Labelling the Halal meat market for consumers


As the winter nights draw in my thoughts turn to my husband's delicious homemade mutton curry.

And here in Birmingham the best place to buy mutton is one of our local Halal butchers in the Bullring Market. Since I'm not a Muslim for me it's the meat that's important so I want to be sure the animal was stunned before slaughter. Most Halal meat is stunned but not all and when out shopping it can be hard to tell which is which. Now there are moves to change that.

Sitting chatting with Dr Mohammad Naseem over tea in the Birmingham Central Mosque he explained to me that for him Halal meat should not be stunned before slaughter. It may be an uncomfortable idea for many but for him it's non-negotiable.

Midlands sheep farmers

Halal is hugely important to our Midlands sheep farmers as the Muslim population of the UK eat so much lamb and mutton. Just under 5% of the UK population is Muslim but they eat more than 20% of English lamb. It's a big sector that helps support prices at a good level for farmers.

In a snapshot survey of abattoir activity from the Food Standards Agency, about half of all sheep passing through our abattoirs are stunned and then killed in the standard way ready for a typical Sunday roast. The other half will be slaughtered according to Halal rules and the majority will be stunned first. But around 10% of the entire total will be slaughtered without stunning.

For Dr Mohammad Naseem only that 10% is Halal. For me looking for mutton for curry it's the meat I don't want to buy. But neither of us can be sure what we are getting. Now Warwickshire-based Eblex, the industry body, is consulting on how to improve this state of affairs and for the first time that could involve labelling to make it clear if the animal has been stunned or not.

Clearer labelling

This is just a consultation at the moment and it would only be voluntary, but Eblex are hopeful it can be adopted by the industry as a whole. In particular for our medium sized abattoirs who may run both stunned and non-stunned Halal slaughtering and who would have to show much greater traceability and transparency about what happens to a particular batch of meat.

The bigger question of the cruelty and appropriateness of non-stunning slaughter be it for Halal or for Kosher food seems to have reached a political pause at the moment with the government declaring it would continue after a long consultation. Groups like the RSPCA are unhappy about this but accept more information for consumers would be an important step forward.

At the base in Warwickshire Phil Hadley from Eblex explained how they get phone calls from people wanting to know how they can be sure their meat is Halal alongside calls from people who want to be sure they don't buy it.

There's clearly a demand for much clearer labelling from many consumers with all sorts of views on this controversial subject. That's what Eblex want to try and provide and they will report back in the new year. So what do you think of the plans?

David Gregory-Kumar Article written by David Gregory-Kumar David Gregory-Kumar Science & Environment correspondent, BBC News

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Death by exsanguination. Thank you EU for Article 9 which allows religious diversity to overcome animal welfare. Cannot expect the BBC to utter a word of criticism that might offend their favourite culture. Why not drop the licence fee and let the BBC be financed by those whose cultural views it supports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    it needs to be stopped its absolute cruelty there is no need for this barbaric behaviour , the
    the poor animals dont have much of a life to begin with

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    5% of the population is Muslim so 95% of the population must eat religious food? Muslims eat 20% of Lamb in the UK so the rest of us must eat the other 80%?
    The head of DEFRA says it's "barbaric", the leading Vet says it's "un-hygenic" The Koran says if it's not availanle Muslims can eat none halal so why support a barbaric, intensly cruel and un-hygenic act? BAN IT!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Ban all halal, this isnt a muslim country or state, if only 5% of the uk is Muslim then why should there even be halal? This is england a Christian/catholic/sikh based country not Muslim, and most of all it is barbaric for the animals, why should my child be forced to eat something that is blessed by something that we dont believe in???

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    ban it full stop be it stunned or not its a barbaric way to kill any animal.



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