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Meat ban call unites Muslims, Jews

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Muslims and Jews are forbidden by their religions to consume blood.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Muslims and Jews have joined forces to oppose any possible move to stop animals being slaughtered by bleeding them to death.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) -- an independent body that advises the UK government -- this week called for a ban on the halal and shahita, or kosher, methods of slaughter, saying that the animals suffered severely before their deaths.

"From a welfare perspective we're persuaded from the scientific evidence we've seen that these animals are actually suffering significantly," said Dr. Judy MacArthur Clark, chairman of FAWC.

FAWC will recommend to the government that the exemption currently allowed for kosher and halal meat from UK law -- currently animals should be stunned first commonly through shooting a bolt into the animal's head -- should be ended. Britain's agriculture ministry said that it would consider the advice before making any decision.

But the call prompted an angry response from both Muslims and Jews. The Muslim Council of Britain said both groups believe that outlawing their method of killing animals -- a single cut to the throat -- is racist and a violation of their human rights.

"If ever these recommendations are to be considered it would clearly be a matter of religious discrimination and I think as far as the present human rights law is concerned it would be in breach of that as well," said Dr. Iqbal Sacranie from the Muslim Council.

Both groups deny there is any scientific basis for banning their practices and maintain that the traditional practices -- where animals can take up to two minutes to bleed to death -- are not unduly cruel to animals.

"We take the view shahita is a fundamental religious practice, one that has been carried out for literally thousands of years and we would regard it as a fundamental assault upon our religious rights if shahita were to be banned in this country," said Neville Nagler from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Under the halal and shahita throat-cutting methods animals lose consciousness through a loss of blood.

"We know in sheep for example that is quite a short period, probably only about five to seven seconds. But with cattle scientific evidence shows it's quite a long period of time -- 20 seconds, 40 seconds, even as long as two minutes," said MacArthur Clark.

Under laws defined in the Koran, Muslims are strictly forbidden from eating blood and it is central to their religious life.

The Jewish kosher lifestyle -- defined in the Five Books of Moses -- separates meat from milk and veins. Forbidden fats and blood -- defined in the Torah -- are drained from the animal.

The religious groups say that pre-slaughter stunning is unacceptable because it subjects the animals to twice the amount of pain and retains blood in the carcass.

They also claim that it is a risk to human health and safety and that emerging evidence links it to an increased risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Hundreds of millions of animals are killed each year in the UK for consumption using pre-slaughter stunning.

-- CNN Correspondent Robin Oakley contributed to this report


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