The British government opposed EU measures that would have required meat to carry labels confirming whether it came from animals that had been stunned before slaughter. As the row over unlabelled halal and kosher meat in the food chain rages, it has emerged that attempts to introduce a form of labelling were approved by the European parliament in June 2010.
However, the government declined to support the measures amid concerns from Muslim and Jewish groups that it was discriminatory. The European council of ministers then put the proposals out for review and its findings are due next month.
Groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain and Shechita UK, the body that promotes what it describes as the “Jewish religious humane method of dispatching animals”, hope the review will call for a comprehensive form of meat labelling, rather than one that simply states whether animals have been stunned.
Shechita UK said it was wrong to claim that animals dispatched in the “Jewish humane way” were not stunned before they were slaughtered because the incisions made to their necks immediately rendered them unconscious. However, animal welfare groups said identifying whether animals had been stunned before slaughter would be a positive step.
“”Well over 80% of halal slaughter in the UK is pre-stunned, which means the animal is rendered unconscious before the throat is cut,” said Robin Hargreaves, president of the British Veterinary Association. “None of the animals slaughtered by the kosher method are pre-stunned. We want to see labelling that explains this, rather than halal or kosher labelling that would still be unclear for consumers.”
But a spokesman for Shechita UK said it was important that consumers received all of the facts, and reiterated its call for the introduction of comprehensive labelling.
“It seems bizarre and incongruous to pre-suppose that consumers’ rights do not extend to informing them that an animal has been mechanically stunned prior to slaughter by captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning or any of the other approved methods,” he said.