One of the fundamental rights of the consumer is to know what they are purchasing, says Philip Davies MP.
As a firm believer in freedom of choice and with previous commercial experience in marketing at Asda, I particularly believe in consumers' freedom of choice. That is why I am introducing a Bill that makes it compulsory to label un-stunned Halal and Kosher meat and products containing un-stunned Halal and Kosher meat by retailers at the point of sale. My reason for introducing this bill is to give consumers more information so that they can exercise their freedom of choice.
Consumer Freedom of choice
One of the fundamental rights of the consumer is to know what they are purchasing. Currently we have a scenario where consumers cannot make an informed decision about which product to purchase because not all halal meat products are labelled.
In November 2010 an investigation discovered that halal meat was being served without labelling in House of Commons canteens. In addition, to my dismay as a former retailer, I recently learned that Britain's largest supermarket chains, including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and Tesco are selling Halal meat without notifying unsuspecting shoppers. Some of the largest food chains, including Pizza Hut, Dominos and KFC, are doing the same.
Interestingly, Masood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority stated in September 2010: "As Muslims have a choice of eating halal meat, non-Muslims should also have the choice of not eating it. Customers should know it is halal meat."
There are some people in the country who would wish to ban halal and kosher meat on animal welfare grounds. I want to make it clear that I am not one of those people. I am very happy for people to make the decision for themselves but they should be able to make an informed decision. My Bill would benefit those people who want to make sure their meat, kosher or halal, before purchasing it just as much as those who want to make sure it isn't kosher or halal.
My Bill does not favour one or the other – it seeks to help everyone. In fact, I had a supportive letter from an individual who said, "as a Sikh and someone who doesn't eat or believe in Halal and kosher meat I think this is a great idea as it does not feel like there is choice anymore for those who do not wish to eat halal meat."
Some may argue that this can be left to the market and we do not need any legislation – an argument I would generally have a great deal of sympathy with. However, I believe for practical reasons we need some legislation to help consumers. When people go into an Indian restaurant they are entitled to expect to be eating halal meat – but when they go into Subway or KFC, they do not and should not be sold.