THE use of halal meat in restaurants across the country has hit the headlines after both Pizza Express and Subway were criticised. Melanie Wallwork speaks to Bolton MP Yasmin Qureshi about the issue

WHILE the sale of halal meat in restaurants has been carried out for a number of years in the UK, including in selected Subway stores since 2007, the issue has sparked debate this week.

Pizza Express has been accused of selling halal chicken without telling customers — as this policy is not advertised in their menus, although it is stated on the chain’s website.

Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi has welcomed a debate on the topic and has tweeted about the issue this week.

She said: “Some people say that halal or kosher meat is not right because they say the method of slaughter is inhumane or it causes the animal to suffer longer.

"There is a lot of evidence to show that, in fact, the kosher and the halal method of slaughtering animals, actually the animal suffers less pain for less of the time than it does in the other method.

"If they are going to have this debate, they should at least have a factual debate.

“About 90 per cent of the meat which is called halal is actually stunned meat, therefore it is killed in exactly the same way as non-halal meat.

“If people want to have a debate about methods of slaughter, they should have a proper debate about whether one method is better than the other? It shouldn’t be bound up in religion.”

According to a 2012 Food Standards Agency report cited by the RSPCA, 97 per cent of cattle, 96 per cent of poultry and 90 per cent of sheep slaughtered using the halal method in UK abattoirs are stunned.

Some stricter Muslims insist stunning “is not halal” and animals must be slaughtered without this initial step, a method opposed by former Bolton and District Butchers president Tim Pollitt.

Mr Pollitt, from TPB Foods Limited, in Tonge Bridge Industrial Estate, said: “We are totally against non-stunning halal. It’s animal cruelty at the end of the day.

“To cut an animal’s throat and let it bleed to death means it suffers pain and agony.

“I sell halal meat here which is stunned. We supply a few schools that insist on halal. But non-stun, in my opinion, is inhumane.”

What Islamic law allows

  • Halal is the Arabic word for lawful or permitted. It is a broad term covering what is allowed in the context of Islamic law but is often used in conjunction with the issue of how meat is dealt with.
  • Traditional halal meat is killed by hand and must be blessed by the slaughterman. Islam has strict laws on the proper method of slaughtering an animal.
  • One, called dhabihah, requires a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck that cuts the jugular vein.
  • For meat to be considered halal the animal must be alive and healthy before it is killed, and all the blood must be drained from the body.