Saturday, April 30, 2011


Front pack labeling seems to be an issue of perennial controversy. It is unfortunate that there is no unanimity amongst WTO member countries in evolving a globally acceptable format that could have facilitated world trade with minimum hassles. Unfortunately each country seems to be tinkering with its national regulatory formats which often do not make much sense. Latest instance is the on-going consideration in Europe for modifying the existing labeling regulations to insist on including a provision to declare Halal meats and Jewish meat products that "they are processed by killing the animal without stunning". The rationale behind such a move may be to satisfy animal activists who propagate elimination of cruel practices while handling the slaughter house bound animals. Here is a take on this latest avoidable controversy.

"Consumers could be told whether the meat they buy comes from animals that have not been stunned before slaughter, following a move in the European parliament. MEPs on the food safety committee voted on Tuesday to back amendments to a food labelling bill that would see the mandatory inclusion of labels stating "meat from slaughter without stunning" on relevant food products. The proposals, which go before the European parliament in July, target meat slaughtered using ritual techniques like those employed by Jewish shechita and Muslim halal butchers. Animals killed by the shechita technique are not stunned before having their throats cut and blood drained out. Halal meat is slaughtered using a similar technique, although research by the British Veterinary Association suggests 80% of halal meat is stunned before slaughter. Religious groups have expressed anger at the proposals. A Jewish campaign group, Shechita UK, controversially claimed the measure was the "21st-century equivalent of the yellow star, but on our food". "This amendment does nothing to improve animal welfare, fails to fully inform consumers and is clearly discriminatory by design," said Henry Grunwald, spokesman for the group".

Critics have a point in condemning this proposal as stunning is only one step that spares the agony of the victim. If one has the opportunity to see the documentary "Food Inc.", it is very clear that most of the meat industry majors have scant respect to animal welfare and no one seems to be bothered to discipline this powerful industry so that both ethical as well as food safety aspects receive the attention due to them. More over when the products are classified as Halal, every consumer knows that they are processed through religious diktats and the animals are slaughtered without stunning. The move smacks of religious discrimination by encouraging the consumers to shun Halal and Shechita meats.


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