16/06/2014 07:20 BST | Updated 12/08/2014 06:59 BST

The Shocking Truth About Non-Stun Slaughter

Of all the issues that I deal with as the CEO of a farm animal welfare charity, slaughter is one that never fails to arouse great passions.

Slaughtering animals without first stunning them into unconsciousness seems to be a particularly emotive issue.

In the EU, slaughtering animals without first stunning them to render them unconscious is illegal but an allowance is made for certain religious communities who require animals to be conscious at the time their throats are cut.

In recent weeks there has been much media attention on this issue and many strong opinions have been voiced.

Now, we can't ignore the fact that some of those opinions have been voiced in a divisive way that often reveal questionable motives that I simply do not share. But while we should call out anyone who is expounding views based on prejudice, we should not let that distract us from the real issue here: that millions of farm animals are suffering an unnecessarily painful and hugely distressing death every year.

Some have said that the fuss over non-stun slaughter is hypocritical because it isn't accompanied by an outcry over the conditions that some animals are farmed in. Well, my charity Compassion in World Farming can't be accused of being guilty on that one!

And let's not spend too much time, either, giving oxygen to the frankly baffling argument that 'these animals are going to die anyway, so what does it matter?' which, if its logic is followed, would excuse all sorts of terrifying abuse in the abattoir, and presumably without too much of a stretch, on the farm too.

My only concern here is animal welfare, and there is such a clear case for pre-slaughter stunning that the government's inaction on this issue appals me.

For that reason, I urge you to sign the British Veterinary Association (BVA) petition calling on the government to ensure effective stunning at slaughter. As a very temporary interim measure only, it should also be compulsory to ensure clear labelling as to slaughter method. This second point is surely a no brainer - transparency in the food chain is essential, as the horsemeat scandal highlighted. Consumers surely have the right to know how the animal that provided their meat was killed.

The good news is that most animals killed for halal purposes in the UK are already pre-slaughter stunned. This clearly points to widespread acceptance within the Muslim community of this more humane slaughter practice.

What is not so good news is that we recently discovered that chickens slaughtered for halal using pre-stunning in the UK may be stunned using electric currents that are not rendering the birds unconscious, but instead immobilising them through painful electric shocks before having their throats cut. This is not only cruel, but also illegal. The Government needs to make sure that swift enforcement action is taken to stop this clear breach of welfare law.

Chickens are sentient beings, they deserve a lot better from us, far better than such an horrific and undignified death.

The science is clear and common sense tells us the same - all animals slaughtered in this country should be effectively stunned before slaughter. The government must act and we must continue to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.