19/05/2014 16:08 BST | Updated 19/05/2014 16:59 BST

Which Universities Are Serving Unstunned Halal Meat To Unaware Students?

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
General view of a butchers selling halal meat in Brixton, south London, as a review of labelling of halal meat will be conducted if the industry fails to deliver more transparency within the next few months, Downing Street has said.

Universities are serving halal meat to their students, including Sikhs and Hindus who cannot eat halal on religious grounds, without informing them, an investigation has revealed.

Oxford, Manchester and Durham are just a few of the institutions dishing up halal, while many others are unsure whether the animals were stunned before slaughter.

A Freedom of Information request to 126 universities by student paper The Tab was only responded to by 25 of them, with half admitting to serving halal meat without labelling it.

Of the meat Manchester University serves, 85% is unlabelled halal, while 70% of the meat served at St Chads College in Durham University is halal. Sheffield and Exeter University only serve halal chicken - and do not label it.

Cardiff, Lincoln and Northumbria also serve unlabelled halal. Suppliers to 12 universities including Liverpool, Cardiff, Sheffield and Birmingham could not say whether the animals they used had been stunned before slaughter.

According to the Tab, several of the universities' suppliers said they also served unstunned animals. Out of 35 colleges from Oxford and Cambridge which responded, only two did not serve halal.

An investigation in 2011 by another student paper, Cherwell, found up to 17 colleges may be serving exclusively halal meat to students.

One student said at the time: "I don't like the idea that we have been eating halal meat without knowing.

"I don't object to it on principle because it's part of the Muslim religion and that's fair enough, but we should have been told so that we could make an informed choice. Some people might not want to eat halal meat for ethical reasons, and they should be given the option not to."

A spokesperson from the RSPCA said: "Scientific research has clearly shown that slaughter of an animal without stunning can cause unnecessary suffering, and so we are opposed to the slaughter of any animal without first making it insensible to pain and distress."

The news is hot on the heels of the recent "halal hysteria" which ensued after Pizza Express and Subway admitted to using halal meat without informing customers.

Current EU legislation does not require meat to be labelled halal or kosher (food which conforms to Jewish dietary law), although a motion to introduce this was proposed in 2010, which was rejected by the UK.

The president of the British Veterinary Association, Robin Hargreaves, recently wrote an open letter to the three main party leaders appealed for meat to be labelled whether it had been stunned or not.

"Recent media coverage has also revealed a very strong feeling amongst the general public for better labelling about the provenance of food they are buying and eating" the letter read. "We very much hope you will listen to this sentiment and take forward the debate about clearer food labelling."