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Friday April 4, 2003

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BRITISH Muslims have been left stunned by a proposal the Government is considering which would place a ban on halal meat.

In a move sure to inflame both the Muslim and Jewish communities, Easter Eye has learnt that officials from the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) are chewing over proposals to end the practice of slaughtering animals without being stunned first.

During a meeting between the FAWC and Jewish groups at the Department for the environment, Food and Rural Affairs last week, the delegation walked out in disgust after being told the council would recommend the ban. Communities from both religions believe that animal meat is not acceptable to eat unless it has been killed in a prescribed manner. Muslims believe the animal should be killed by making a cut through the jugular vein in the throat while mentioning the name of Allah, After its quick death, the animal is then skinned and drained of all blood.

Ehsan Choudhari, who owns a Halal meat shop in Hounslow, West London, expressed his anger at the possible move: "It's a bad thing and I am outraged, It is as if the Government is telling us how to practice our religion. How can they tell us to change the way we should eat - when we have been practicing it for a long time?"

What has particularly incensed Muslims is that only four years ago, Halal butchers took part in discussions which led to an Act being passed which governed the slaughter of animals, Now they feel the goalposts have been shifted once more.

Masood Khanaga, of the Halal Food Authority said: "I do not understand why this is an issue again after the 1999/400 Act. We are concerned with animal welfare, which is why we attended but when pre-stunning was mentioned we voiced our objections." He added: "We do not agree to gas stunning but we are not against scientific reforms and we are not going to be given a directive to say we will change our religious ethics,"

The 1999/400 Act ruled that the slaughter of animals whether Halal or kosher had to take place on licensed premises,

A spokeswoman from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The recommendation is one of 120 and hasn't been adopted yet and we're not at any stage that there is any threat to the status quo." The report will go to ministers in May.

"I can't- pre-empt what the ministers will decide," added the spokeswoman. She also said the agriculture minister. Elliot Morley, would be sensitive to religious representations. The principle that the animal should be rendered unconscious before slaughter, as the council wants, would apparently infringe both religious codes.

Geoffrey AIderman, political director of the campaign for the protection of shechita (kosher meat), who was at the meeting, said: "This has been a long-running campaign by the Farm Animal Welfare Council.

"The recommendation is completely unacceptable because of the complicated rules we have related to the health of the animal at the time of slaughter. It takes at least seven years to train a Jewish slaughterman. Presumably we would have to get kosher meat imported from abroad in future."

[Source: Halal Monitoring Committee ]


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