Call for clearer halal labelling
Consumers need to be made more aware, via clearer labelling, whether the meat they are eating is produced using stunning or non-stunning slaughter methods, according to industry insiders.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and halal consumer group behalal.org are demanding clearer labelling on meat to denote the type of slaughter, following a series of Mail on Sunday articles claiming consu-mers are being served halal meat without being informed of the fact.
The calls came following a Mail on Sunday report on 19 September, where the front-page headline read: 'Britain goes halal (... but nobody tells the public)'. In the article, the paper claimed that "schools, hospitals, pubs and famous sporting venues are serving up meat slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law to unwitting members of the public".
Locations accused of serving halal meat without informing customers included sporting venues Wembley Stadium, Twickenham and Ascot. And a second Mail on Sunday article on 26 September claimed Britain's biggest supermarket chains were selling halal lamb and chicken "without telling unsuspecting shoppers".
The BVA has now pleaded for clearer labelling for consumers to end confusion and indicate where non-stunned meat has been served. Professor Bill Reilly, BVA president, said: "While we understand the need to respect religious freedoms, the BVA believes all animals should be stunned before slaughter to ensure the highest possible welfare. The exemption for religious slaughter should be kept to a minimum and meat from animals slaughtered according to these religious rules should not be used in the mainstream market, particularly if not labelled as such.
"Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted in favour of the compulsory labelling of meat from non-stunned animals and the BVA strongly welcomed this move," added Reilly. "We believe consumers do want to make choices based on higher animal welfare."
A spokesperson for behalal.org, a halal consumer group, said: "There is no conclusive evidence that confirms that slaughter without stunning is inhumane. What concerns some Muslims is that pre-stunning methods make the process inhumane.
"It is a result of money-making companies and certification organisations advising that it is okay to pre-stun or, worse still, okay to machine-kill chicken or, even worse, okay to have a tape recording of the prayer left playing while a machine slaughters, resulting in maximum yield. The labelling of this meat as halal is misleading to Muslims and confusing to non-Muslims, who think this is barbaric and inhumane when, in fact, this is what mainstream slaughter also provides them.
"We are asking those in industry, if they want to label meat as 'halal', to indicate the slaughter methods too, so as to allow everyone to know what they are buying fair and square."
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