Halal: It’s about animal rights, not religion

halal meatAs a vegetarian and animal rights activist, I was appalled recently to hear that Pizza Express and other food retailers have been selling halal meat to the British Public by stealth, with no labelling whatsoever. We already label whether our meat has been slaughtered in Britain or whether it contains additives, so why not label whether food has been killed through a particular method? And now, after the rightful indignation from the media and public, many left wing media outlets such as the Guardian  and Huffington Post UK  have attempted to transform this into a story of religion rather than of choice.

Home Affairs IUs Brits (which includes Muslims) are an animal loving people who care deeply about animal welfare. By some estimates, 4 million of us are vegetarian, but by no means does this number reflect the amount of us who care deeply about animal rights. After all, it was only three years ago when battery farming was banned, after public revulsion at the treatment of hens squashed into cages.

So it shocks me that many on the left are now seemingly misrepresenting this issue. Recently a Mirror quiz found 83 per cent of Brits agree that the law should be changed to ensure all animals are stunned are now being. Elizabeth Day, writing for the Guardian say that we are kidding ourselves if we think that Halal is less barbaric than other forms of eating before making comparisons with ‘good Christian‘ abattoir as if opponents were somehow religiously motivated.

I support the religious choices of those who choose halal meat. But I do care about ensuring the animal has been ethically slaughtered (i.e. stunned), before having its throat cut and being bled to death. Currently, it is estimated between 84 to 90 per cent of animals that are killed through halal have been stunned. This still leaves a significant portion of those that are not. Due to an exemption in the law, Muslim and Jewish abattoirs can slaughter animals without any form of stunning, which undermines the publics pro-animal rights views and British law.

Pizza Express has issued a statement that all Halal meat has come from animals that have been stunned. But this is not what people care about. This controversy has highlighted the plight of those animals that have been killed without stunning, and asks the question of which food retailers do serve this meat.

The fact that the majority of Halal food is stunned prior to slaughter points out that religious right would continue to be respected if non pre-stunned halal is banned from the UK. In fact, there are many in the Muslim community who have no problem if the animal has been stunned and there are some who now believe that some UK Muslim meat authorities are obsessed with the issue of stunning and in turn give the impression that the meat is not Halal and in fact Haram meat, which means forbidden. An organisation named The Organic Halal Company in fact pressed the Halal Monitoring Committee on this issue, which issued the following response:

‘HMC is erring the side of caution by adopting a blanket policy to the issue of stunning and not certifying it. HMC has never claimed that all animals die due to stunning or that stunning the animal renders the animal Haram automatically.’

This means at best, the issue of stunning is debateable.

We live in a tolerant society, and this should also extend to our livestock. A recent Yougov poll, which found that 44 per cent of people find standards of animal welfare, is important when making a decision of buying meat. This has also proven to be the case following the recent Halal controversy and it was reported in the Shropshire Star that one butchers in Telford has seen an upsurge of inquiries from customers worried the butchers has been selling Halal meat, and it was emphasised that this has nothing to do about religion, but related to how the animal had been treated before they are killed.

It should be acknowledged that certain sections of society may misuse this controversy for their own agenda, On the continent recently, Denmark has banned both halal and kosher meat, with the country’s Food Minister stating, “animal rights come before religion.” This has been met with a sharp backlash, with the Danish Government being called both anti-Semitic and Islamaphobic. We must not allow this divisive rhetoric take hold in this country.

What should not be allowed is for the left wing to label the British public as Islamaphobic calling for all animals to be stunned before slaughter and wanting clear labelling on how an animal has been slaughtered. In fact Jewish and Muslim leaders have recently made a joint call for clearer food labelling. In a letter to The Telegraph, the Muslim Council of Britain and Shechita UK, a group, which promotes awareness about Jewish methods of killing animals for food called for meat labelling which clearly states if an animal, has been killed in diligence to the halal or kosher method. In my own opinion the labelling will be completely redundant if all of the animals have been pre-stunned.

Recently, a motion to label products containing halal or kosher meat failed. This should in no way discourage us as we attempt to eradicate this needless form of suffering. I am proud to come from a country, which takes care of its animals, as opposed to other European countries, such as Spain who have a terrible record on animal rights. It is not right that our rightfully tight regulations to ensure no suffering can be undercut by an exemption, which exists for reasons, which are debatable at best.

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