The EDL call on supermarkets to label their ritually slaughtered meat and announce a national campaign to target Asda stores.
Many people seem to forget where our food actually comes from, believing that meat just comes from ‘the supermarket’ and not that it was once a living breathing animal and had to be raised on a farm, slaughtered, butchered and packaged for your sirloin steak or chicken burger.
But many of us are now regularly eating meat that has been blessed and slaughtered by a religious Muslim. This type meat is called halal and it forms an increasingly large part of the UK meat industry.
For a full explanation of what halal meat is please watch our explanatory video:
The English Defence League’s Mission Statement refers to the stealthy incursion of halal meat into the food industry, and states that we believe “consumers must be provided with the information necessary to avoid halal produce should they wish.” We do not believe that halal produce should be banned, just that it should be properly labelled and that there should always be a non-halal alternative made available to customers.
Firstly let us define halal slaughter; according to the HMC (Halal Monitoring Committee) the following must be observed to qualify as halal slaughter:
Non-stunning, the lack of captive bolt or low voltage stunning, puts animals under incredible amounts of stress and unnecessary pain and should be stopped. However, whilst there are disagreements within the Muslim community as to what qualifies as halal, many different Islamic groups such as ‘the campaign for unstunned halal‘, and the Halal monitoring committee itself strongly oppose any move to prevent non-stunning.
The halal and kosher forms of slaughter (Kosher being the Jewish equivalent to halal) bypass the animal welfare laws of the UK by way of an exemption that does not require religious slaughter to involve the pre-stunning of animals. However, the volume of religiously slaughtered meat now far exceeds the amount slaughtered than was originally accounted for when the laws were first implemented in 1995.
The Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC), who advises the government on animal welfare, said it wanted an end to the exemption currently allowed for halal and kosher meat from the legal requirement to stun animals. It noted ‘cattle can take up to two minutes to bleed to death and this amounts to abuse of the animals’ rights“.
Peter Jinman, president of the British Veterinary Association, is on record urging Muslims and Jews to be respectful of animals taking into account what is acceptable in the moral and ethical society we live in today. After all, the Old Testament states that we should take great care of animals as is outlined in many passages of Deuteronomy and Exodus. Granted, back in the early days of man there was no understanding of consciousness and the drawing of a knife across an animals’ throat would have been the only humane way of dispatching an animal.
But modern methods have now surpassed this: we have a number of methods of stunning animals to prevent pain and suffering. Surely in the world we live in today, shouldn’t we be implementing these modern techniques of slaughter to prevent the suffering of animals?
The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly (which comprises 1,600 conservative rabbis) in New York issued a statement in 2001 entitled ‘A Stunning Matter‘. The declaration said that the Torah leaves the matter of stunning animals before shechita (Jewish slaughter) open and that there is no need to ban the practice.
Within the Muslim community, the option of stunning before slaughter is also garnering support. Some 74% of halal cattle are now stunned, but this figure should be 100%.
Also, the actual number of animals that are slaughtered in accordance with the halal method (or ‘dhabihah’) is far higher than you might expect. In this RSPCA report they cite from the ‘MHS Animal Welfare Review (March 2004)’ which shows that some 856 cattle, 139,843 sheep and a staggering 2.1 million chickens are slaughtered every week using the halal method of slaughter – all this for an estimated 1.8 million Muslims in the UK (Figures for 2004).
Based on these numbers, Muslims make up an estimated 3.6% of the UK population. But if we compare this to number of animals slaughtered in line with Islamic ritual practices, the figures simply do not add up.
In comparison, only a fraction of this number of animals are slaughtered in line with Jewish ritual practices; 742 cattle 1,704 lambs and only 39,184 chickens in a week. The Jewish population is far smaller than that of the Muslims at an estimated 0.5% of the UK population. If you use the numbers for kosher slaughter and extrapolate them based on the larger Muslim population, you reach figures that are roughly an eighth of what they are in reality. Also one must ask how much more halal meat is imported every day? Some 240 tonnes of lamb is imported from New Zealand every day alone, and it is well known that nearly all New Zealand lamb imported to the UK is halal slaughtered.
So why is it that, per person, the Muslim community seems to require at least eight times as much ritually slaughtered meat? The simply answer is – they don’t.
When an animal is slaughtered during the halal process (or ‘dhabihah’) a prayer is said while the slaughterer draws the knife over the animal’s throat, in order to make the meat ‘blessed’. This is done every time an animal is killed. In many other faiths there are strict prohibitions against eating any food blessed to another deity, so you would have thought that followers of other faiths would be less inclined to eat halal meat, and that the additional halal meat (that which is not consumed by Muslims) is consumed by non-Muslims who simply don’t care whether the meat they eat is halal.
But the simple truth is that we are sold halal meat each and every day without knowing about it.
Only recently has the media featured complaints made by non-Muslims when they have found out that they have been served halal meat without being told. But no one in power seems to willing to do anything to rectify the problem. There was even uproar in the House of Commons itself when our MP’s found out that they had unknowingly been served halal meat. They soon changed their supplier when this came to light, but for the rest of us nothing has been done.
Compare this to a recent case where a young Muslim boy who mistakenly took a bite out of a sausage roll due to a package labelling error gained national media attention and a promise of investigation from his local MP, yet non-Muslims are being fed halal meat without their knowledge every single day.
The meat sold into non-Muslim markets is almost never labelled to indicate that the animal was slaughtered according to religious practices or whether it was pre-stunned. Clearly, this does not allow the consumer to make an informed choice. Therefore, we believe that all ritually slaughtered meat should be clearly labelled to make the consumer aware of where the meat is sourced from, whether the animal was ritually slaughtered, and whether it has been stunned prior to slaughter.
This would in turn solve the issue for many people; Muslims would feel more secure in purchasing meat that they know is halal, non-Muslims would be confident they are not purchasing meat that has been blessed in the name of Allah, and everyone who is concerned about the lack of pre-stunning in some cases of ritual slaughter would be able to vote with their wallets.
As early as 1985, the Farm Animal Welfare Council recommended ‘that all carcases and cuts prepared from animals (including poultry) slaughtered by religious methods and offered for sale down to, and including the retail level, should be clearly labelled to indicate the method of slaughter’. This sensible recommendation has been ignored by successive governments for over 25 years.
Professor Bill Reilly, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:
“Whilst we understand the need to respect religious freedoms the BVA believes that all animals should be stunned before slaughter to ensure the highest possible welfare for the animals.
The exemption for religious slaughter should therefore be kept to a minimum. Meat from animals slaughtered according to these religious rules should not be used in the mainstream market, particularly if it is not labelled as such.
Earlier this year the European Parliament voted in favour of the compulsory labelling of meat from non-stunned animals and the British Veterinary Association strongly welcomed this move.
We believe that consumers do want to make choices based on higher animal welfare and not cause unnecessary suffering. They should have the right information to make those pro-welfare choices.”
As recently as April of this year (2011) a recommendation was made once again for the compulsory labelling of all religiously slaughtered meat, this was once again rejected by the current Coalition Government.
Why would such a decision be rejected so many times over?
After all, upon visiting the supermarket you may see the many different brands of canned tuna fish. Much of this is labelled as ‘dolphin friendly’, whilst there are also many varieties with no dolphin friendly label. This is the level of choice that we the consumer should always have. But why limit comparisons to this?
In late 2000 after nine years of discussion GM (Genetically Modified) crops and food now have to be labelled by law. This is another example of the consumer being able to make an informed choice as to what they purchase and ultimately consume. Is it too much to ask that when there is a halal option non-Muslims are equally given a non-halal option? This blanket practice of ‘halal or nothing’ is disrespectful to the cultural and religious differences of all non-Muslims.
As well as a large proportion of domestically produced meat, most New Zealand lamb you find in the supermarket is halal certified, but is not labelled as such. The vast majority of chicken, turkey and beef that comes from halal abattoirs also carry no label to inform you of this. Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Somerfield, Co-Op, Waitrose, Marks and Spencers, and Asda are all guilty of this. Asda even refused to comment on their range of meat products and whether they are halal or not.
In the last few years, public bodies such as schools, hospitals and even football grounds have been serving halal meat to the public with no choice, and we are none the wiser. In the past many Islamic authorities have also rejected halal slaughter using machines, after the internationally-recognised Malaysian Halal Standard ‘MS 1500′ removed machine slaughtering as an acceptable practice in 2009. The Birmingham Council of Mosques has also said that Muslims should not accept halal slaughtered by machines, and that the only acceptable halal is from manual slaughter.
Another popular view is that for meat to be ‘truly halal’ it has to be slaughtered and handled exclusively by Muslims. This is yet just another way of providing jobs exclusively for Muslims and Muslims alone right through the supply chain. No wonder 5,000 halal butchers moved to the UK in 2008/9.
Currently Muslims only account for around 4% of the UK population. So why should we give the whole meat industry over to this minority, allowing the stealthy influx of this blessed meat intended solely for the consumption of Muslim mouths too slip onto the dinner plates of non-Muslims?
Of late, halal meat has been linked to the funding of terrorism through some halal certification bodies. CBN news has discovered that the halal meat in France is certified by the UIOF, the Union of the Islamic Organizations in France, who have strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and other known transnational terrorist organisations such as Hamas. So it seems halal is a double edged sword for the non-Muslims of Britain: not only is the food chain slowly being taken over with halal meat, but the money you are spending is also being siphoned off to fund terrorism. Of course that’s not an accurate portrayal of all suppliers of halal meat, but what other nationally available products have been linked to the funding of terrorism!?
It is our belief that ritually slaughtered meat can exist, but we call for it all to be pre-stunned and to be suitably labelled. There are certainly plenty of Jews and Muslims who support such a stance, because clear labelling of any meat that been ritually slaughtered does an injustice to no one. The choice between halal or non-halal options in hospitals, in schools, in the workplace and at public events would also do no harm to anyone.
At present, halal meat is nationally available in the major supermarkets, but is rarely labelled as such. One can only ask; why is it that it’s so easy to get halal meat when so few actually have actually asked for it, and why has there been so much resistance to simply labelling?
So, we ask you to join us in our campaign for fair labelling. Make a complaint, write to your MP, write to your supermarket, or simply make a point of asking in store whether their meat is halal.
To help make sure that our concerns are listened to, we are taking our campaign to Asda stores around the country. Asda is one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK and has the buying power to ask for labelling to become standard. Asda were also guilty of intentionally keeping quiet for many months when asked to confirm if they supplied halal meat.
We will be leafleting and will be demonstrating, because we believe that customers have a right to know how their meat was slaughtered, and that everyone should be given freedom of choice in equal measure.