Any labelling system showing how an animal has been slaughtered should focus on whether it had been stunned - not on religion - say MPs.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on beef and lamb broadly welcomed the idea of mandatory slaughter labelling in a report it published last week.

But the group urged that any scheme should focus on the stunning status of meat, rather than whether it had been slaughtered according to halal or kosher doctrines.

The media furore that erupted this spring - when UK retailers and restaurants were accused of selling meat prepared using halal methods without notifying customers - had “polarised” the debate, said the APPG, which called for a “broader and more measured view” to be taken.

Defra and Eblex are awaiting the results of current EC research into the feasibility of a pan-European meat labelling scheme, but a halal forum held last year by Eblex found that 95% of the sector’s suppliers would favour a voluntary assurance scheme with clearer on-pack labelling.

However, one member of Eblex’s steering group on halal, Janan Meat MD Naved Syed, claimed that “no one will take any notice of the APPG.”

“I was in dialogue with them throughout the whole consultation process,” he added. “The moment you label meat as stunned or non-stunned, stunning is finished. Most Muslims won’t buy it.”

If mandatory labelling were to be considered, MPs said there was “sufficient understanding” of what the terms stunned and non-stunned meant, in contrast to halal.

The paper recommended more work should be done to clarify the meaning of halal and kosher, what financial burden a mandatory labelling scheme would have, and to identify consumer attitudes to meat labelling proposals.