The government has ruled out a complete ban on the slaughtering of animals used by Muslims and Jews for halal and kosher meat.
The non-religious slaughter involves stunning the animal
The Farm Animal Welfare Council has recommended outlawing the killing of animals without stunning them first, saying it caused severe suffering.
One compromise which has been suggested involves stunning animals immediately after cutting the throat.
The government has launched a three-month consultation on the issue.
Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said the FAWC's banning proposal had "understandably been deeply contentious for the Jewish and Muslim
Most farm animals slaughtered in Britain for meat are first stunned by a bolt to the head.
But those earmarked for halal and kosher food must be killed by a single cut to the throat.
In June last year the FAWC, which advises ministers on how to avoid cruelty to livestock, called on the government to remove the exemption allowed for halal and kosher slaughter from the legal requirement for stunning.
The council said it could take cattle up to two minutes to bleed to death which amounted to an abuse of the animals.
Muslims and Jews lobbied the government to reject banning a procedure which is a major religious requirement.
They insist that the animals feel virtually nothing from the sudden cut.
The government's draft response supports most of the 94 recommendations on slaughter in the FAWC report, saying they will lead to significant improvements in animal welfare.
But hundreds of Muslim and Jewish groups will be consulted before a final decision is reached.
Mr Bradshaw said the government shared FAWC's aim of improving the welfare of farm animals.
"We also accept that there are deeply held beliefs on both sides of aspects of this argument. We will not ban the production of halal or kosher meat.
"A ban could in any case simply result in kosher and halal meat being imported," he said.
He said there was merit in the FAWC recommendation that cattle slaughtered by having their throats cut should receive an immediate post-cut stun because of the time it takes to lose consciousness.
But he said the government did not intend to make it compulsory.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) acknowledged the response came at a time when government relations with the Muslim community are very sensitive.