John Blackwell, president-elect of theBritish Veterinary Association, said the religious slaughter of poultry, sheep and cattle caused unnecessary suffering to animals.

Speaking to The Times newspaper Mr Blackwell said British abattoirs could follow the example of the Danish meat industry, which bans the slaughter of animals which are not stunned prior to death.

He said: "The Danish unilateral banning [was done] purely for animal welfare reasons, which is right."

"We may well have to go down that route."