Halal labelling should be mandatory, denying it was outrageous
In modern Britain, everyone has a personal right to consume meat prepared to the necessary standard of religious preferences, but consumers also have a right to know whether the animal has suffered, says Steven George-Hilley
Finally we learn that months after the Halal meat scandal, George Eustice, the Parliamentary under-secretary of state for farming, food and the marine environment, has proposed that the labels of 'stunned' and ‘unstunned’ on meat packaging would give a 'clear definition' to consumers.
These measures are long overdue, for it emerged this year that the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer were selling tons of unmarked meat to clueless customers. Worse still, popular high street chains such as Pizza Express had been serving up Halal chicken to diners, something not made clear on the menu.
It wasn’t just the restaurants, fast food outlets like Subway, KFC and Nando’s also admitted using Halal meat in some dishes, again without clear communication to their customers.
Under Islamic law Halal slaughtering involves the worker cutting through the arteries in the neck of the animal with one swipe of a blade, whilst a Muslim butcher recites a religious verse to prepare the meat. The next step is to drain all the blood from the animal, as the consumption of blood is forbidden under Islamic law, this law also requires the animal to have its throat slit while it is still fully conscious. You can see a video of this practice here.
If that’s what your religion requires for the preparation of meat, then that’s fine by me. In modern Britain, everyone has a personal right to consume meat prepared to the necessary standard of religious preferences, but consumers also have a right to know whether the animal has suffered.
I would imagine there would be outrage if meat presumed to be Halal turned out not to be so. With this in mind, why did the big retailers and restaurant chains feel that those who would prefer not to eat it - and there are many - didn’t deserve to know?
The answer, as always, is that the leftists’ fear of offending religious minorities trumps the rights of the rest of us. This mind-set has allowed a practice to set in where the rights of the consumer fall behind those of the rights of a religious group.
This approach is wrong and unfair to both consumers who prefer stunned meat and the religious groups who have a right to consume meat prepared to their necessary theological standards.
George Eustice and the Conservatives are setting about rebalancing the unfair system which emerged during the Halal scandal, and this is long overdue. Adding a label which discreetly informs the buyer whether their meat is ‘stunned' and ‘unstunned’ isn’t a challenging process.
Hopefully the big retailers, restaurants and fast food outlets that were caught up in this national scandal will have learned a valuable lesson. Everybody has rights, but one group’s do not come above the rights of others.
Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank and a Conservative Party activist. He is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator @StevenGeorgia
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