EU handouts blamed for ‘unfit’ cattle imports to Middle East

PRESSURE groups have warned that European Union (EU) subsidies are supporting the wide-scale distribution of non-halal meat from Europe to the Middle East.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  April 17, 2005

PRESSURE groups have warned that European Union (EU) subsidies are supporting the wide-scale distribution of non-halal meat from Europe to the Middle East. Yearly handouts from the organisation have come under fire for propping up transportation firms that practice “institutionalised abuse” of cattle while en route to the region. Campaigners say that meat is passed off as fit for consumption after the livestock is fattened up for slaughter when it reaches its destination. “I cannot see how an animal can be transported for four weeks and treated in a manner no-one would treat a dog, [for] someone [to] say it is for halal slaughter,” said Massood Khawaja, president of the UK Halal Food Authority, a food authentication body which is calling for the subsidies to be brought to an end. “We don’t want the name of halal being taken for things that have a bad reputation,” he added. Nearly 200,000 live cattle are exported from the EU to the Middle East each year, with most coming from Germany, France and the Republic of Ireland. Dealers receive up to US$300 in export refunds for each animal, according to campaigners. A group called Compassion in World Farming is lobbying the EU Parliament against the handouts, claiming that exporters’ practices would be illegal if they were trading within Europe. It released a video showing cattle being subjected to “extended journey times, appalling welfare standards [and] institutionalised abuse”, while being transported from Ireland to Lebanon. “I urge my fellow Members of the European Parliament to show their support by signing the written declaration calling for an end to export refunds paid on live cattle exports, and to ensure that they vote to delete any proposals for export refund payments in 2006 during the budget vote,” said UK-based MEP Neil Parish last week. “Public funds should instead be spent on schemes which protect rather than undermine animal welfare,” he added. Khawaja also called for regional wholesalers and retailers to check practices adopted by their suppliers more thoroughly. “The receiving company should make it mandatory that [exporters] transport animals in a way that does not contravene Islamic and EU rules,” he said. “Halal has an etiquette for transportation which involves giving animals water and feed and keeping them clean and fit for consumption. They should remind transporters that they want the animals not to be stressed and lying in their own urine and faeces for weeks,” he added.

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