Vets rubbish calls for halal labelling

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has said that compulsory labelling of meat products as halal will not improve animal welfare, but just fuel prejudice.

Following media reports that major retailers are selling halal meat without consumers’ knowledge, there have been calls for compulsory labelling of halal food. However, the BVA said this will have no impact on animal welfare, and that it is whether the animal has been stunned before slaughter or not that should be on the label. The association has written to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband asking for their support on the issue.  

The BVA has been campaigning for an end to non-stun slaughter, and said the issue was misunderstood. Around 88% of halal slaughter in the UK is stunned, with the remaining 12% involving no stun. The organisation said that labels simply stating ‘halal’ will therefore not indicate whether the animal has been stunned or not.   

BVA president and veterinary surgeon Robin Hargreaves said: “It is very disappointing that so much confusion remains over the issue of labelling. Calls for products to be labelled as halal or kosher will do nothing to help consumers who want to make a pro-animal welfare choice, but could fuel prejudice.

“The answer is very simple. Food should be labelled as stunned or non-stunned – a measure that was also supported by the European Parliament in June 2010.

“This important animal welfare issue must not be hijacked by other agendas. We need all three parties to take a lead on this issue to promote better consumer information and better animal welfare.”

The letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, addresses the need for the issue to be one of animal welfare, as opposed to one that could encourage religious intolerance. It reads: “We have always made it very clear that we are not concerned with the practising of religious belief, but with the throat-cutting of animals that have not been rendered insensible to pain.

“To move the discussion away from one about ‘halal’ and ‘kosher’ we would strongly urge the government to compel the industry to label whether meat is from stunned or non-stunned animals – ie whether it is from animals that have been slaughtered in line with UK and EU welfare legislation or under the derogation.”

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