I was surprised to see that MPs have overwhelmingly rejected a measure which would have forced shops and restaurants to label products which contain halal or kosher meat. The measure, proposed by Conservative backbencher Philip Davies, was overwhelmingly crushed in the Commons with the support of only 17 MPs. So why is it so controversial to suggest that consumers may want to know what they are eating?
This debate was sparked by the recent admission of popular pizza chain Pizza Express that all the chicken they serve in their restaurants is halal, meaning that it has been slaughtered in accordance with traditional Islamic law whereby the animal bleeds to death and Muslim prayers are recited. Although this revelation has caused a public outcry, politicians seem unconcerned and do not share the commonly held view that halal and kosher meat should be clearly labelled.
The belief that halal products must be clearly labelled as such should not be a controversial one; after all, any products that we buy currently contain long lists of ingredients and nutritional information. It is therefore pure common sense that the method of slaughter also features on packaging. However, there are many who have been quick to depict this as an anti-Islam debate, an accusation which is simply untrue.
Muslims make up less than 5% of the British population, but yet halal meat is being sold in restaurants and shops across the country without people knowing about it, even though many would rather not eat meat that has been slaughtered in this way. Additionally, there are many Muslims who happily eat non-halal products, as the Qur’an does not specify how animals should be slaughtered. Therefore, only a tiny minority of the British public stringently follow the halal guidelines, and we should not give their religious customs priority over the basic rights of individuals.
This is not an attack on British Muslims, or a cheap excuse to indulge in shameless Islamophobia; indeed, a prominent imam and Muslim scholar has written an article for the Daily Mail calling for transparency in the labeling of food and attacking the ‘white, liberal, Guardian-reading classes’ who act as apologists for Islamic extremism. Instead, it is a call for businesses and the government to take action in order to help consumers know what is on their plate and to make an informed choice over the products they are buying.
Originally published on my personal blog, Plainly Speaking: http://georgereeves1994.blogspot.co.uk/