Blog: Hannah AbdullaIndustry asserts "no-need" stance on slaughter method labelling

Hannah Abdulla | 8 May 2014

The horsemeat saga of 2013 resulted in significant calls for clear labelling and traceability so people were aware of the origins of their meat and could make informed decisions. But yesterday (7 May) another call for more comprehensive labelling hit headlines - this time, concerning halal and kosher meat.

Faith leaders from Jewish and Muslim communities are campaigning for clearer packaging after it has emerged some meat sold in the UK could pass as halal but is not labelled as such.

According to the BBC, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Morrisons and the Co-op said they sell such meat - which is blessed before being killed. All have said the animal is stunned prior to slaughter.

While some sects in Islam accept stunning as a permissible form of slaughter, others do not - and believe meat can only be labelled halal if the animal is slaughtered with a sharp knife cutting the throat - a method which some campaigners see as cruel.

Tesco said most of the lamb that comes out of New Zealand is processed in accordance with halal requirements because a lot of it ends up in the Middle East. All the animals are stunned, but the halal meat is blessed as it is killed. The supermarket added that because it doesn't require suppliers to follow this procedure, it would be misleading for customers if it labelled the meat halal.

But the question arises as to whether customers have a right to know how their meat was slaughtered. In Islamic and Jewish faiths, ritual slaughter is essential.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Henry Grunwald, chairman of Shechita UK, which represents the Jewish method of religious slaughter, and Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy secretary general for the Muslim Council of Britain, called for clear labelling of products. They argued that that the method of slaughter - whether through stunning, gassing, electrocution, trapping, clubbing, etc - should be shared with customers.

But, should these calls be heeded, it's manufacturers that would likely to be hit the hardest. From demands for labelling on country-of-origin to nutrition facts and more recently GMO ingredients, this new call for method-of-slaughter labelling would inevitably result in further costs and compliance legislation.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability for the British Retail Consortium said: "All our members have confirmed all their own brand fresh meat is from animals that have been pre-stunned before slaughter.

"Some of our members do sell branded halal and kosher certified meat produced by specialist companies and clearly labelled.

"As the overwhelming majority of meat sold in UK supermarkets is own brand and from animals that have been stunned prior to slaughter we do not see the requirement to separately label meat based on the method of slaughter."

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