The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said that while he would have “absolutely no problem” with eating a pizza with halal meat on it, more must be done to give people information about how food in supermarkets and restaurants has been prepared.
Religious groups have now joined animal welfare activists in calling for clearer labelling on products that contain halal meat, and the restaurant chain Pizza Express has said it will review whether it includes the information on its menus.
Speaking on LBC radio today, Mr Clegg said that the issue was not just “some reaction to halal itself”, but that people “understandably want to know more about how their food arrives on their plate”.
“I personally have absolutely no problem with eating a pizza with halal meat on it,” Mr Clegg said. “It’s just a question of telling the customers.
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When asked if we need more labelling on meat produced through religious slaughter, Mr Clegg said: “I think there should be more information. There’s a whole lot of information we now have on the products that we buy that we didn’t have some years ago, and I think this is something that should be relatively straightforward because obviously this is all totally traceable.”
Though estimates vary, around 10 to 15 per cent of halal slaughter in the UK is carried out without stunning the animals first, which vets and welfare activists say causes “unnecessary suffering”.
The RSPCA said that “stunned or not stunned”, meat produced from animals should be “clearly labelled to allow consumer choice”, and they have been joined in that demand by representatives of both Jewish and Muslim groups.
In a joint letter to the Telegraph, they said: “Comprehensive labelling should be supported by faith communities and animal welfare groups alike. It would offer all consumers genuine choice, whether they are motivated by animal welfare, religious observance, or even intolerance of anyone who looks or worships differently to them.”
The Government has said it will not intervene over the current row regarding labelling, saying that it is “an issue of consumer choice and consumer information”.
The UK currently requires all animals to be stunned before being killed for meat, but offers an exemption for religious slaughter. David Cameron’s spokesman said this is unlikely to change soon, and that the Prime Minister is “a strong supporter of religious freedoms, including religious slaughter practices”.