The issue of religious slaughter is guaranteed to provoke debate in the farming community and among the broader population, writes AHDB’s halal sector manager Awal Fuseini.
The halal market is of growing importance to the sheep industry at a time when sheepmeat sales are falling. While less than 5 per cent of the UK population are Muslims, they account for more than 20 per cent of sheepmeat sales.
Discerning Muslim consumers are increasingly wanting to buy high quality lamb products which suit their modern lifestyles, therefore it is important both farmers and processors understand the requirements of this sector.
Ultimately, slaughtering is about animal welfare, not religion, and normal practice in the UK is for animals to be stunned prior to slaughter, although the interest in non-stunned halal meat is increasing.
The UK Government permits the slaughter of animals without stunning first for religious reasons, however all slaughter of animals in the UK is a highly regulated procedure, with measures in place to ensure animal welfare, including supervision by official vets.
The major retailers in the UK generally have a policy requiring halal meat to be pre-stunned, but if consumers are concerned about the supply they can seek assurance from their retailer about their policy.
One way to ensure an animal has been stunned before slaughter is to look for the Red Tractor symbol.
In recent years, AHDB has increased its activities in the halal sector with a view to better understanding and further developing this market. The creation of my role early last year was a key step towards making this happen.
Against the backdrop of falling lamb sales and uncertain future trading relationships, it is essential we maximise the opportunities available to create a sustainable future for the sheepmeat sector.