New Zealand meat has become embroiled in an on-going controversy in the UK, where a number of supermarkets and fast-food outlets have been accused of selling halal meat without telling its customers.
The issue started when media there slammed various fast-food outlets - including Pizza Express and KFC - for using halal meat including chicken, lamb and beef, without clearly stating this on its menus.
Traditionally, the Islamic way of slaughtering an animal sees it being blessed and killed while it is alive and healthy; without being stunned unconscious.
It is slaughtered by cutting its throat before allowing it to bleed out.
But several slaughter houses in the UK have said that all animals are stunned before being slaughtered - whether they are intended for halal meat or not.
A large number of supermarkets in the UK import New Zealand meat; all of which are pre-stunned. That seems to have caused some confusion, with people believing therefore that all meat exported from New Zealand shores is halal.
Meat Industry Association of NZ chief Tim Ritchie said this was an issue that continued to cause confusion among people in all parts of the world.
"It's true that our export slaughter houses - nearly all of them are certified to comply with the halal requirements," he said.
"The key to it is that in New Zealand, all commercial slaughter of animals have to be humanely carried out. There are no exemptions for religious slaughter.
"We have evolved to a system whereby we meet the requirements or most of the muslim markets, while also keeping with the [Animal Welfare Act]. We want to make sure that our reputation is not tarnished."
The key difference between halal and normal meat is that a blessing is performed over an animal that will ultimately be halal.
Beef and Lamb chief executive Rod Slater said for meat to be halal, it had to be certified.
"There's a prayer said...and there are other strict rules when it comes to halal meat - like that it can't be on the same land as pigs, for example."
Slater said there was still a misconception that halal practices meant that animals were not stunned before they were killed.
"We can't not stun them. We have to stun them under the law, in New Zealand," he said.
Religious leaders in Britain have called for all meat to be labelled with details of the method of slaughter after it emerged halal and kosher meat in supermarkets is often not marked as such.
Representatives of Jewish and Muslim groups said in a letter to the Daily Telegraph that consumers should be informed at the point of sale of precisely how animals have been killed.
"Comprehensive labelling should be supported by faith communities and animal welfare groups alike," said the letter signed by Henry Grunwald, chairman of Shechita UK, the body which represents the Jewish method of religious slaughter, and Dr Shuja Shafi, Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Food labels should specify whether or not an animal has been stunned prior to slaughter "and whether it has endured repeat stuns if the first attempt was ineffective," they added.
"They should also be told the method of slaughter: captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning, trapping, clubbing or any of the other approved methods," the letter said.
- Halal meat
- Must come from a supplier who is certified in halal practices
- A blessing or prayers must be said before the slaughtering of the animal
- The animal must be slaughtered by cutting its throat, causing death
- The animal's blood must be drained
- with AFP