This notice was first published on 20 December 2010
The priority for all of our meat is to ensure animal welfare of the highest standard; to ensure this we work closely with and are approved by the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA). Our practices are also in line with the recommendations of Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA.
All our lamb is electrically stunned before slaughter, meaning that animals are unconscious and are not subjected to pain. UK law currently permits halal slaughter both with stunning and without. However, to maintain Red Tractor assurance scheme standards, signified by a logo on the label, (which all Waitrose Meat & Poultry achieves) all animals must be pre-stunned. New Zealand law requires all animals to be pre-stunned at slaughter.
To give our customers choice, our Duchy Originals from Waitrose lamb is not halal blessed at slaughter and, from 3 January 2011, the English, West Country & Dorset lamb sold on our service counters will also not be halal. All other Waitrose meat and poultry is non-halal.
However, we will continue to allow the halal blessing for other lamb (with the exception of Duchy Originals from Waitrose and the English, West Country & Dorset lamb sold on our service counters) so that abattoirs can sell the parts of the carcass that we don't use to other markets - this minimises food waste, keeps prices down for our customers and helps our farmers to be competitive.
As far as labelling is concerned, there is currently no UK labelling scheme for halal and we believe this is a matter where Government should lead.
Clearly Waitrose is responding to pressure, but they want to hold the line on labelling. The issue has aroused the interest of a small group of people, who from Jan 3rd will be able to avoid the hallal lamb, but Waitrose don't want to draw wider attention to the fact that perfectly ordinary-looking meat on their shelves is hallal.
Is this a problem? Christian Voice likens the meat to that offered to idols, which should be avoided - though not at all costs - according to St Paul, since, they say, 'Allah' is not the same deity as the Christian God.
On philosophical grounds I personally take a wide view of when people are referring to the same God. If two groups of people are talking about the Supreme Being, but group A has detailed views about Him which differ from those of group B, and it so happens that the real Supreme Being conforms to the description of group B, I'd say that group A is referring to the same entity as group B but has various mistaken views about Him - within pretty wide limits. For this seems to be how 'referring' happens in ordinary life: if a feminist thinks Homer was a woman, say, she is still talking about the same person ('the author of the Iliad') as the conventional scholar who thinks Homer is a man. However I'm open to persuasion on this point.
What strikes me as unavoidable is that eating meat which is ritually slaughtered and blessed by an iman is a (small) way of taking part in the Islamic religion. This may not be intentional, but if you know about it you should avoid doing it - though not at any cost - unless, of course, you think that Islam is the true religion. Because participation in a religion implies endorsement of that religion.