The outcry from the public following the revelation that many supermarkets, food chains and venues are selling halal meat demonstrates that most customers want to buy meat that has been looked after and slaughtered in the most humane way possible.
They also feel deceived by the retailers, particuarly those like Marks & Spencer, who have sold halal meat under the higher welfare banner. Not only does this highlight animal welfare issues but it also highlights the serious problem of a lack of transparency in labelling.
In the UK, we have rules for animal welfare that we believe are necessary to prevent animals from suffering, and that generally means that animals must be painlessly stunned before their throat is cut. Of course it is the case that whilst EU rules require all slaughter techniques to make sure animals do not suffer “any avoidable distress or pain” they make an explicit exception for “cultural traditions and religious rites”. Whilst people understand there is a need to respect different faith groups, this concession remains highly emotive, with many believing that we should take the same stance as other countries that have banned no-stun ritual slaughter altogether. Indeed, the British government rejected a recommendation by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) to ban the practice of slaughter without pre-stunning. The reality is that more than 100 million animals a year are killed for kosher and halal meat in Britain and they bleed to death in what government advisers have said is “very significant pain.” (ED: not proven, more research needs to be done in this regard. See HalalFocus article: https://halalfocus.net/2010/09/21/grandin-regenstein-ritual-slaughter-and-animal-welfare/)
The public should be able to make informed choices about whether they find this method of slaughter acceptable and it appears they have not been given this opportunity by unknowingly consuming halal meat products from many well know and supposedly high welfare retailers which is unacceptable.
Your statement that ‘people should know what they’re buying in the shops or when they’re eating out’ and that you ‘will be discussing with the food industry the role labelling can play in giving consumers a choice’ is very much welcomed and supported by APGAW. We also intend to look closely at this issue over the next few months and hope that the Government will make progress with it as, separate from the debate over the method of halal and kosher slaughter, simply consumers should know what they are purchasing.
With best wishes,
Neil Parish MP
Chairman of APGAW (Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare)