According to the FVE Code of Good Veterinary Practice, veterinarians shall endeavour to ensure the welfare and health of the animals under their care, in whichever section of the veterinary profession they work (FVE GVP code, 2002).
As much concern has been raised regarding the slaughter of animals without prior stunning, for ritual purposes or due to mal practice during ordinary slaughter, FVE undertook to review the scientific aspects of slaughter without prior stunning, in relation to animal welfare and food hygiene.
According to Council Directive 93/119/EC, animals shall be spared any avoidable pain or suffering at the time of slaughter or killing. Therefore, solipeds, ruminants, pigs, rabbits and poultry shall be stunned before slaughter or killed instantaneously. However, as certain religious groups require that animals should not be stunned prior to slaughter, the directive allows limited derogations to take account of the particular requirements of certain religious rites.
Most Member States did use these derogations to allow the slaughter of animals without prior stunning. Outside the European Union however, in countries such as Switzerland, slaughter without prior stunning is prohibited. It is also noteworthy that in other parts of the world, in New Zealand in particular, protocols have been developed, which allow specific methods of stunning whilst meeting the requirements of some of the religious rites.