Consumers have the right to know whether the meat has been pre-stunned or not.
Brussels: EU consumers must be offered clear labeling so they only buy halal meat, especially from animals not pre-stunned before slaughter, if they so choose, rights organizations say animals and halal groups.
“It would be helpful if all meat was labeled pre-stunned or not so people could make informed choices,” said Nick Palmer, head of Compassion in World Farming UK, an animal welfare campaign and advocacy group. , at Salaam Gateway.
He said it was undesirable for non-pre-stunned meat to be accidentally purchased by consumers who preferred to avoid it.
His comments come as the issue of labeling has been raised in the European Parliament. In a written parliamentary question, Greek MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Emmanouil Fragkos asked about “the growing number of Islamic butchers selling halal meat” in Greece. He claimed that “Christians living in predominantly or predominantly Muslim communities within which Islamic butchers operate, unfortunately find themselves forced to consume halal meat against their will.”
However, there was no European Union (EU) legislation on meat labeling corresponding to religious practices to avoid this situation, a European Commission official told Salaam Gateway. Regulators in EU member states, religious authorities and non-governmental organizations are competent in this matter.
The official said it is up to consumers to decide whether or not they want to consume halal or non-halal food.
Palmer told Salaam Gateway that the animal welfare issue was not really halal meat, but meat from properly stunned animals. There was no animal welfare reason to object to halal if pre-stun had taken place, as was often the case.
However, Brussels has always allowed slaughter without stunning, justified by the 2009 EU Council Regulation on the protection of animals at the time of killing. This welcomed religious slaughter in slaughterhouses.
Fragkos said that despite growing pressure to end the practice, on June 18 the Brussels regional parliament voted against a bill to ban halal and kosher slaughter in the Belgian capital. Slaughter without stunning was banned in the Belgian provinces of Wallonia and Flanders in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Palmer said a butcher deciding to sell only meat from pre-stunned animals could gain customers concerned about the problem while losing others. However, he hadn’t heard that the butchers found the problem unmanageable.
“Some will choose to sell all kinds of meat; others will specialize either for ethical or religious reasons, or simply out of business judgment that a market is more profitable. As for consumers, many simply want the closest, convenient and affordable food,” he said.
He said religion usually doesn’t come into people’s minds when deciding what to eat for a family meal, and there would be an overlap with some Muslims buying non-Halal and some non-Muslims buying halal.
“However, a growing number of consumers of all faiths want to feel that animals have been treated well, including minimizing suffering at slaughter, and the large amount of halal meat from pre-stunned animals may reflect this preference,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Salah Eldin, halal administrator at the Brussels-based Halal Federation of Belgium (HFB), said more butchers selling halal meat shouldn’t be a problem for Christians and non-Muslims alike.
The case only affected a small number of customers and would not influence the market, he told Salaam Gateway. Belgian Muslims represent less than 500,000 people out of the country’s 11.6 million inhabitants and 10% of the population of the EU and Eastern Europe.
According to data from the American think tank Pew Research Center cited by worldatlas.com, among Western European countries, France (7.5%), the Netherlands (6%) and Belgium (5.9% listen)) had the largest share of Muslims in their population. in 2010.
However, neither the EU statistical office Eurostat nor the market researcher Euromonitor International has figures on the proportion of halal meat sold in Europe, but Euromonitor figures show that meat consumption (and therefore the quantity of halal meat sold) varies considerably from country to country.
France consumes 824,200 tonnes of beef and 85,400 tonnes of lamb, mutton and goat and Italy (725,700 tonnes of beef and 54,200 tonnes of lamb, mutton and goat) top the ranking.
Eldin insisted that halal was “a seal of approval and a concept of quality” and leading French families often tried halal butchers, mainly for poultry, as the meat was cheaper. Once they discovered the quality, they stuck with halal.
He said studies by Ghent University have shown that stunning is not the main animal welfare concern given the entire life of an animal or bird. An older article pointed out that Muslims buy meat considering all aspects of animal welfare and health.
Halal slaughtered animals must have been fed natural feed containing no animal by-products; correctly transported to the slaughterhouse and slaughtered by themselves.
“It’s a matter of ‘farm to fork,'” he told Salaam Gateway, saying non-halal meat is often slaughtered under industrial conditions by commercial companies.
He agreed that labeling and standards were key to ending consumer confusion when buying meat. Halal meat must be accompanied by a halal certificate stating that the animal was slaughtered with a sharp knife and lived under halal conditions.
“We are working with the EU and animal rights groups like GAIA (Belgium-based Global Action in the Interest of Animals) to ensure proper halal standards.”
Eldin argued that Muslims don’t have to eat halal, but it’s better for them health-wise.
During this time, the popularity of halal meat was undeniable and Brussels had not only halal butchers, but also halal pizzerias and snack bars.
Islamic butchers Boucherie Nassiri in Forest (or Vorst in Dutch), Brussels, told Salaam Gateway that its meat had no official certificates, but “everyone knows the meat is halal” as it says on the sign. (in Arabic) on the door.
“We also have halal meat listed on our bills,” he said, adding that his customers were both Muslim and non-Muslim.
© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All rights reserved