Britain ‘s biggest supermarket chains are selling halal lamb and chicken without telling unsuspecting shoppers, reported the Mail on Sunday.
The paper had to force an admission out of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, and M&S, none of whom tell shoppers whether their lamb is ritually slaughtered, even when a Muslim slaughterman is intoning ‘Bismillah Allah-hu-Akbar’ (meaning ‘In the name of Allah, who is the greatest’) over each animal killed.
No beef sold is halal, it seems. But 5% of chicken sold in Tesco is halal as is 35% of the store’s UK lamb. None of it is labelled as such. The Co-op is the same. We believe that only Asda and Morrisons clearly label their ritually-slaughtered meat but we were waiting for confirmation as we went to press.
NEW ZEALAND LAMB IS 70% HALAL
The scandal applies mostly to lamb. 70% of New Zealand lamb sold by British supermarkets is slaughtered according to Muslim law. The reason is that New Zealand supplies a growing Muslim consumer base in the Middle and Far East . It was the New Zealanders who developed the ‘pre-stun’ method of slaughter, rendering the animal unconscious by electric shock, rather than by a captive-bolt pistol, which is very ‘haram’ (forbidden).
But none of the New Zealand halal lamb is labelled as such, so consumers do not know that they are buying and eating ritually-slaughtered meat. A growing proportion of meat slaughtered in British abattoirs is also halal, using the same method, and that does not appear to be labelled ‘halal’ in many stores either.
In their statements, the supermarkets were determined to present the issue as solely one of animal welfare. They appeared oblivious to the religious implications of the Islamic blessing pronounced over each animal killed. But even that could not explain the procrastination, ignorance and/or inability to explain the facts to consumers that the supermarkets displayed.
TESCO AND THE CO-OP
For example, when the Mail on Sunday rang them, Tesco were initially reluctant to admit they sold any halal meat at all. Tesco said in a peculiar statement: ‘It is not the case that all the meat we sell is halal or that our suppliers only offer halal meat.’
But when quizzed further, a spokesman was more forthcoming: ‘All our New Zealand lamb is halal-slaughtered, as is 35 per cent of our UK lamb. Less than five per cent of our chicken is halal.’
But we spoke to their customer services department on the morning of Friday 1st October 2010 and were assured that the New Zealand lamb was NOT halal unless labelled as such. That cannot be true.
Furthermore, a ‘corporate statement’ on slaughtering in the light of the Mail on Sunday story appeared on the Tesco intranet and disappeared ten minutes later. Confusion was reigning as Tesco executives behaved like headless chickens, if the metaphor can be allowed in the context.
The Co-op, who also own Somerfield, were a little clearer. They told the Mail on Sunday that their New Zealand lamb was definitely halal, but was not labelled. A spokesman told Christian Voice that it was impossible to assume that other meat not labelled halal was not in fact halal.
So not merely can Christian Voice no longer bank at the Co-op (!), we cannot buy lamb there any more either. Nor at Somerfields or Tesco.
WAITROSE AND MARKS & SPENCER
Waitrose were also caught in a lie. A Waitrose spokeswoman said in her first statement: ‘I can confirm that Waitrose does not sell any halal meat.’ But a day later, another spokeswoman did a complete u-turn: ‘You mentioned the [Islamic] prayer said at the point of slaughter. This applies to all our lamb but not to beef or poultry.’
Christian Voice can confirm that all Waitrose lamb is halal. They emailed us to say: ‘We have allowed the halal blessing at the point of slaughter.’ But none of their meat is labelled honestly as ‘halal’.
On 3rd October, the Mail on Sunday announced that Waitrose will now put on sale Duchy Originals lamb from the Prince of Wales’ estates which will not have had the shahada said over it. This was to offer ‘customers an option’ a spokesman said. But their other lamb will continue to be halal and not honestly labelled as such.
M&S said in its first statement: ‘No meat sourced by M&S from the UK is halal.’ When asked about lamb, a spokeswoman said: ‘Our New Zealand lamb is halal-slaughtered but pre-stunned.’
Similarly, Marks and Spencer confirmed in a statement that their New Zealand lamb was (a) pre-stunned, (b) halal slaughtered and (c) not labelled as such. But although they could confirm their UK-sourced meat was slaughtered humanely, they did not know whether the shahada was said over it at the point of slaughter, so customers could not know whether it was halal or not. In a bizarre twist, their customer services spokesman, one Kristin, claimed that to insist on non-halal slaughtering would be ‘discriminatory’.
So that is Waitrose and M&S out as well, unless you want to buy HRH’s expensive Duchy range in Waitrose and are prepared to overlook the dishonesty of all their other lamb labelling..
ASDA HAVE A MUSLIM SLAUGHTERMAN
Asda refused to answer the journalists’ questions, but we discovered they ran a pilot of stocking halal meat in a Birmingham store in November 2007, and by 2008 Asda had extended a range of frozen halal meat at 99 of its stores. At that time, the Asda halal range was clearly labelled and was produced by Tahira Foods.
When we rang them, Asda assured Christian Voice that all their halal meat was labelled as such. But when they sent us a statement by email, they said: “It’s our policy that all animals used for Asda Brand products, halal or non-halal, are stunned prior to slaughter, rendering them unconscious and insensitive to pain. Our labelling in all areas of our stores meets our legal obligations.” Sadly, that statement was far less categorical.
Further on, Asda say this: “The stunning method used by Asda suppliers is ‘stun to stun’ (electro-narcosis), which induces a ‘fit’ in the animal. It is at this point that the animals’ throat is cut and the animal is bled to death. Although brain function is disturbed during this process the heart is still beating and the animal is alive as required. At this point, the animal is also insensitive to pain and the cut is made by a trained Muslim slaughterman. The Meat Hygiene Service has veterinary surgeons in place at all slaughter sites and they ensure that relevant legislation is followed. The on site management teams also ensure that schemes such as those provided by the RSPCA – Freedom Foods and the Humane Slaughter Association are implemented and monitored as required.
“All Asda brand meat which is labelled as being Halal, has been through this stun to stun process. Under no circumstances do we allow any animal to be killed without being stunned first, even for Halal meat.”
As we went to press we were trying to confirm that the Muslim slaughterman dedicating the process to Allah is present only at the slaughter of clearly-labelled halal products as we were initially told. They promised us a statement.
MORRISONS FRESH LAMB IN THE CLEAR
All Morrisons beef, fresh lamb, fresh British chicken and frozen chicken is non-halal. A Morrisons spokesman said, ‘We only sell 100% British fresh beef, lamb and poultry. None of it is halal. The vast majority of our fresh beef and lamb is processed at our own abattoirs in Britain . We adhere to high standards of animal welfare. All of the cattle, lamb and poultry are stunned prior to slaughter.’
They said: ‘Morrisons’ frozen lamb is currently sourced from New Zealand and is halal, the animal is humanely stunned before slaughter and a prayer is read.’
‘We sell a limited range of halal and Kosher branded frozen food products which are all clearly labelled as such.’
Morrison’s admitted that some of its ‘value’ range fresh chicken is sourced from Thailand and they promised to get back to us with regards to the method of slaughter. Thailand is a Buddhist country, but in April its slaughterhouses were reported as being keen to exploit the Muslim market. We remain confident that Morrsions will address this matter, if only to maintain the following pledge:
‘If a customer is concerned, they can be reassured that all of our fresh meat is not halal. The interest in this subject has resulted in us reviewing our labelling policy.’
The review of the labelling policy at Morrisons is very good news. New Zealand lamb should be labelled as ‘Halal’ or ‘may be halal’.
THE TAHIRA CONNECTION
Turning briefly to the brand-label market, the two main companies supplying specialist halal meat to supermarkets are Hilton Food Group, who supply Shahada (which means a declaration, such as the Islamic assertion ‘There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger’ or the prayer said by the slaughterman), and Tahira Foods Ltd. Tahira means ‘pure of heart’ or just ‘purity’. Hilton, who employ 1,500 people across five European sites, supply Tesco with pre-packed meat in trays with the green ‘Shahada’ label.
Tahira is run by Moslems. Its consultant, Mohamed Iqbal Asaria, has held the post of finance director of the Muslim Council of Britain and regularly meets UK treasury and Bank of England officials to advance the Muslim cause. Another director, Ghias El-Yafi, is the son of a former Lebanese prime minister.
The Tahira website is vague about whether the animals slaughtered for its meat are stunned prior to slaughter. If they were to say they are not, the animal welfare people would be on to them, of course, But if they said they were, perhaps their market would suffer. We rang and emailed Tahira foods to ask them to clarify the point. At the time of going to press, we had not received a reply. Tahira Foods account manager Faiza Akmal told the Mail on Sunday: “Today, more and more Muslims want to buy Halal products when they do their one-stop shopping.”
Mrs Akmal may have a point, for although there are plenty of halal butchers in Muslim areas, the supermarkets clearly wanted some of the action when Muslims do the weekly shop. Tahira’s clients include all the big four and Somerfield.
SAINSBURY NOT LABELLED
A Sainsbury’s spokesman told the Mail: ‘The abattoirs that supply us with lamb are licensed by the Muslim authorities and a prayer is said when the animals are killed.’
Lianne at Sainsbury told us their fresh lamb was halal. It was pre-stunned but had the prayer said over it. She said it was not labelled as halal, but said that was because it did not totally comply with all Islamic standards, despite being approved by the Halal Food Authority.
It seems some Islamic authorities allow pre-stunning and some do not. So Sainsbury, like a number of their competitors, are placing themselves in a no-man’s land where their meat is halal enough through the prayer said at the point of slaughter to alienate many of their non-Muslim customers, but not halal enough through the slaughter method to satisfy the demands of all their Muslim clientele. Why do they bother getting their meat ritually-slaughtered at all?
But Sainsbury’s lamb is certainly halal enough to warrant us shopping somewhere else.
Asda spoke about meeting their ‘legal obligations,’ but it seems the legal obligations do not compel stores to honestly label their ritually-slaughtered meat as ‘halal’. The supermarkets seem very reluctant to tell shoppers what they are buying.
The supermarkets and fast-food outlets told the Mail on Sunday that they did not feel the need to tell customers their meat is halal because the slaughter conformed to Western standards, with animals stunned before being killed. That does not excuse blatant lies being told to researchers.
But even then the RSPCA has raised concerns about the way chicken is killed in Islamic abattoirs because the birds are stunned with a weaker electric current, which does not guarantee unconsciousness during slaughter.
Inayat Bunglawala, the chair of Muslims4UK, said: ‘Supermarkets should not be afraid of labelling their products as halal. Halal meat tastes just the same as non-halal meat.’
But the taste is not the point. The supermarkets are not telling the truth because their market research has warned them of a backlash. Many Christians and those of other faiths may well object to the Muslim slaughterman chanting ‘Bismillah Allah-hu-Akbar’ as he cuts the animals’ throats. Sikhs, for instance, are forbidden to eat halal under any circumstances. Quite apart from the animal welfare considerations, in a religious sense it means that the animal has been sacrificed to Allah, the god of Islam.
In schools, children do not have a choice at all, and the parents of some children may strongly object to halal ritually-slaughtered meat in the increasing number of schools turning to halal meat.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: ‘People should know what they’re buying in the shops or when they’re eating out and I will be discussing with the food industry the role labelling can play in giving consumers a choice.’
There are three issues here, we believe. Firstly, there is the matter of humane killing. A spokesman for one of the supermarkets assured us their over-riding concern was animal welfare. They have gone out of their way to assure the animal rights lobby on that point, although the RSPCA are not yet satisfied.
Secondly is the subject of the Islamic declaration, the shahada, being said by the slaughterman. If the shahada is pronounced, even with pre-stunning, the meat is halal enough to offend those of other faiths.
(HalalFocus Comment: It is not the Shahada that is said at the time of slaugher but the tasmiyya, which is: ‘In the name of God – God is Great’ Muslims believe in the same God as the Christians, and the Prophets sent down by him to this world to guide us, including Jesus.)
Thirdly, even if people are not bothered in the slightest by what is said as their Sunday roast faces the butcher’s knife, there is the growing problem of Islamic creep. Why are the supermarkets demanding,, or at the very least accepting, that halal lamb in particular be foisted on their customers, 95% of whom are non-Muslim, instead of providing specialist authentic halal products clearly labelled as such in areas where there is a demand? How long will it take at this rate before every slaughterman in the land is a Muslim?
The story illustrates the point made by Stephen Green on BBC1’s Sunday Morning programme on 26th September that too many concessions are made to Muslims – and this at a time when Christians face crackdowns and discrimination.
READ: Lev 19:4; Psalm 96:5; Isa 2:18; Zech 13:2; Mark 7:18-23; Acts 21:25; 1Cor 8:1-13, 10:18-28; Rev 2:14.20. Also read the Bible Article: Halal Meat – What is the Christian Position?
WRITE: To your MP at House of Commons, LONDON , SW1A 1AA . Ask him to press for honest labelling of halal ritually-slaughtered meat.
PRAY: That honest labelling will be brought in and that the demand for halal meat will evaporate as more people realise what they are being offered and refuse it.
IN THE MEANTIME, Those of us who do object to halal meat may find it appropriate to boycott New Zealand lamb, and all lamb in M&S, the Co-op, Tesco, Somerfield, Waitrose and Sainsbury.
WRITE OR EMAIL to:
Asda, Chief Executive: Mr Andrew Clarke,
Asda House, Great Wilson Street , Southbank, LEEDS, Yorkshire , LS11 5AD
0113 241 9833, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-operative Group, (who own Somerfield) Chief Executive, Mr Peter Marks,
New Century House, Corporation Street , MANCHESTER , M60 4ES
0161 834 1212, Email: email@example.com
Marks & Spencer, Chief Executive: Mr Marc Bolland,
Waterside House, 35 North Wharf Road , LONDON , W2 1NW
020 7935 4422, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC, Chief Executive: Mr Dalton Philips,
Hilmore House, Gain Lane , BRADFORD, Yorkshire , BD3 7DL
01274 261000, 0845 611 6111, Email: email@example.com
Sainsburys PLC, Chief Executive: Mr Justin King,
33 Holborn, LONDON , EC1N 2HT
020 7695 6000, 0800 636262, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
TESCO, Chief Executive: Mr Terry Leahy,
Tesco House, Delamare Road , Cheshunt, WALTHAM CROSS, Hertfordshire , EN8 9SL
01992 632222, 0800 505555, Email: email@example.com (or firstname.lastname@example.org )
Waitrose, Managing Director: Mr Mark Price,
Doncastle Road , Southern Industrial Area, BRACKNELL , Berkshire , RG12 8YA
01344 424680, Email: email@example.com
(Please let us know of any errors or improvements to the above)
Tell the stores and your MP that you object to halal meat not being labelled as such. Let them know the issue is not just that of animal welfare, important as that is, but the Islamic dedication (‘shahada’) said at the point of slaughter. Ask MP’s for a labelling regulation to be passed.
Ask the Supermarkets to label clearly all and any halal meat in their stores, including frozen New Zealand lamb and any halal chicken imported from Thailand . Why are some of them dishonestly passing off halal meat as non-halal? Paradoxically, if this halal meat is not labelled ‘halal’ the Muslims won’t buy it anyway. So why stock it? Why not just source lamb and chicken from non-halal slaughterhouses?