I have received numerous emails from constituents who are calling for honest labelling for meat and dairy products so they can, as consumers, make responsible choices based on how farm animals are reared.
I understand the depth of feeling constituents have on this issue. As you are probably aware there are long-standing provisions in UK law that, subject to specific requirements, permit the slaughter of animals without prior stunning to meet Jewish and Islamic religious obligations. Although I would prefer that all animals are stunned before slaughter, I recognise the significance of these requirements for these communities and accept the importance they attach to slaughter in accordance with their beliefs.
I am, however, keen to ensure that religious slaughter is only carried out by licensed slaughtermen in approved or regulated slaughterhouses. Slaughter is not and must not be permitted in any other place, even for personal consumption.
The current regulations on food labelling require that any packaging information must not mislead consumers as to the characteristics of the food, including its method of manufacture or production. I am pleased that the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to a wide-ranging review of food labelling now we are no longer bound by EU rules to ensure information supports UK consumers' food choices and the marketing of quality British food products. This review will be made in the context of the Government’s food strategy white paper which will be published following Henry Dimbleby’s independent review of the food system later this year.
Further, the Government has also committed to consult on what can be done through labelling to promote high standards and high welfare across the UK. I understand that there will be a call for evidence launched this summer which will look to address evidence gaps on the impact, costs and deliverability on different types of labelling reforms. This, alongside Henry Dimbleby’s review, will inform a full consultation later this year which will seek views on how welfare information should be presented to consumers.