The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has denied meat should be labelled with the way the animal has been slaughtered despite consumer confusion.
The BRC said that most of the meat consumed by UK shoppers is from animals that have been stunned before slaughter and therefore the animals’ welfare is not compromised in most cases and does not require on pack labelling.
It comes in response to a letter sent to the Telegraph from Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders that called for products to be labeled to specify how animals have been slaughtered, including for products that are not kosher or halal, after major supermarkets and restaurants were accused of failing to tell customers whether products were halal or kosher.
Halal meat comes from animals that are slaughtered in line with the Islamic ritual Zabitha while Jewish Kosher meat is killed through the Shechita. Both methods kill the animals by cutting through the windpipe and blood vessels in its neck while prayers are said over them. Religious groups insist the method kills animals instantly, although this has been disputed by the British Veterinary Association.
However, Shecita animals are not stunned before they are killed and some Muslim slaughterhouses are also said to not ‘pre-stun’, which some believe may harm the animals’ welfare.
But in the letter chairman of Shecita UK Henry Grunwald and the deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain Dr Shuja Shafi said that animals killed under religious rules are treated no worse than those killed without religious practices.
Grunwald and Shafi believe food labels should specify whether an animal has been pre-stunned and the method of slaughter.
The BRC confirmed all own brand meat from major UK supermarkets comes from animals who have been stunned before they are killed.
BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie admitted there was confusion in the market but said it does not see the need to label meat on how it has been slaughtered: “As the overwhelming majority of meat sold in UK supermarkets is own brand and from animals that have been stunned prior to slaughter, we do not see the requirement to separately label meat based on the method of slaughter.”
The European Union is carrying out a study on religious slaughter, with officials examining the possibility of introducing clearer labelling. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it would consider the findings, adding that it wanted customers to be able to make “informed choices”.
The call by Mr Grunwald and Dr Shafi for clearer labelling was backed by the Rt Rev Nick Baines, the acting Bishop of Leeds.
He said: “Clear labelling and clear information is essential so people know what they are eating. That goes much wider than the issues of halal and kosher.”