15 May 2014

Halal row puts NZ in spotlight

5:02 pm on 15 May 2014

Debate about the welfare of animals slaughtered using halal methods is taking place in England and some of the focus has been on New Zealand lamb - most of which is slaughtered using halal methods - which are required by the Muslim faith.

NZ lambs are stunned before slaughter.

NZ lambs are stunned before slaughter. Photo: PHOTO NZ

British politicians rejected a proposal that would have meant supermarkets and other food outlets would have to clearly label halal or kosher slaughtered meat.

Some groups said consumers had a right to know how the meat they're eating was killed.

New Zealand's Meat Industry Association was quick to point out that halal-slaughtered animals here, unlike in the United Kingdom, were stunned before their throats are slit.

Its trade and economic manager Phil Houlding said the association had been able to reassure people over animal welfare concerns - but he says some still objected to there being a religious element to the slaughter.

"There's obviously some people who have a particular issue with the idea that there's been any religious aspect to the slaughter," he said.

"And you know most people are fairly comfortable with that which is just a short prayer being said before the halal cut is made, which is the method of slaughter.

Misconception

But there were obviously one or two people who were never going to be happy with that.

"I think there's a misconception out there, we have people writing to us about various things saying ritual this - and I don't know quite what they think is going on - but it's a very scientifically-based process, we've done a lot of research that shows that there's no sensation for the animal".

That had been measured through tools such as brain activity monitors, so the meat industry was y comfortable about slaughter practices in this country, from an animal welfare perspective.

"So, I think its the conflation of the religion and animal welfare thing, people think there's some sort of more primitive way, which is actually not the case," Mr Houlding said.

The 2010 the government introduced a new Code of Animal Welfare that would have required all commercially slaughtered livestock to be stunned before slaughter.

But after the Jewish community threatened the former Agriculture Minister David Carter with legal action the Government backed down and created an exemption for the Jewish community allowing it to have sheep and chickens slaughtered without stunning - meeting the Jewish kosher requirement for shechita slaughter.

New Zealand's Jewish community imported kosher beef from Australia.

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Photo: AFP