Halal meat from animals that have not been stunned before their throats are slashed will go on sale in Asda for the first time next month in a move that has infuriated animal rights activists.

Asda admitted its decision would cause controversy, but said the meat would only be sold through a third-party concession at the Smallheath store in Birmingham and would not carry the Asda own label.

“It’s not being run by us, it’s being run by the National Halal Food Group, which sells the Mr Halal brand,” said an Asda spokesman. “It’s just a trial in a single store. The reason it’s there is because of customer demands in that area. Similar demands have not been made elsewhere.”

Muhammed Yaqoob, chief executive of the National Halal Food Group, defended the traditional method of not pre-stunning the animal, claiming the animal suffered less than animals that had been stunned.

“There is a lot of ignorance and misconception surrounding the traditional method of slaughter,” he said.

“Prior to its death, the animal is treated well, fed and watered in a calm atmosphere before it dies. But with the stun method the animal is often killed alongside other animals like a factory line process.”

However, Vegetarians International Voice for Animals (Viva) was quick to condemn Asda’s venture.

“We carried out research a few years ago that indicated most Muslims were happy to eat stunned Halal meat,” said Tony Wardle, associate director at Viva. “The stun method was introduced in the UK decades ago because of the barbarity of cutting an animal’s throat. We are opposed to the slaughter of animals on all counts.

“I am not advocating the stunning method per se, but when used properly, the captive bolt pistol is without doubt the lesser of two horrible evils.”

An RSPCA spokeswoman said the organisation was disappointed by Asda’s move and that there were many Muslim countries that accepted pre-stunned Halal meat.