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Mail on Sunday on 'horror' of halal slaughter

Mail on Sunday on 'horror' of halal slaughter

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday April 16 2014

The Mail on Sunday last week carried forth with its coverage on halal meat in the UK with a double page spread titled ‘Horror at Halal Slaughterhouse’ featuring a video secretly filmed inside an abattoir that produces halal meat. Perhaps an attempt to engage in equal opportunities discrimination after an article last month on how ‘Meat from cattle slaughtered in ‘cruel’ kosher ceremony is in your high street burger’, featured kosher slaughter methods.

It would seem the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday are in campaign mode with the article stating, “We know this shocking undercover film will disgust many. But we think it should be seen – to end what our top vet called the needless suffering of livestock…butchered without bring stunned first.

The article goes on to use adjectives and descriptions clearly designed to elicit emotive reader responses by referring, for example, to “the full horror of a religious practice that Britain’s top vet wants outlawed”; of animals that “writhe in agony after being ritually killed” and how “In non-halal abattoirs, livestock are stunned before killing to prevent unnecessary suffering”.

The article goes on to present figures on the volume of livestock estimated to be slaughtered without stunning stating:

“Latest figures from the Food Standards Agency show that about 32 million chickens, 1.4 million sheep and goats and 70,000 cattle are slaughtered without stunning each year in the UK.”

It offers no comparative measure so that readers may assess non-stunned slaughter as a proportion of the whole.

Indeed, a Channel 4 Fact Check has shown that figures from Food Standards Agency reveal that over 80 per cent of cattle, poultry, sheep and goats are stunned before they are slaughtered in halal abattoirs. In comparison, the number of animals not stunned prior to slaughter for both kosher and halal meat accounted for 3% of cattle, 10% of sheep and goats and 4% of poultry. The figures demonstrate the extent to which media coverage on the issue is disproportionate to the problem.

The article also fails to account for the injury caused to animals by stunning. As Lord Palmer iterated in his contribution to the Lords debate on animal slaughter earlier this year, “The European Food Safety Authority’s report, Welfare Aspects of Animal Stunning and Killing Methods, found that the failure rate for penetrating captive bolt stunning in the non-kosher slaughter of cattle may be as high as 6.6%—the noble Lord, Lord Winston, says it is 8%—and that, for non-penetrating captive bolt stunning and electric stunning, it can rise to as high as 31%”. Injury caused to animals through stunning methods is as significant to the issue of animal welfare as the methods used for religious slaughter but there is no mention of this in the Mail on Sunday article.

Nor is there any mention of other farming methods that are detrimental to animal welfare whether in the form of battery farming of chickens or in the availability of foie gras. Again, no broader discussion of animal welfare in the MoS piece about the ‘horror’ of halal slaughter.

The article does offer certain insight into attitudes towards Muslim consumers with the owner of the abattoir, Roger Carr, expressing racist views. Carr shows some contempt for Muslims saying to the Asian MoS reporter, “There’s more bad in your people than there is, erm, well that’s what I found.”

He also speaks disparagingly of the quality of meat expected by Muslim consumers saying “You see the Pakis only want lean sheep, they don’t want no covering on it. They only want 24-26 kilos. Then you got Brick Lane, you can put any shit there, even dogs…”

Citing the President elect of the British Veterinarian Association, John Blackwell, the article does highlight quality control issues in abattoirs producing halal meat as well as compliance with the full measure of requirements of halal slaughter.

Blackwell said: “The slaughterman should not have put more than one sheep on the escalator belt ahead of slaughter, so that one animal does not witness the other being killed. Secondly, the slaughterman should have cleaned his knife after each cut as a hygiene rule. But he was not doing that.”

Blackwell added, “90 per cent of halal meat in the UK is pre-stunned, Muslim leaders should work to increase that figure and bring it closer to 100 per cent.”

He further says, “We would like to see unstunned slaughter banned in the UK on the grounds of animal welfare. There is current scientific evidence which says that animals do feel pain if they are slaughtered without any stunning.”

This seems quite contrary to his statement last month in which he considered a ban to be a last resort:

“We are looking for a meeting of minds to review the evidence base which clearly shows that slaughtering animals without stunning compromises welfare. If that can’t happen then I would like labelling at the point of sale that gives the consumer informed choice. If that is not possible we would be looking for a ban for killing without stunning.”

A spokesman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reiterated Lord De Mauley’s view that: “Although we would prefer animals to be stunned before slaughter, we respect the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their beliefs.”

He added “The Government has no intention of banning religious slaughter.”

As the European Commission continues work on the issue of animal welfare and protection of religious freedoms one thing is perhaps certain: the exploitation of the issue by far right organisations which have jumped onto the bandwagon of halal looks set to continue with yet more negative media coverage about Islamic rituals.


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