08/05/2014 15:54 BST | Updated 09/05/2014 12:59 BST

Halal Row Reaches No 10 As Tory MPs Demand Labelling Law Change

Conservative MPs are pushing to change the law around the labelling of halal and kosher meat amid a growing row that has engulfed some of Britain's biggest retailers.

MPs will be asked to support an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill, which will return to the Commons next Tuesday, after mounting controversy over major stores not labelling to say meat it has been slaughtered in accordance with Islamic ritual.

MP Philip Hollobone told The Huffington Post UK he was supporting his party colleague Philip Davies, who tabled the changes.

Davies said his amendment covered anywhere that serves food, meaning schools and hospitals were covered.

The calls come after Prime Minister David Cameron said he did not feel the government should legislate, while Commons leader Andrew Lansley told them the government would not intervene.


A raft of stories have appeared over the issue of labelling halal meat

Halal meat is, like kosher meat, exempt from the legal requirement to stun an animal before slaughtering it for food. In practice, the vast majority of halal meat sold in the UK is pre-stunned.

Four major chains - Tesco, Morrison's, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose - had to defend themselves for selling imported New Zealand lamb that was killed in accordance with Islamic ritual but not labelled as such.

They all told The Huffington Post UK that this meat was from animals stunned before death.

Morrison's said it would "welcome guidance" from the government on how to label meat that is slaughtered in accordance with religious ritual but still pre-stunned.

Davies introduced a 10-minute rule bill to force kosher and halal labelling two years ago but it was narrowly defeated.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, he said this was because of "the politically correct brigade on the Labour Benches", adding: "As usual, I was ahead of my time."

Lansley said: "I am afraid that I cannot give any comfort that the Government plan to table such an amendment.

"I hope that it will generally be the case that where consumers have an expectation, it should be met by producers and retailers.

"It should not have to be the subject of Government legislation. I am sure that my honourable friends recognise that legislation is not the answer to all problems."

When Cameron's spokesman was asked about the issue, he said: "It is a matter for retailers and restaurants to work with customers and consumer groups and representatives of faith organisations.

"He is a strong supporter of religious freedoms, including religious slaughter practices."

The comments follow a letter to The Daily Telegraph from The Muslim Council of Britain and Shechita UK, which aims "to promote awareness of and education about" kosher slaughter.

They called for broader food labelling that listed how an animal died, regardless of whether it was done as a religious ritual.

"Consumers should be informed whether an animal has been mechanically stunned prior to slaughter and whether it has endured repeat stuns if the first attempt was ineffective," they wrote.

"They should also be told the method of slaughter: captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning, trapping, clubbing or any of the other approved methods.

"Comprehensive labelling should be supported by faith communities and animal welfare groups alike."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told HuffPoUK it had taken part in an EU study into the compulsory labelling of meat and it would review this when its results were finalised in the summer.

A spokesman said: "We want people to have the information they need to make informed choices about the food they buy. In the first instance that is for the retailer or the food outlet to provide.

"There are strict laws in place to ensure welfare standards are met during slaughter. 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.

"The government has no intention of banning religious slaughter.”