||The Mail on Sunday yesterday reported on the Government’s proposed changes to food labeling legislation “to ensure that meat slaughtered in accordance with strict Islamic law cannot be sold to unwitting members of the public.”
The Mail on Sunday reported that:
“The Government is 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 – which involves killing animals by drawing a knife across their throats without stunning them first – is cruel and causes unnecessary pain.
“It follows a Mail on Sunday investigation in September 2010 which discovered that beef, chicken and lamb had been sold to fans at Wembley without them knowing it had been prepared in accordance with sharia law.
“Cheltenham College was found to be one of several public schools serving halal chicken to pupils without informing them, while Whitbread, Britain’s biggest hotel and restaurant group, admitted that more than three- quarters of its poultry was halal. MPs were furious to discover halal meat had even been sold in House of Commons canteens without them knowing.
“Now Environment Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach has 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.’
“Sharia law expressly forbids knocking out an animal with a bolt gun – the method normally used in British slaughterhouses. Instead, the animal must be sentient when its throat is cut, with the blood allowed to drip from the carcass while a religious phrase in praise of Allah is recited.
"A Defra spokesman said: ‘We believe people should continue to be able to buy meat “prepared in accordance with their religion, but that people should also be able to find out how a product was prepared when they are buying in shops or eating out.
‘We are keeping all policies under review, including our approach to labelling.’”
The Mail on Sunday article makes no mention whatsoever of the kosher religious slaughter method which is similar to the Islamic method and which too doesn’t make use of stunning animals prior to slaughter. Instead, the entire article posits halal slaughter as the sole religious method that will be affected by better food labeling regulations.
Nor does the paper mention that the question posed to the Government on food labelling and halal meat was by none other than Lord Pearson, the former leader of the UK Independence Party.
While the Defra spokesperson is absolutely right to contend that consumers deserve full knowledge of slaughter methods to make informed choices in their purchasing habits, one can’t help but feel that the Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail, with the sheer volume of column inches devoted to halal meat over the last several months, intends to do more than just champion consumer rights by focusing exclusively on halal slaughter.
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