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David Cameron staying out of halal meat labelling row

Prime Minister has no plans for Government intervention over religious slaughter

David Cameron is refusing to intervene in the row over halal and kosher slaughter and the labelling of meat.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said he believes the matter is for retailers to decide with their customers.

The news that supermarkets and restaurants, including Pizza Express, serve halal meat without notifying customers on the packaging or menus has sparked fierce debate.

Several commentators have demanded that consumers are informed about what meat they are eating and some want ritual slaughter abolished over animal welfare concerns.

The response has been ridiculed as an overreaction by others, with some Twitter users using the hashtag #halalhysteria and many arguing that concerns stem from religious prejudice.

Representatives of Jewish and Muslim groups have written a joint letter calling for consumers to be given detailed information about slaughter methods when buying meat.

chickens at a halal abattoir

A significant proportion of meat produced by exporting countries such as New Zealand is slaughtered to halal standards, in order to ensure it can be sold to both Muslim and non-Muslim nations.

Asked whether Mr Cameron thought the Government should act to ensure halal and kosher meat is clearly labelled, his spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's view is that it is an issue of consumer choice and consumer information.

"So it is a matter for retailers and restaurants to work with customers and consumer groups and representatives of faith organisations.

"He is a strong supporter of religious freedoms, including religious slaughter practices."

Asked whether Mr Cameron thought consumers should ask about the slaughter methods used for the meat they buy, the spokesman replied: “Many consumers will rightly be very demanding of their retailers, the places they shop and the places they go out to eat. I am not telling shoppers or people who go to restaurants what they should do.”

He added: “The Prime Minister's view is that the approach we currently have is absolutely the right one.”

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, the chairman of Schechita UK, Henry Grunwald, and the deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Shuja Shafi, called for all meat to be labelled to indicate slaughter methods.

“Consumers should be informed whether an animal has been mechanically stunned prior to slaughter and whether it has endured repeat stuns if the first attempt was ineffective,” wrote Mr Grunwald and Dr Shafi. “They should also be told the method of slaughter.”

Both halal and kosher, or shechita, slaughter methods involve the animal’s throat being slit and the blood being drained.

The RSPCA is among several animal rights groups campaigning to ensure that all animals are stunned before slaughter to minimise suffering, whatever the method.

Figures from the Food Standards Agency show that over 80 per cent of animals slaughtered for halal meat were stunned before they died in 2011.

Additional reporting by PA

Read more:
What is halal meat and why is it controversial?
Pizza Express to review halal policy