After the horsemeat scandal last year, we were entitled to think that food retailers and suppliers understood the importance of transparency to retaining the trust of consumers. It should go without saying that we need to know where our meat comes from and how it is slaughtered. Yet it has become apparent in recent days that supermarkets and food chains are selling halal meat without alerting shoppers to its provenance. Schools are also serving ritually slaughtered meat to remove the risk of Muslim children eating non-halal food.
The religious sensibilities of Muslims – and of Jews with kosher food – have long been catered to in this country, and rightly. Specialist shops sell food that meets the requirements of the faithful, and mainstream supermarkets also stock halal products. The issue here, however, is whether most meat should be halal simply because it is easier for shops and food chains to source their supplies and avoid offending religious minorities.
How many people know that most New Zealand lamb is halal, apparently because the biggest markets are in the Middle East and it is simpler and cheaper to have a single slaughtering process? Pizza Express this week disclosed that all its chicken is halal. But since Muslims make up only 5 per cent of the population, the reasons behind this are hard to comprehend.