The British government has said that it will use Brexit as an opportunity to tighten up laws surrounding the labelling of meat, and specifically to identify whether an animal was stunned before it was killed. It has been proposed that the new guidelines will come into effect after the country leaves Europe and are no longer under the control of EU rules.
Under current laws, all animals must be stunned before being killed, but there are exceptions that are made for religious reasons. Ministers from both sides of the political spectrum have been calling for unstunned meat to be labelled as such, but the current rules fall under the purview of the EU.
Proposed changes, which would represent a tightening of the rules, as well as clearer labelling, would come following the completion of Brexit and would be a big step towards the UK cementing its position as having one of the best records for animal welfare, of any nation.
The UK currently uses EU laws, which do not necessitate labelling food to indicate whether the animal was stunned prior to being killed. The practise of slaughtering conscious animals was largely abandoned in the 20th Century, but it continues in the Jewish and Muslim communities.
In 2002, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe declared that “slaughtering animals without prior stunning is unacceptable under any circumstances.”
Since then, animal welfare campaigners, backed by a growing number of politicians, have decried the slaughtering of non-stunned animals. While the UK has led the way in this regard, some European countries have followed suit.
The UK government has long said that animals should be stunned before slaughtering, but there is a caveat to these guidelines. Animals that are slaughtered for specific religious communities do not need to abide by the same rules.
Under current laws, meat does not need to be labelled. This means that, according to some groups, unwitting consumers could be buying meat from animals that were not stunned prior to slaughter. For the individual, this means that they could be inadvertently supporting a practice that is considered inhumane by some groups. For the government, it means that more unstunned meat is being sold than should be.
Lord Gardiner, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, said that the Government will introduce requirements that food producers include a label on their products that states whether or not meat was stunned prior to slaughter.
Farming UK has reported that, even though the government want all meat to be stunned prior to slaughter, the number of animals that are not stunned has doubled every year since 2011. Approximately 3 million sheep are now killed in this way, as well as 200 million chickens.
For now, the laws have not changed, and the government are likely to ask for consultation before they make changes. However, Brexit is closing, and this means that the laws could change quickly, once we finally leave the Union. Even if your business does not change its labelling practices yet, you should prepare yourself because the changes do look highly likely to happen, and if you are unprepared, it could mean that you have to invest more heavily or face fines.
What Do You Need To Do?
The government has an extensive set of guidelines that need to be adhered to when it comes to food packaging. Labels must:
- Be easy to read
- Be permanent
- Be easily visible
- Not mislead the consumer.
To ensure that you follow these guidelines, you need a good quality label printer and durable, long-lasting labels.
The label printer can be incorporated into your existing product line and factory machinery, allowing for the automatic printing and application of labels to food products. Although there is currently no requirement to label meat as stunned or non-stunned, the crescendo of ministerial voices calling for the rules to be changed following Brexit would suggest that these changes are coming.
Label Line UK
Label Line can help you source the best label printing, applicators, and other labelling systems, install them in your plant, and we also provide high quality labels. Call us today and speak to one of our professional and knowledgeable team, and we will help you meet your labelling requirements.