1) How far down the political food chain we have thrown away our ability to make decisions for ourselves
2) How Ministers and Government spokesman, rather than railing against their own inability to make or effect law, happily applaud their captors. It is political Stockholm syndrome writ small.
Lord Pearson asked,
To ask Her Majesty's Government why there is no requirement to label halal meat in shops and restaurants; and what steps they propose to take to inform consumer choice in this area.
Lord Taylor, The Tory whip responded,
The Government believe that people should know what they are buying in shops or when they are eating out. An amendment to require food labels to indicate whether an animal has been stunned before slaughter was proposed last year by the European Parliament in the context of proposals for an EU food information for consumers regulation. This proposal was not taken up, but in subsequent discussions a compromise agreement was reached that highlighted the importance of this issue and proposed that it should be considered by the EU Commission in a welfare context as part of the anticipated discussion on the EU welfare strategy.Note that Taylor is suggesting that the Government would like to add Halal labels to products sold in this country, but, awwww, the European Parliament blocked them. Better still the Government is really chuffed that the European Commission has announced that it will be looking into the issue of labelling at sometime over the next three years. Wow, isn't that a pip!
The Government support this approach, as it will allow consumer information to be considered alongside measures to minimise the suffering of animals slaughtered without stunning. The Commission has recently published its proposed Welfare Strategy for 2012-15 and has confirmed it will be studying the issue of labelling as provided for in last year's agreement on the food information for consumers regulation. The Government welcome this approach and we look forward to receiving further proposals from the Commission. In the mean time we are considering how we can use domestic legislation.
A little bit of research into This Animal Welfare package brings up interesting results.
Footnote 16 in the study produces this,
See Feasibility study: 'Animal welfare labelling and establishing a Community Reference Centre for Animal Protection and Welfare', 26.012009 by FCEC.This study is complete, done, over and not in the future (so the Commission have studied, rather than will study) but it has an Annex (Page 141 out of 143) in which it deals with the thorny problem. This Annex starts,
European legislation foresees that the obligation of stunning before slaughter does not apply to slaughter methods demanded by religious rites. Kosher and halal slaughter practices are therefore exempted from the obligation to stun.It concludes,
Impacts of policy options on the present situation of religious slaughter depend on the content of animal welfare standards applied. A Community Animal Welfare Label or guidelines for the establishment of animal welfare and quality schemes would likely be based upon specific animal welfare indicators. If the requirement of stunning before slaughter was part of these indicators, religious slaughter practices not allowing to stun animals could be excluded from participation in animal welfare schemes. Under the option of mandatory labelling of welfare indicators, producers could be requested to indicate products as derived ‘from unstunned animals’, possibly leading to negative implications for actors of religious food chains as described above. Therefore, it is unlikely that this option would find the support of all religious minority groups concerned.Thus I think we can safely assume that the situation ante is what is being offered here as to do anything else would be to risk attack from religious groups that matter to European politicians, that is Jewry and Islam, rather than those that don't such as Christianity.
Footnote 20 of the Strategy states the following
Recital 50 of Regulation (EC) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers (OJ L 304, 22.112011, p. 18) states that: Union consumers show an increasing interest in the implementation of the Union animal welfare rules at the time of slaughter, including whether the animal was stunned before slaughter. In this respect, a study on the opportunity to provide consumers with the relevant information on the stunning of animals should be considered in the context of a future Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals".Again, this call took place before the Study was completed. Thus it is redundant. So that rather neatly deals with Lord Taylor's substantive points. But his final comment bears thinking about,
In the mean time we are considering how we can use domestic legislation.It would be instructive to know if the Government is serious about this, whether it has the right to introduce food labelling legislation (given that legislation in this area is an EU Competence).