Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Halal hits the headlines

Halal and Kosher slaughter has been back in the news recently.

It’s encouraging to see that the issue is reaching the wider public audience. The crucial element, as ever, is that the information in the public domain is accurate to help stimulate balanced, rather than inflammatory debate.

In the last few weeks, Nicolas Sarkozy made Halal meat labelling an issue in the French election which he then lost, while closer to home, Conservative MP Philip Davies’ proposed bill under the 10-minute rule for the compulsory labelling of Halal and Kosher meat was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons. Questions were also raised in the Commons relating to the extent to which Halal products are sold without being labelled in supermarkets, restaurants and cafes. Elsewhere, press and TV coverage has brought the labelling issue to a wider public audience.

EBLEX has a track record of working closely with the Halal sector, including publishing a specialist report into the Halal meat market and establishing the Halal Steering Group. More recently, work has included the launch of two new beef and lamb carcase posters for butchers selling Halal meat to display in their shops (Further information on these is available by visiting www.eblextrade.co.uk).

Halal and Kosher slaughter is an emotive subject and inevitably potentially inflammatory arguments are never far away. The important point to consider remains that ultimately, slaughtering is about animal welfare, not religion. Currently, the humane slaughter of cattle and sheep is governed by EU law and enforced in every abattoir in England by the Food Standards Agency under The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995. EU legislation permits member states to allow an exemption in the case of slaughter of animals without prior stunning for religious reasons and this includes non-stun Halal. If an exemption is made for slaughter by religious method, it falls outside the normal guidelines, as is the case with non-stun Halal slaughter.

The EU is currently looking at the issue of labelling and EBLEX will continue to monitor the situation and inform the industry of any new directives that come through from Europe. To look at the UK in isolation in the meantime, in terms of any additional labelling regulations, would take time and money which may well then prove to be wasted once superseded by any new EU regulation.