Retailers in the UK will not be forced to label halal and kosher meat after a bill proposed by a member of the House of Commons was narrowly voted down.
Philip Davies, a Conservative member of Parliament, wanted to make it compulsory for all such meat products to carry a label saying ‘Killed without stunning’ to stop consumers buying the meat “without their knowledge”, he said. In the debate, Davies argued that kosher and halal meat was being “forced upon” non-religious shoppers. However the bill was rejected after a first reading by 73 votes to 70.
The Labor Party MP Gerald Kaufman spoke out against compulsory labelling, saying: “I am an Orthodox Jew and I was brought up in a household where only kosher meat was eaten. I do not believe for a moment that Philip Davies has the tiniest anti-Semitic feeling in him. However, large numbers of Jews would be very greatly distressed if what he proposes were to become law.”
Kaufman criticized Davies for singling out Muslims and Jews, saying: “This has profound connotations of religious feelings and I would be letting my own faith down, my family, I would be letting my many, many good decent, fine religious Muslims in my constituency down if I did not state my total opposition to this bill.”
Davies, a former employee of a supermarket chain, said he had no desire to stop such meat being sold, and had no objections on animal rights grounds. He said he had “one reason only” for bringing forward the proposal: “to give consumers more information so that they can exercise their freedom of choice”. Numerous food outlets were selling halal meat to consumers “without their knowledge”, he claimed, saying that an estimated 70 percent of kosher meat was not consumed by the Jewish community.
The stunning of livestock has been compulsory in the EU since 1979 but countries can grant exemptions on religious grounds.