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French presidential candidate sparks halal row

By Melodie Michel , 22-Feb-2012
Last updated on 22-Feb-2012 at 13:19 GMT

French presidential candidate sparks halal row

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has sparked controversy by declaring all the meat consumed in the Paris region was halal.

Speaking in Lille last weekend, Le Pen said: “All the meat distributed in Ile-de-France is exclusively halal meat, without the consumer knowing.” She added that she intended to file a legal complaint for “misrepresentation of products”.

The declarations sparked criticism from meat professionals and political figures, with French President and Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) candidate Nicolas Sarkozy saying that “all the facts presented by Mrs Le Pen and [her party] are inexact.”

The region’s Chamber of Agriculture said that 100% of the meat slaughtered in Ile-de-France followed Muslim or Jewish practices, with four halal and kosher abattoirs and one specialising in pigmeat. The organisation added that more choice should be given to producers, who need to send their cattle to other regions if they don’t want them to be slaughtered according to halal standards, and mentioned a transparency issue for consumers. “It is estimated that 30% of French meat is slaughtered according to Muslim and Jewish rituals, whereas halal and kosher meat only represents 7% of demand, meaning that 23% is then commercialised as ‘traditional’ meat...,” the Chamber of Agriculture said.

UMP stated that 200,000 tonnes of meat were consumed in Ile-de-France every year, of which only 2.5% was halal or kosher, adding that most retailers got their meat from other regions. Sarkozy’s party also said that the region’s abattoir only accounted for 0.2% of national meat production.

Le Pen has since specified that she did not know whether all the meat sold in Ile-de-France was halal, but that 100% of the meat produced there was slaughtered according to halal principles. She took the controversy as an opportunity to stress one of the points made in her campaign, saying that if she was elected, she would make stunning mandatory for all abattoirs.

“It is regrettable that Nicolas Sarkozy did not keep the commitment he made on the topic in a letter to the Brigitte Bardot Foundation [French animal welfare organisation] on 22 December 2006,” she said, before quoting Sarkozy in the letter: “I now want halal abattoirs to commit, concretely and rapidly, towards a generalisation of stunning before slaughter.”

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