Australia launches enquiry into unlabelled halal meat

By Chloe Ryan

- Last updated on GMT

Australia does not require halal or kosher meat to be labelled as such
Australia does not require halal or kosher meat to be labelled as such

Related tags Kashrut Beef Lamb Pork Poultry

Australians are eating halal and kosher meat without knowing it, a senate inquiry has been told. 

As has been reported in other global markets including the UK, meat produced to halal standards – slaughtered in accordance with Islamic rules by Muslims with a prayer said during the process – is sometimes used to plug gaps in other, non-halal categories. In Australia there is no requirement to label meat as halal unless producers want to do so.

“For sure there’s probably some halal meat that’s getting onto the market,”​ Australian Food and Grocery Council director Chris Preston told the inquiry into food labelling in Canberra on Friday, according to reports in the Australian press.

The six-month inquiry, which will conclude in November, is examining the certification of halal, kosher, organic and genetically modified food.

Kosher

The inquiry was also told some kosher beef and lamb was also being sold unlabelled in supermarkets. Kosher Australia rabbinic administrator Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick told the inquiry labelling the meat would be costly.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who initiated the inquiry, said some consumers might have ethical concerns about the non-stunning of animals slaughtered to halal or kosher standards. In other parts of the world, there have been calls to ban religious slaughter that does not include the stunning of an animal before its throat is cut. In the UK, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has long held this position on animal welfare grounds.

'Hysteria'

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, of the Kashrut Authority, which supervises kosher food services, said labelling meat sold to the general public as kosher would lead to “hysteria”​ from people who didn’t understand.

Although lamb is not pre-stunned before slaughter “it’s done with a very special knife in a very special way”​, making a sheep unconscious within seconds, he said.

In a written submission to the inquiry, the Kashrut Authority pleaded with the committee not to alter the rules on certification. Changing the rules would “lead to even higher prices for kosher products, putting them out of the reach of many kosher consumers, and seriously compromising their capacity to exercise their religious freedom”​, the submission stated.

“Further, should kosher certification in Australia be restricted in any manner, this would impact to the detriment of the Jewish communities of Australia as it would potentially reduce the selection of Australian-produced kosher foods and would require kosher consumers to rely upon more expensive imported products.”

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