Calls to label meat products with information about animal welfare at slaughter must not be hijacked by prejudice, according to the British Veterinary Association, which has been campaigning for an end to non-stun slaughter.
On the day that MPs debate an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill calling for compulsory labelling of halal and kosher food, the President of the BVA has written to the three main party leaders asking them to support its call for food labelling to state whether the animal has been stunned in line with welfare legislation or not stunned under the legal derogation.
Recent media coverage about restaurants and supermarkets using and selling meat from halal and kosher slaughter has raised awareness of the issue of welfare at slaughter, but an enormous amount of confusion remains over how consumers can make an informed choice.
In the letters to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, BVA explains that labelling all halal and kosher products will do nothing to inform the public about the very proper concerns regarding welfare at slaughter but could fuel further confusion and potentially feed prejudice.
Halal labelling does not recognise that around 88% of halal slaughter in the UK is prestunned. At the same time the 12% that isn’t stunned, along with the hindquarters of animals slaughtered by the shechita method that are not kosher, could continue to enter the mainstream food chain unlabelled.
Commenting, BVA President and veterinary surgeon Robin Hargreaves, said:
“It is very disappointing that so much confusion remains over the issue of labelling. Calls for products to be labelled as halal or kosher will do nothing to help consumers who want to make a pro-animal welfare choice, but could fuel prejudice.
“The answer is very simple. Food should be labelled as stunned or non-stunned – a measure that was also supported by the European Parliament in June 2010.
“This important animal welfare issue must not be hijacked by other agendas. We need all three parties to take a lead on this issue to promote better consumer information and better animal welfare.”
See also “Tory MPs promote halal hysteria – Labour MP joins them”, Islamophobia Watch, 9 May 2014