Halal meat row: myths and reality of religious slaughter

Date:09-05-2014 07:58:08 read:0

Halal meat row: myths and reality of religious slaughter

As Pizza Express is criticised for serving halal chicken in its restaurants, the Telegraph sets out the rules around religious slaughter and the moves afoot to introduce clearer labelling

What does religious slaughter involve?

Under both the Muslim method of slaughter, known as Zabiha, and the Jewish practice, known as Shechita, a surgically sharp instrument is used to cut straight through an animal’s throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in its neck killing it instantly.

Under Islamic rules animals can be stunned before the procedure. The vast majority of halal meat comes from animals that were pre-stunned.

Shechita prohibits pre-stunning, with Jewish leaders saying that the act of cutting the animal’s neck renders it “insensible to pain” and has the same effect as mechanical stunning.

Do methods of religious slaughter comply with government rules?

Yes. Although legislation in Britain requires the pre-stunning of animals before slaughter in normal circumstances, there has always been an exemption for the Jewish and Muslim methods of slaughter.

The exemption dates back to the Slaughter of Animals (Scotland) Act 1928 and the Slaughter of Animals Act 1933.

Is religious slaughter cruel to animals?

In March John Blackwell, head of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) insisted animals should be stunned before slaughter, saying that otherwise sheep could remain conscious for up to seven seconds after having their throat cut, while for cattle it was two minutes.

Jewish groups, however, defend their method of killing animals without first stunning them, saying using a sharp knife to cut through the neck is a “humane act designed to bring about the animals’ end very quickly”.

What are the current rules on the labelling of kosher and halal meat?

There is no legal requirement for products to be labelled as halal or kosher.

What moves are underway to change the rules?

The European Union is carrying out a study examining the feasibility of introducing labelling on meat to specify how the animal was killed. The British Government says it wants consumers to have “information about the food they are buying to make their own choice” and will consider the results of the study when it is published later this year.

The BVA says Kosher and Halal meat that is not pre-stunned should be clearly labelled as such. Jewish and Muslim groups say they would support new labelling but only if it is “comprehensive” and covers methods of slaughter in each case, rather than just specifying if something has been religiously slaughtered.

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