Parti Quebecois slams halal meat production

News Agencies – March 14, 2012

The Parti Québécois is sounding the alarm bell over an Islamic food ritual, calling slaughter for halal meat an affront not only to the rights of animals but to the values cherished by Quebecers. The pro-independence party recently declared its concerns about halal animal-rights standards, and is worried that mainstream companies are selling the meat, without any labelling, to unsuspecting Québécois customers.

Not to be outdone, the fledgling Coalition For Quebec’s Future (CAQ) concurred later that consumers should have the right to choose which product they buy and halal products must be labelled. The halal flap is the latest iteration of Quebec’s identity debates, which have raged on Montreal’s populist talk radio in recent days.

The PQ is now demanding a report on the halal situation from the provincial government, by March 23. The opposition party wants to know how many companies are involved in producing halal meat, and how many animals are being slaughtered per year under Islamic rituals. It says it’s concerned about animal rights, in addition to potential food contamination.

The company at the centre of the political storm expressed bewilderment over all the fuss. Olymel, a meat-processing giant with plants in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, said it obtained a halal certification for one of its poultry plants two years ago after some clients requested it.

The clients wanted to label Olymel-produced meat with the certification when they sold it.

But Olymel spokesman Richard Vigneault said his company’s products are processed under all required food safety and quality control standards mandated by the federal government. “In no way we’re practicing traditional halal slaughtering — no way,” he said in a telephone interview. “In matter of fact, this [halal] certification has changed nothing about our slaughtering.”