New EU rules require compulsory labelling of halal meat

Halal and kosher meat will have to be labelled under new European Union rules.

Millions of cows, goats and chickens are slaughtered without stunning each year in the UK under Muslim and Jewish practices, which enjoy an exemption from animal welfare laws.

The RSPCA, other welfare organisations and the Government's veterinary experts say the practice is cruel and should be ended, but another concern is that the meat re-enters the general food chain where it is unwittingly consumed by the general population.

In a series of votes on food labelling this week, which also backed compulsory country-of-origin labelling on all meat, MEPs voted by 559 to 54 for compulsory labelling of the religious slaughter of meat without stunning. While kosher and halal meat is well labelled in specialist butchers and food outlets, the regulation would alert general consumers to supplies entering the mainstream food system.

EU member states will have to approve the legislation and it is likely to return to the European Parliament for a second reading. Once adopted, food business will have three years to adapt to the rules. Smaller operators, with fewer than 100 employees and an annual turnover under €5m (£4.2m), will have five years to comply.

Animal welfare groups welcomed the move. Dr Marc Cooper, a farm animal welfare scientist at the RSPCA, said: "Clear labelling is something we have been calling for, so that the welfare-conscious consumer can be informed about the method of slaughter. From a welfare point of view, it's an unnecessary practice. It causes pain and distress."

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said: "The BVA believes that all animals should be effectively stunned before slaughter to improve the welfare of these animals at slaughter. However, as long as slaughter without stunning is permitted, the BVA has argued for any meat from this source to be clearly labelled to enable all consumers to fully understand the choice they are making."

Religious slaughter is banned in Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. The UK has stopped keeping statistics, but Meat Hygiene Service figures from 2004 suggest that 114 million halal animals and 2.1 million kosher animals are killed annually.

One Muslim organisation, the Halal Food Authority, insists that slaughterhouses stun the animals to render them insensible to pain, but in other halal and almost all kosher slaughterhouses, animals bleed to death without stunning.

Religious groups say that doing so would be against their interpretation of religious texts, and they are exempted from the terms of the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995.

In a report last year, the Farm Animal Welfare Council said chicken and turkeys were likely to be conscious for up to 20 seconds after a transverse incision is made across their neck."Such a large cut will inevitably trigger sensory input to pain centres in the brain," the council said. "Such an injury would result in significant pain and distress before insensibility supervenes."

Professor Bill Reilly, president of the BVA, said: "This is a huge step forward in improving the welfare of animals at slaughter. The more consumers understand these issues, the more consumer power can make a difference."

Halal and kosher

*Each year more than £2bn is spent on Halal meat by British Muslims. The Arabic word means "lawful" or "permitted". The opposite of halal is haram. Meat can only be called Halal if the animal is blessed before it is slaughtered.



*Kosher slaughter is predicated on the principle of "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" (not causing unnecessary suffering to animals). Historically, the kosher killing technique was one of the more humane methods available.



*Traditional halal meat is killed by hand and must be blessed by the slaughterman. More than 70 per cent of animals whose meat is sold as halal are electrically stunned before they are killed.



*Islam has strict laws on the proper method of slaughtering an animal. One, called dhabihah consists of a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck that cuts the jugular vein.



*Madonna and Jerry Hall are among celebrities who are reportedly fans of a strict orthodox Jewish diet, while a number of US clinics offer kosher diet therapy.



*KFC is among a growing number of fast-food retailers that have trialled Halal meat in communities where demand is strong. It has 85 stores with an all-halal menu.



*Up to three-quarters of poultry sold as halal in the UK is falsely labelled, a representative from the English Beef and Lamb Executive's halal steering group said. Most is slaughtered by a machine, not an individual.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project