattle are slaughtered for meat without being stunned first.

Experts say meat from an equal number of animals killed by similar methods in Ireland finds its way into the UK, one the biggest markets for Irish abattoirs and suppliers.

'Unholy': The parts marked with an 'X' are potentially making their way into the food chain

‘Unholy’: The parts marked with an ‘X’ are potentially making their way into the food chain

John Murphy, international sales director of Liffey Meats in Co. Cavan – one of Ireland’s biggest abattoirs – said all leftovers from its shechita slaughter is sold to mainstream suppliers in both Ireland and the UK.

The firm kills about 600 cows a week using the un-stunned method, mainly for the Jewish market.
John Mutch, managing director of Mutch Meats, in Witney, Oxfordshire, also admitted that left-over kosher meat ends up in the main food chain.

He said: ‘What if we are doing kosher meat? It’s been legalised by the Government. It’s fit to go into the food chain, and we pass it on to lots of outlets. If animals cost £1,200 to £1,400 a piece, providing it’s fit for human consumption, it’s all got to be sold somewhere.

Preparation: Animals are usually stunned before being killed for their meat, but Jewish law forbids this

Preparation: Animals are usually stunned before being killed for their meat, but Jewish law forbids this

‘I can’t afford to throw away half of the beast, so it gets sold into the food chain. I have a business to run here.’

Stephen Lomax, a technical and legal adviser at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said: ‘The shechita meat is ending up in the entire Gentile market, without any kind of labelling.

‘I know the names of the meat suppliers and even the supermarkets that are selling the meat, but I can’t tell you that because of commercial sensitivity.’

Earlier this month, John Blackwell, chief of the British Veterinary Association, was accused of stoking up anti-Semitism and Islamophobia after claiming the religious slaughter of animals without stunning should be banned because it is cruel.

But Shechita UK, which regulates religious slaughter for the Jewish community, insisted that when trained slaughtermen carry out shechita, the animals feel little pain.

Spokesman Shimon Cohen said: ‘We too advocate better labelling, but a more comprehensive one.

‘Rather than saying just “stunned,” it should say “electrocuted”, “gassed” or “shot with a bolt gun”. Then consumers will be fully informed.’

Celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson also called for clearer labelling. ‘People have a right to know what they are eating,’ he said. ‘I am going to ask my own suppliers next week if any unstunned meat comes into my own restaurants.’