French industry responds on halal controversy

By Melodie Michel

- Last updated on GMT

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French industry responds on halal controversy
The French cattle and meat industry association INTERBEV has released a statement to put an end to the political row started by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on halal meat.

“Since 18 February 2012, the French meat sector has literally been held hostage by politics, and particularly by presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. INTERBEV intends to put an end to this political debate, which is having unmeasurable economic consequences on 250,000 livestock farmers, 70,000 industry workers and over 50,000 craft and retail butchers,”​ said the organisation.

INTERBEV listed all the improvements made by the meat industry in recent years, pointing out the effort of transparency that led to the 28 December 2011 decree, written in concertation between the meat sector, religious associations, animal welfare organisations and the French government.

It added that a decision had been made on 22 February 2012 to apply the decree’s measures immediately, in anticipation of the implementation originally planned for 1 July. “These measures strictly control the link between ritual slaughtering of animals and commercial orders justifying it,”​ INTERBEV said.

The organisation reminded that France started the debate that led to mandatory origin labelling at EU level, going even further than the legislation by giving consumers information on the animal’s category and breed.

On 18 February 2012, Le Pen sparked national controversy by declaring that 100% of meat distributed in Ile-de-France was halal, without the knowledge of consumers. French President Nicolas Sarkozy immediately replied, saying that all the facts presented by Le Pen’s party were inexact. Socialist candidate François Hollande said the debate did not have its place in the presidential race, while interior minister Claude Guéant took the controversy further, saying that granting voting rights to foreigners would lead to mandatory halal meat in schools.

Meanwhile, French deputy Françoise Hostalier has withdrawn her law bill proposed to regulate stunning in ritual abattoirs, before the French Assembly could vote. According to national newspaper Journal du Dimanche, Sarkozy’s party Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) allegedly hinted to her that the law would add fuel to the controversy started by Le Pen.

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