British ministers are seeking to change a law to ensure that meat slaughtered using Islamic, or halal, methods cannot be sold without proper labeling.
According to the Daily Mail on Sunday, “unwitting members of the public” are being served halal meat “secretly” in schools, hospitals, pubs and famous sporting venues, claiming that many in Britain deem the traditional Islamic way of preparing meat as “cruel,” including animal rights campaigners.
Like Jewish kosher slaughter, the halal method requires the butcher to kill the animal by slitting its throat, ensuring the animal is not stunned first to lessen its ordeal.
Muslims are adamant that the halal method ensures the least amount of pain possible for an animal, and is in accordance to animal welfare measures.
According to the British newspaper, the UK government is now drawing up plans to prevent the supply of halal meat to people that are none the wiser about the method their meat has been slaughtered in.
The move mimics a recent suggestion from France’s prime minister who urged Muslims and Jews to consider scrapping their halal and kosher slaughter laws.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon made the suggestion after President Nicolas Sarkozy called this month for butchers to clearly label meat slaughtered according to religious laws, while his allies warned immigrants might impose halal meat on French schoolchildren.
This received criticism from the international press. In an opinion piece titled “The lands of foie gras and puppy mills are suddenly horrified by animal slaughter,” Emma Teitel of Canada-based Maclean’s news weekly wrote:
“The ritual method through which halal meat is slaughtered … is just as legal in France as the secular alternative (‘captive bolt stunning,’ in which the animal is sedated via stun gun before it’s killed), but Le Pen maintains that halal’s ‘horrible cruelty’ warrants special condemnation,” in reference to Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate of France’s right-wing National Front party.
Le Pen had claimed, falsely as would later transpire, that all meat sold in Paris shops is halal, stirring up suspicions in France’s longstanding and sometimes bitter debate about cultural immigration.
While the debate is typical of a country that has for years debated how far it is willing to accommodate Islam, in Britain the new controversy over the halal slaughter methods may perhaps come as a surprise to Muslim communities in the country.
One worshipper at the Central London Mosque told BBC Radio 4: “Everything about the Islamic way of life is under attack so it makes you wonder if this is actually about humanity to animals.”
The Muslim Council of Britain, meanwhile, has maintained that animals are not distressed when they are slaughtered
“It’s a sudden and quick hemorrhage. A quick loss of blood pressure and the brain is instantaneously starved of blood and there is no time to start feeling any pain,” spokesman Dr. Majid Katme told the BBC.