UK: Halal-row MPs in labelling call

MPs have called for clearer food labelling after the East Yorkshire representative discovered that halal meat was sold in the House of Commons’ canteens without them knowing.

The Commons catering service is currently looking for new food suppliers who can tell them how the meat they sell is killed after admitting it had “unknowingly received” poultry slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law.

MPs and staff who eat at the Commons’ canteens and restaurants were “not made aware” of how the animals were killed, Sir Stuart Bell, representing the House of Commons Commission, added.

MPs are now calling for the Government to introduce legislation to make sure halal meat is properly labelled by restaurants, food wholesalers and supermarkets.

Conservative Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) tabled a question last week to find out whether halal meat had been sold in the Commons’ outlets. He added there was cross-party support for halal meat to be clearly labelled.

Mr Knight said: “This underlines the need to have proper labelling in place so people actually know what they are eating. It seems to me that there has been this drive in the food industry to do everything halal so it doesn’t offend people. But as a consumer I would like to know what I am eating and how it was killed. The issue needs to be addressed and I hope it is something the Coalition does shortly.”

Fellow Tory Philip Hollobone (Kettering) said he was “not shocked or surprised” by Sir Stuart’s admission. He added: “I am angry because I don’t think it is that difficult a problem to solve. It just needs the political will to do it. We are waiting for Europe to do something rather than taking the initiative ourselves or maybe the Government is frightened about upsetting ethnic minorities.”

Meanwhile, Conservative Andrew Rosindell (Romford), secretary of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, said consumers had a right to know what they were eating.

Earlier this year, a Mail on Sunday investigation found halal meat was being served in many schools, hospitals, pubs and sporting venues without diners being told. A written Commons question was then tabled last week by Mr Knight. In it, the MP asked whether canteens in the House of Commons had served halal beef, lamb or chicken in the last year and should, therefore, be added to the list.

Animal welfare campaigners have called for a ban on the traditional Islamic way of preparing meat – in which animals are not stunned before being killed – on cruelty grounds. The separate “pre-stun” halal method involves animals being knocked out with an electric shock before slaughter, rather than with a captive bolt pistol which is banned under Muslim law, but still conforms to beliefs.