New proposals governing the humane slaughter of animals in the UK could have huge implications for Jewish and Muslim communities, and the British meat processing industry as a whole.
The findings of the government-funded committee Farm Animals Welfare (FAWC), expected to be published next month, could see Jewish and Muslim communities lose their legal right to slaughter animals without first stunning them.
The council, which has been researching slaughter methods and animal welfare for the past few months, is expected to conclude that the Muslim and Jewish methods of slaughter are inhumane.
These methods involve a religiously trained butcher cutting the throat of a cow, sheep or chicken and letting it bleed to death.
Although European animal welfare regulation stipulates that all farm animals must be stunned prior to slaughter, unless they are to be killed by religious methods, the FAWC is likely to recommend that this practice should be abolished altogether.
Britain has large Muslim and Jewish communities, and any move to outlaw ritual slaughter practices is likely to be met with the stiffest opposition. A ban would end hundreds of years of religious rites.
Indeed, the market for halal meat has increased dramatically in recent years. Millions of animals are killed this way each year.
At least a quarter of sheep killed in the UK are slaughtered according to halal methods, while around 7 per cent of the total poultry market is halal.
Any move to end the practice would therefore have a serious impact on the British meat processing industry.
The fight to maintain halal practices in the UK could be a long drawn out affair. Any proposals that FAWC makes will have to first go to the Department fro Environment food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which will then consult on the proposals before any decision was made.