Campaigners demanded halal and kosher meals to make Parliament more accessible, but has this come at a terrible cost in animal suffering?
Animal welfare groups have reacted with dismay to news that new menus in Parliament include meat from livestock slaughtered without first being stunned.
The halal meals are designed to accommodate the Muslim community.
While much halal meat in Britain comes from animals that are stunned before slaughter, a Freedom of Information request by the National Secular Society has revealed that the halal meals in Parliament use meat from animals that are not pre-stunned.
“The majority of animals slaughtered for halal meat are stunned first,” said the society’s chief executive Stephen Evans.
“It’s lamentable that in accommodating halal dietary preferences, Parliament has chosen to prioritise a hard-line interpretation of Islam over animal welfare.
“The vast majority of the British public want non-stun slaughter to end.
“They may well feel aggrieved that their parliament has opted to supply meat from such unnecessarily cruel slaughter methods in its catering outlets.”
The meals are also labelled kosher to appeal to the Jewish community – animals killed for kosher meat are never pre-stunned.
Peter Stevenson from Compassion in World Farming said he was shocked and appalled, saying the slaughtering of animals by cutting their throats while they were still alive causes huge suffering.
“Successive governments have made it clear that they prefer animals to be pre-stunned, Parliament should not have a policy on its own premises that goes against that,” he told the Mirror.
“I call on the relevant authorities to stop serving these meals immediately.
“It’s not that I or Compassion in World Farming are in any way anti the Muslim or Jewish community, I’m from a Jewish background myself, I’m very sensitive to the religious implications, but from an animal welfare point of view, animals should be stunned before slaughter and we should not have Parliament compounding the problem.”
Labour MP Charlotte Nichols lobbied for the meals, tweeting that they made Parliament more accessible.
She replied to an invitation to respond to those saying that meat from animals that are not stunned before slaughtering causes unnecessary suffering by emailing: “There is no such thing as ‘pre-stunned’ Kosher meat, so this is news only insofar as the Pope being Catholic and bears shitting in the woods is news.”
She was supported in efforts to get the meat served in Parliament by Labour’s Zarah Sultana, who tweeted she was “really pleased” the meals had been introduced.
The post provoked angry responses, including one reading: “Allowing non-stun animal slaughter is a stain on our society.”
Another read: “The killing of animals under halal practices is barbaric and cruel. The fact that elected representatives of our government are condoning and even pushing the expansion of this is, frankly, despicable.”
A third poster wrote: “I applaud your work in standing up for ordinary people, opposing war etc, so it’s disappointing to see that you are defending practices which involve inhumane treatment of animals. Please reconsider. It’s not just vulnerable humans who need you to fight for them. Animals do too.”
She did not respond to a request for comment.
Figures from the 2018 Animal Welfare Survey by the Food Standards Agency show that 218 million animals were killed per year by halal slaughter, with 58% being pre-stunned.