By Ed Bedington, Meat Trades Journal
Once again halal production is dominating the headlines of the tabloid press, and once again, it’s a case of not letting the facts stand in the way of a good story.
The fact the story comes around almost every year, with the same predictable headlines, is also ignored. People have the attention spans of goldfish, after all, and once again, the meat industry has to watch in disbelief as, before you can utter the words “islamophobia” the predictable headlines whip up a frenzy of outrageous idiocy.
So, let’s set the record straight. Is there unlabelled halal meat on the supermarket shelves? Yes there is. Is this a reason to be concerned? No, unless you feel that the utterance of a prayer at the point of slaughter is likely to infect you with some kind of unwanted religious fervour. After all, little Susan loves her burgers, but heaven forbid it might lead to her donning a burkha.
The outrage and hysteria over the issue is being manipulated and whipped up for reasons other than animal welfare or food safety.
The fact that the vast majority of halal production is pre-stunned before slaughter is brushed aside in favour of focusing on the tiny minority that isn’t. And that tiny minority is not on the supermarket shelves in the form of New Zealand lamb.
Those looking to whip up that frenzy need to look to their own consciences.
Non-stun is a separate issue in this debate, and one that is a serious issue for the meat industry to tackle. Those who promote it claim it is humane and it is their religious right to slaughter an animal without stunning.
Whether you agree with that or not, insisting that the meat coming in from New Zealand be labelled halal is going to have no impact on the issue of non-stun slaughter.
If we’re going to label a product, labelling its method of slaughter, as argued for by the British Veterinary Association, is a more sensible route to allow consumers to make an informed and sensible choice.
But, unfortunately, the words informed and sensible are not usually what sells copies of the Daily Mail.