HFA-certified slaughterhouses will have to employ slaughtermen

Muslim consumers could soon have to pay more for halal chicken as the result of new slaughter rules to be introduced by one of the UK’s major halal certification bodies.

From 3 March 2014, the Halal Food Authority will no longer allow poultry to be slaughtered mechanically in halal-certified plants; instead, birds will have to be killed manually by trained Muslim slaughtermen.

This was likely to increase operational costs for halal slaughterhouses that used mechanical equipment and would now have to start employing slaughtermen, said HFA acting CEO Saqib Mohammed.

The HFA had not yet estimated what the likely impact on retail prices for halal chicken would be but expected the retail price increase would not be more than “a few pence”, he said.

The vast majority of halal-certified poultry plants in the UK already use manual slaughtering, with less than 20% using mechanical slaughtering.

“This will have no impact on our strict animal welfare standards, and most importantly, the HFA will continue to permit stunning before slaughter under its new policy”


“In any case, we anticipate Muslim consumers won’t mind and will be happy to bear any increased cost that is passed on to them because they will understand it is best practice to use slaughtermen,” he said.

Under halal rules, the throat had to be cut at the front, and although it was possible to achieve this with mechanical slaughter, it required far more intensive monitoring in slaughterhouses to ensure compliance. The HFA did not have the resources to keep monitoring this intensively and so had decided to switch to 100% manual.

The HFA certifies numerous mainstream poultry suppliers and brands, including KFC, which is currently running a halal trial in some of its branches. A spokesman for the chain said it had worked closely with the HFA and suppliers on managing the slaughter rule change, and was confident its halal trial would not be affected.

“This will have no impact on our strict animal welfare standards, and most importantly, the HFA will continue to permit stunning before slaughter under its new policy,” he added.

2 Sisters, which is certified by the HFA, said it was working with all authorities to ensure it would comply with the new rules. “At the moment we are realigning our operations to ensure we meet the requirements of all our customers,” a spokesman said.

The HFA rule change comes as controversy is again brewing about whether stunning should be allowed under halal rules. The EU will bring in new rules on stunning in January, which will require higher voltages to be used, and although the HFA will continue to allow stunning under its new manual regime, other halal bodies consider only non-stunned slaughter permissible.

A new group called the Islamic Council for Halal Affairs, which is made up of 15 clerics and scholars and claims to represent the interests of the vast majority of the Muslim community in the UK, this week said it had made a “unanimous religious declaration” against stunning.

“According to the Islamic Shariah principles, only non-stun slaughter carried out in accordance with the Islamic tradition is Halal beyond doubt,” the group said. “It is crucial that the suppliers to the Halal consumer get this message and change their practices accordingly.”

Halal assurance scheme

This was prompted by a proposed new halal assurance scheme from Eblex, which would include separate labels for stunned and non-stunned meat. This was “misleading and unnecessary” as only non-stunned slaughter could be considered halal, the group claimed, adding “the Eblex [consultation] survey is subjective and appears to be designed to justify a business case for a pre-stun halal assurance standard, to suit the needs of certain suppliers and not the consumer”.

However, Eblex senior manager Phil Hadley said Eblex was looking to create greater clarity for Muslim consumers on halal production standards: “Currently, around 80% of the sheepmeat slaughtered halal in Great Britain is produced through the recoverable stun method. We are therefore proposing to mark such product as stunned under the assurance scheme, with another separate mark for non-stunned.”

If Muslim consumers decided they did not want to buy ‘stunned’ meat, the market for stunning would disappear naturally, Hadley added. “This is an opportunity for those who believe non-stun is the only halal to see their point proven, whereas currently the vast majority of halal meat on sale is pre-stunned. We hope that sector will embrace the consultation and the introduction of improved labelling, which we hope will come out of this in due course.”

All halal sheepmeat coming into the UK from New Zealand was stunned, and stunning was deemed acceptable elsewhere in the Muslim world, including in the Gulf Co-operation Countries (GCC) and in Malaysia, Hadley said. “The Eblex stunned label would seek to adopt the same stun criteria whilst tightening them further where possible.”