The Poms can be a right bunch of prats.
Their latest foray into the domain of idiocy involves a Minister who is banging on about telling shoppers how their meat was killed.
The proposal comes from one George Eustice, an environment minister, who has given the clearest signal yet that the Government will introduce compulsory labelling of halal or kosher products.
The rationale is bizarre.
According to this report in The Telegraph:
There has been growing concern that consumers are unwittingly buying meat that was the result of religious ritual slaughter after it emerged that diners had been unknowingly served halal chicken in Pizza Express and other restaurants.
Why should someone who is about to tuck into a juicy T-bone steak give a monkey’s fuck about how the beast was slaughtered?
The nature of any prayers that were uttered will have no effect on the tenderness or flavour of the beef.
Nor will it be affected by the beast facing towards or away from Mecca.
If anyone out there is really determined to avoid halal or kosher meat for whatever absurdly irrational reasons – well, let ’em eat pork.
But there’s more to it than the sensibilities of Pizza Express diners (which stikes Alf as being a something of a paradox, by the way, because anybody who would opt for a pizza can hardly claim to have much sense).
Here’s where the dead hand of European bureaucracy gets into the story:
Early next year, the European Commission is due to report on whether meat sold in the European Union should bear labels detailing how the animal was slaughtered.
Mr Eustice appeared to rule out UK products being labelled “halal” or “kosher”, but said meats could in future be sold as “stunned” or “unstunned” – effectively alerting shoppers as to whether their meat was killed according to religious guidelines.
The Telegraph treats its readers to an appreciation of the killing method favoured by Muslims and Jews.
Under both the Muslim method of slaughter, known as Zabiha, and the Jewish practice, Shechita, a surgically sharp instrument is used to cut straight through an animal’s throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in its neck.
Religious groups insist the method kills animals instantly. But this is disputed by the British Veterinary Association.
Either way, prayers are said over the animals in both cases, which no doubt is a great comfort to the beast being slaughtered as it prepares to breath its last.
The Telegraph goes on to explain:
Shechita animals are not stunned before being killed. Some Muslim slaughterhouses also neglect to “pre-stun”.
Critics say such practices harm the welfare of animals. A number of backbenchers have called for food labels to contain the precise method by which the animal was slaughtered.
This concern for the welfare of animals that are about to be reduced to foodstuffs is bemusing.
The bloody backbenchers who want labels are so precious they should turn to vegetarianism.
Eustice has been obliged to mollify them, presumably.
He told them:
“[Backbenchers have] made the point that it would be wrong just to label meat as ‘stunned’ or ‘unstunned’, and that a fairer way would be to list all the different methods of slaughter.
“The only thing I would say in response is that, from the EU perspective, ‘stunned’ has a clear legal definition in the legislation, and it is simply that an animal is rendered insensible to pain almost immediately.
“That is a clear definition and the scientific evidence does not support the argument that a cut without prior stunning achieves that. In addition, it would be complicated to list all the different methods of slaughter and … I am not sure that there would be a huge consumer appetite for us to try to differentiate between all the different methods of slaughter.”
Eustice made the damned good point that it would be “difficult” to brand meat products kosher or halal because “there is no single definition of halal … and a further complication is that not all meat slaughtered by kosher methods is deemed kosher”.
But this matter seems to have been thrashed around for some time.
Huw Irranca-Davies, the shadow environment minister, said that labelling meat halal or kosher had been “roundly and rightly rejected” by MPs from all parties last year.
However, he said: “Should all different types of slaughter be labelled for the consumer? In that case, make room on the label for slaughter by electrical current, or by carbon dioxide, inert gas, captive bolt pistol, gunshot or free bullet and so on.
“Some advocate doing so, and it would certainly satisfy the need for transparency.”
Shimon Cohen, spokesman for Shechita UK, has got in on the act to say Shechita conforms entirely to the EU definition of stunning: ‘any intentional process that causes a loss of consciousness and sensibility without pain including any process resulting in instantaneous death.’
Labelling meat stunned or unstunned therefore would be misleading, he says.
What Huw Irranca Davies suggests is fair and would be informative. Consumers should have the right to know whether their meat has been shot by a bolt, asphyxiated by gas, electrocuted by tongs or water or slaughtered by the Shechita or Zabiha methods.
“It is false to say that Jews say a prayer when slaughtering an animal. We do not. We also do not claim that Shechita ‘kills animals instantly’. Scientific evidence bears out that Shechita does what the law requires; that the animal is rendered insensible to pain without unnecessary suffering, something that the approved mechanical methods do not.”
Dunno how many of these people have consulted the animals about the suffering that results from various slaughter methods or whether any prayer is more comforting than others.
Alf suspects none.