British poultry producers have welcomed Defra’s decision to halt the implementation of tough new EU rules on pre-slaughter stunning.

The department withdrew the European Commission’s Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing regulations on 16 May, days before they were set to be enshrined in law on 19 May.

The new rules would have required abattoirs to increase currents for stunning poultry to potentially lethal doses. This had been welcomed by animal welfare campaigners but concerned some halal producers, as birds need to be able to recover from stunning for the meat to comply with halal slaughter rules.

“We want to give it further consideration,” said a spokeswoman for Defra, adding it was a “complicated issue”.

The delay was a positive development for animal welfare, claimed British Poultry Council director of food policy, Richard Griffiths. “There were serious concerns over the halal status of stunned animals under these rules,” he said.

“Our fear was it would drive some producers outside our pro-stunning membership to non-stunning, which would bring a subsequent drop in welfare standards.”