- 9 updates
One in two British diners do not care whether the meat they eat is halal, a survey revealed amid news that chains including Pizza Express use halal meat.
More than half of respondents said a restaurant serving halal meat did not bother them, while 45 percent said they were happy to eat it.
However, the research by OnePoll found that eight in 10 diners would always prefer to know if they were eating halal meat and felt restaurants were obliged to disclose the information.
There is "nothing to see here" regarding the halal meat furore, a British Retail Consortium director told ITV News.
Andrew Opie said: "The key thing is that these animals are being slaughtered and stunned in exactly the same way in any slaughterhouse."
David Cameron does not believe the Government needs to intervene in the current row over labelling of halal and kosher products, Downing Street has said.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said labelling of meat products with information about religious slaughter techniques is a matter between retailers and restaurants and their customers.
The spokesman said: "I don't think the PM has concerns about the meat that he buys. The Prime Minister's view is that the approach we currently have is absolutely the right one."
Representatives of Jewish and Muslim groups have written a joint letter calling for consumers to be given detailed information about slaughter methods when buying meat, following a string of press stories revealing that halal meat is routinely sold in the UK without buyers being told.
Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said his constituents would be "horrified" to learn they had been unknowingly buying halal meat products amid concerns over meat labelling.
It came as health secretary Andrew Lansley told the Commons shoppers must be given more information to help them when making purchases.
Lansley said the Consumer Rights Bill, which returns before the Commons next week, could allow MPs to draw attention to issues of retailers not informing people about religious customs associated with slaughtering animals.
Hollobone added: "My constituents in Kettering will be horrified to read reports in today's papers that major high street supermarkets are selling halal and kosher meat without it being labelled as such."
Conservative Philip Davies pointed out that his attempt to introduce a Bill for compulsory labelling of halal and kosher meat at the point of sale was narrowly defeated two years ago.
An animal welfare charity said all halal meat produced in the UK should undergo pre-slaughter stunning to prevent animals suffering distress.
Amid a furore over high street restaurant chains serving halal meat, Philip Lymbery from Compassion in World Farming told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "The real issue is whether the animals were slaughtered without pre-slaughter stunning."
He said that currently around 90 percent of animals used for halal meat in the UK are stunned before being killed - a process that desensitises them to pain and distress.
Some religious leaders have recommended clearer food labelling to specify halal meat products that are sold in supermarkets and restaurants.
- Under Islamic rules, animals slaughtered using the halal method should be blessed and then killed by a single cut to the throat.
- However, the Food Standards Agency says more than 90 percent of animals used for halal meat in the UK are stunned before being killed - making them desensitised to pain.
- The RSPCA makes no distinction, in terms of animal welfare, between pre-stunned halal meat and conventionally slaughtered meat.
- It only says consumers should be told if an animal is killed without pre-stunning.
- Chains such as Pizza Express, which serves halal chicken, say their suppliers only provide pre-stunned meat.
Jewish and Muslim leaders recently said methods used for halal and kosher meat were "at least as humane as conventional mechanical slaughter" after a top vet called for reforms of religious slaughter practices.
The British Veterinary Association's president-elect, John Blackwell, predicted earlier this year that there could be a total ban on the "inhumane" practice of killing animals without stunning them first.
However, Shuja Shafi of the Muslim Council of Britain and Jonathan Arkush from the Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote in the Guardian that "compassion and animal welfare stand at the centre of the entire process."
Restaurant chain Pizza Express has responded to claims it had "duped" customers into eating halal meat, saying it is "no secret" that halal chicken is used in its dishes.
"It is no secret that all the chicken used in our dishes is halal slaughtered. We’re committed to high animal welfare standards and as such the birds are stunned before slaughter," the company said.
The Sun newspaper quoted the National Secular Society as saying that "unsuspecting members of the public" were being "duped into buying meat from religious slaughter methods".
Religious leaders have called for clearer labelling on meat sold in supermarkets and restaurants following newspaper reports that many outlets routinely use halal meat without informing customers.
Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders have said all menus and food packets should specify how animals have been slaughtered.
Henry Grunwald QC, chairman of Shechita UK, the Jewish representative body, and Dr Shuja Shafi, Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, told the Telegraph that customers should also be informed whether animals had been mechanically stunned before slaughter.
They said comprehensive labelling "would offer all consumers genuine choice, whether they are motivated by animal welfare, religious observance, or even intolerance of anyone who looks or worships differently to them.”
The Rt Rev Nick Baines, the acting Bishop of Leeds, agreed that there should be a "more grown-up approach" to the issue.
“Clear labelling and clear information is essential so people know what they are eating. That goes much wider than the issues of halal and kosher,” he told the paper.
The Daily Mail reported that supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury's sell halal meat without providing clear labelling.