CAIRO - UK Muslims have rejected calls to ban animals' halal slaughter after a leading British vet called for curbing or even banning the practice popular among the country's Muslim and Jewish minorities.
We believe this is a requirement. Slaughter is quick so pain is minimized and there is no unnecessary suffering, Saleem Kidwai, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Wales, told Wales online.
We believe it should continue.
The controversy started when Professor Bill Reilly, former president of the British Veterinary Association, called for curbing or even banning the practice of slaughtering animals without stunning.
This opinion was published recently by the leading veterinary expert in the journal Veterinary Record.
Non-stun slaughter... appears to be increasing. From an animal welfare perspective this cannot be acceptable, Prof. Reilly said.
However, we are fortunate to live in a tolerant society and respect the religious beliefs of different faiths and must reconcile animal welfare with religious freedom.
In my view, the current situation is not acceptable and, if we cannot eliminate non-stunning we need to keep it to the minimum, he said.
This means restricting the use of Halal and Kosher meat to those communities that require it for their religious beliefs and, where possible, convincing them of the acceptability of the stunned alternatives.
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah's creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
Playing French rhetoric about halal meat, Prof. Reilly questioned whether all the Halal meat produced was being eaten by the Muslim community, claiming that halal meat was making inroads into the British secular market.
Much of the meat from non-stunned animals ends up on the secular market, he said.
It is likely that most consumers if given the choice or the information would choose not to eat such meat.
Labeling of meat from non-stunned animals would prove a challenge for the industry but this is not insurmountable in an era when traceability is so important. Consumer rejection would drive down the supply, he added.
Halal meat has become a central theme in electoral campaigns by Elysee hopefuls a month before the April-May election.
Last February 2012, far-right National Front leader Martine Le Pen said that all meat in Paris was halal, a claim denied by abattoirs.
The issue caught hold with President Nicolas Sarkozy calling for labeling all halal meat in France.
Prof Reilly said his own estimates suggested around two million animals, mostly poultry, were killed in the UK each year without stunning for the orthodox Jewish community.
Halal meat now accounted for 25% of the entire UK meat market, he added.
Those figures were challenged by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which put the number of slaughtered halal animals at much less percentage.
"The results indicate that the number of animals not stunned prior to slaughter is relatively low, accounting for 3% of cattle, 10% of sheep and goats, and 4% of poultry, FSA spokesman told BBC.
"They also show that the majority of animals destined for the halal trade in both the red and white meat sectors are stunned before slaughter."
FSA figures as based on a survey into animal welfare in slaughterhouses conducted in September.
The FSA said full details of the survey would be published ahead of a discussion at a board meeting on 22 May.
The current laws in UK allows slaughtering animals without prior stunning to enable Jewish people and Muslims to meet the dietary requirements of their faiths.
A new EU directive on the protection of animals at the time of killing will come into force in the UK in 2013.We plan to consult on the implementation of new welfare at slaughter regulations shortly and will be seeking views on how to restrict the non-stun slaughter of animals as part of that consultation, a Welsh Government spokeswoman told Wales Online.