's biggest supermarket chains are selling halal lamb and chicken without telling unsuspecting shoppers, reported the Mail on Sunday.
The paper had to force an admission out of the major supermarkets, none of whom tell shoppers whether their lamb is ritually slaughtered, even when a Muslim slaughterman is intoning 'Bismillah Allah-hu-Akbar' (meaning 'In the name of Allah, who is the greatest') over each animal killed.
No beef sold is halal, it seems. But 5% of chicken sold in Tesco is halal as is 35% of the store's
lamb. None of it is labelled as such. The Co-op is the same. Asda are dumping halal chicken and lamb onto their fresh meat counters and the majority of frozen New Zealand lamb is halal. Only M&S and Morrisons guarantee their fresh meat to be non-halal, but even they do not label their NZ frozen as halal.
NEW ZEALANDLAMB IS 70% HALAL The scandal applies mostly to lamb. 70% of New Zealand lamb sold by British supermarkets is slaughtered according to Muslim law. The reason is that
supplies a growing Muslim consumer base in the Middle and
. It was the New Zealanders who developed the 'pre-stun' method of slaughter, rendering the animal unconscious by electric shock, rather than by a captive-bolt pistol, which is very 'haram' (forbidden).
But none of the New Zealand halal lamb is labelled as such, so consumers do not know that they are buying and eating ritually-slaughtered meat. A growing proportion of meat slaughtered in British abattoirs is also halal, using the same method, and that does not appear to be labelled 'halal' in many stores either.
In their statements, the supermarkets were determined to present the issue as solely one of animal welfare. They appeared oblivious to the religious implications of the Islamic blessing pronounced over each animal killed. But even that could not explain the procrastination, ignorance and/or inability to explain the facts to consumers that the supermarkets displayed.
TESCO AND THE CO-OP For example, when the Mail on Sunday rang them, Tesco were initially reluctant to admit they sold any halal meat at all. Tesco said in a peculiar statement: 'It is not the case that all the meat we sell is halal or that our suppliers only offer halal meat.'
But when quizzed further, a spokesman was more forthcoming: 'All our
lamb is halal-slaughtered, as is 35 per cent of our
lamb. Less than five per cent of our chicken is halal.'
But we spoke to their customer services department on the morning of Friday 1st October 2010 and were assured that the
lamb was NOT halal unless labelled as such. That cannot be true.
Furthermore, a 'corporate statement' on slaughtering in the light of the Mail on Sunday story appeared on the Tesco intranet and disappeared ten minutes later. Confusion was reigning as Tesco executives behaved like headless chickens, if the metaphor can be allowed in the context.
The Co-op, who also own Somerfield, were a little clearer. They told the Mail on Sunday that their
lamb was definitely halal, but was not labelled. A spokesman told Christian Voice that it was impossible to assume that other meat not labelled halal was not in fact halal.
So not merely can Christian Voice no longer bank at the Co-op (!), we cannot buy lamb there any more either. Nor at Somerfields or Tesco.
WAITROSE CAUGHT IN A LIE Waitrose were also caught in a lie. A Waitrose spokeswoman said in her first statement: 'I can confirm that Waitrose does not sell any halal meat.' But a day later, another spokeswoman did a complete u-turn: 'You mentioned the [Islamic] prayer said at the point of slaughter. This applies to all our lamb but not to beef or poultry.'
Christian Voice can confirm that all Waitrose lamb is halal. They emailed us to say: 'We have allowed the halal blessing at the point of slaughter.' But none of their meat is labelled honestly as 'halal'.
So that is Waitrose out as well, unless you want to buy HRH's expensive Duchy range in Waitrose and are prepared to overlook the dishonesty of all their other lamb labelling.
MARKS & SPENCER ALL FRESH MEAT IS NON-HALAL Marks and Spencer confirmed in a statement that their
lamb was (a) pre-stunned, (b) halal slaughtered and (c) not labelled as such.
They also said: 'No meat sourced by M&S from the
'With the exception of
lamb, none of our meat or poultry is slaughtered in accordance with any religious practices.
'We understand that for some there may be a religious or moral objection to
lamb, so we're able to offer
sourced lamb as an alternative. The country of origin of all M&S meat is clearly labelled on the packaging.'
It is very good that M&S have recognized the religious dimension, but they should still label their
lamb as ‘halal’ or ‘ritually-slaughtered’.
ASDA HAVE A MUSLIM SLAUGHTERMAN Asda refused to answer the journalists' questions, but we discovered they ran a pilot of stocking halal meat in a
store in November 2007, and by 2008 Asda had extended a range of frozen halal meat at 99 of its stores. At that time, the Asda halal range was clearly labelled and was produced by Tahira Foods.
When we rang them, Asda assured Christian Voice that all their halal meat was labelled as such. But when they sent us a statement by email, they said: "It's our policy that all animals used for Asda Brand products, halal or non-halal, are stunned prior to slaughter, rendering them unconscious and insensitive to pain. Our labelling in all areas of our stores meets our legal obligations." Sadly, that statement was far less categorical.
Further on, Asda say this: "The stunning method used by Asda suppliers is 'stun to stun' (electro-narcosis), which induces a 'fit' in the animal. It is at this point that the animals' throat is cut and the animal is bled to death. Although brain function is disturbed during this process the heart is still beating and the animal is alive as required. At this point, the animal is also insensitive to pain and the cut is made by a trained Muslim slaughterman. The Meat Hygiene Service has veterinary surgeons in place at all slaughter sites and they ensure that relevant legislation is followed. The on site management teams also ensure that schemes such as those provided by the RSPCA - Freedom Foods and the Humane Slaughter Association are implemented and monitored as required.
"All Asda brand meat which is labelled as being Halal, has been through this stun to stun process. Under no circumstances do we allow any animal to be killed without being stunned first, even for Halal meat."
Asda have now admitted that much of their lamb and chicken is slaughtered according to Islamic ritual. A company source said: 'It's fair to say that most lamb is halal and I would say half of the chicken is halal.'
THE TAHIRA CONNECTION Turning briefly to the brand-label market, the three main companies supplying specialist halal meat to supermarkets are Hilton Food Group, who supply Shahada (which means a declaration, such as the Islamic assertion 'There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger' or the prayer said by the slaughterman), National Halal and Tahira Foods Ltd. Tahira means 'pure of heart' or just 'purity'. Hilton, who employ 1,500 people across five European sites, supply Tesco with pre-packed meat in trays with the green 'Shahada' label.
IN THE MEANTIME, Those of us who do object to halal meat may find it appropriate to boycott New Zealand lamb, and all lamb in Asda, the Co-op, Tesco, Somerfield, Waitrose and Sainsbury. Only M&S and Morrisons fresh meat is all guaranteed non-halal.
MORRISONS FRESH LAMB IN THE CLEAR All Morrisons beef, fresh lamb, fresh British chicken and frozen chicken is non-halal. A Morrisons spokesman said, 'We only sell 100% British fresh beef, lamb and poultry. None of it is halal. The vast majority of our fresh beef and lamb is processed at our own abattoirs in
. We adhere to high standards of animal welfare. All of the cattle, lamb and poultry are stunned prior to slaughter.'
They said: 'Morrisons' frozen lamb is currently sourced from
and is halal, the animal is humanely stunned before slaughter and a prayer is read.'
'We sell a limited range of halal and Kosher branded frozen food products which are all clearly labelled as such.'
'If a customer is concerned, they can be reassured that all of our fresh meat is not halal. The interest in this subject has resulted in us reviewing our labelling policy.'
The review of the labelling policy at Morrisons is very good news.
lamb should be labelled as 'Halal' or 'may be halal'.
THE TAHIRA CONNECTION Turning briefly to the brand-label market, the two main companies supplying specialist halal meat to supermarkets are Hilton Food Group, who supply Shahada (which means a declaration, such as the Islamic assertion 'There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger' or the prayer said by the slaughterman), and Tahira Foods Ltd. Tahira means 'pure of heart' or just 'purity'. Hilton, who employ 1,500 people across five European sites, supply Tesco with pre-packed meat in trays with the green 'Shahada' label.
Tahira is run by Moslems. Its consultant, Mohamed Iqbal Asaria, has held the post of finance director of the Muslim Council of Britain and regularly meets
treasury and Bank of England officials to advance the Muslim cause. Another director, Ghias El-Yafi, is the son of a former Lebanese prime minister.
The Tahira website is vague about whether the animals slaughtered for its meat are stunned prior to slaughter. If they were to say they are not, the animal welfare people would be on to them, of course, But if they said they were, perhaps their market would suffer. We rang and emailed Tahira foods to ask them to clarify the point. At the time of going to press, we had not received a reply. Tahira Foods account manager Faiza Akmal told the Mail on Sunday: "Today, more and more Muslims want to buy Halal products when they do their one-stop shopping."
Mrs Akmal may have a point, for although there are plenty of halal butchers in Muslim areas, the supermarkets clearly wanted some of the action when Muslims do the weekly shop. Tahira's clients include all the big four and Somerfield.
SAINSBURY NOT LABELLED A Sainsbury's spokesman told the Mail: 'The abattoirs that supply us with lamb are licensed by the Muslim authorities and a prayer is said when the animals are killed.'
Lianne at Sainsbury told us their fresh lamb was halal. It was pre-stunned but had the prayer said over it. She said it was not labelled as halal, but said that was because it did not totally comply with all Islamic standards, despite being approved by the Halal Food Authority.
It seems some Islamic authorities allow pre-stunning and some do not. So Sainsbury, like a number of their competitors, are placing themselves in a no-man's land where their meat is halal enough through the prayer said at the point of slaughter to alienate many of their non-Muslim customers, but not halal enough through the slaughter method to satisfy the demands of all their Muslim clientele. Why do they bother getting their meat ritually-slaughtered at all?
But Sainsbury's lamb is certainly halal enough to warrant us shopping somewhere else.
LEGAL OBLIGATIONS Asda spoke about meeting their 'legal obligations,' but it seems the legal obligations do not compel stores to honestly label their ritually-slaughtered meat as 'halal'. The supermarkets seem very reluctant to tell shoppers what they are buying.
The supermarkets and fast-food outlets told the Mail on Sunday that they did not feel the need to tell customers their meat is halal because the slaughter conformed to Western standards, with animals stunned before being killed. That does not excuse blatant lies being told to researchers.
But even then the RSPCA has raised concerns about the way chicken is killed in Islamic abattoirs because the birds are stunned with a weaker electric current, which does not guarantee unconsciousness during slaughter.
BACKLASH Inayat Bunglawala, the chair of Muslims4UK, said: 'Supermarkets should not be afraid of labelling their products as halal. Halal meat tastes just the same as non-halal meat.'
But the taste is not the point. The supermarkets are not telling the truth because their market research has warned them of a backlash. Many Christians and those of other faiths may well object to the Muslim slaughterman chanting 'Bismillah Allah-hu-Akbar' as he cuts the animals' throats. Sikhs, for instance, are forbidden to eat halal under any circumstances. Quite apart from the animal welfare considerations, in a religious sense it means that the animal has been sacrificed to Allah, the god of Islam.
In schools, children do not have a choice at all, and the parents of some children may strongly object to halal ritually-slaughtered meat in the increasing number of schools turning to halal meat.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: 'People should know what they're buying in the shops or when they're eating out and I will be discussing with the food industry the role labelling can play in giving consumers a choice.'
ISLAMIC CREEP There are three issues here, we believe. Firstly, there is the matter of humane killing. A spokesman for one of the supermarkets assured us their over-riding concern was animal welfare. They have gone out of their way to assure the animal rights lobby on that point, although the RSPCA are not yet satisfied.
Secondly is the subject of the Islamic declaration, the shahada, being said by the slaughterman. If the shahada is pronounced, even with pre-stunning, the meat is halal enough to offend those of other faiths.
Thirdly, even if people are not bothered in the slightest by what is said as their Sunday roast faces the butcher's knife, there is the growing problem of Islamic creep. Why are the supermarkets demanding,, or at the very least accepting, that halal lamb in particular be foisted on their customers, 95% of whom are non-Muslim, instead of providing specialist authentic halal products clearly labelled as such in areas where there is a demand? How long will it take at this rate before every slaughterman in the land is a Muslim?
The story illustrates the point made by Stephen Green on BBC1's Sunday Morning programme on 26th September that too many concessions are made to Muslims - and this at a time when Christians face crackdowns and discrimination.
The reason is overproduction of halal meat for the Muslim market. We deal with this in our VIDEO
(Please let us know of any errors or improvements to the above)
Tell the stores and your MP that you object to halal meat not being labelled as such. Let them know the issue is not just that of animal welfare, important as that is, but the Islamic dedication ('shahada') said at the point of slaughter. Ask MP's for a labelling regulation to be passed.
Ask the Supermarkets to label clearly all and any halal meat in their stores, including frozen
lamb and any halal chicken imported from
. Why are some of them dishonestly passing off halal meat as non-halal? Paradoxically, if this halal meat is not labelled 'halal' the Muslims won't buy it anyway. So why stock it? Why not just source lamb and chicken from non-halal slaughterhouses?