Ministers consider changing law on halal meat
Ministers are preparing to change the law to ensure that halal meat has to be clearly identified as such when sold to the public.
Halal meat is being routinely served at some of the United Kingdom’s most popular sporting venues, pubs, schools and hospitals without the public’s knowledge.
It is reported that this controversial practice has been accepted by venues such as Wembley, Twickenham, Ascot and Manchester United’s football grounds. It has also been alleged that some big supermarkets, including Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Somerfield and the Co-op are selling unlabelled halal meat products.
Halal meat, prepared in accordance with sharia law, requires the cutting of an animal’s throat, without stunning the animal first, whilst Islamic verses are recited. Sharia law expressly forbids knocking out an animal with a bolt gun, the method normally used in British slaughterhouses.
Islamic food agencies are pushing to integrate halal into the mainstream market in the UK. The World Halal Forum held its annual conference in London last year and identified the UK as a pilot project for halal in Europe.
Plans to change the law
Environment Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach has now said that if the European Union fails to agree on a new food labelling scheme, the UK will take action. The European Commission is considering the matter as part of its animal welfare strategy and is expected to report by the summer.
Lord Taylor told peers: “The Government welcomes this approach as it will allow consumer information to be considered alongside measures to minimise the suffering of animals slaughtered without stunning. In the meantime we are considering how we can use domestic legislation.”
Members of Parliament were outraged when they discovered in 2010 that they had been secretly served halal meat in Parliament. The Government is now drawing up plans to prevent schools, hospitals, pubs and famous sporting venues from serving halal meat secretly to customers.
The move will be welcomed by animal rights campaigners, who argue that the traditional Islamic way of preparing meat is cruel and causes unnecessary pain. Animal welfare campaigners including Joanna Lumley and Heather Mills have previously called for a boycott of eating places that serve halal food.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
“We welcome any measures that would ensure that people are warned that products are halal. Non-muslims should have the freedom to avoid meat that has been ritually slaughtered. Halal meat should not be imposed on the British public. It should always be clearly labelled and non-halal alternatives should always be available.”