CONVENTIONAL slaughterhouses can be as cruel as halal abattoirs says a leader from a Worcestershire group of veggies and vegans.

Much of the meat sold in British supermarkets and served in restaurants comes from animals slaughtered according to traditional Muslim rituals but in many cases is not labelled halal.

A review of labelling will now be conducted if the industry fails to deliver more transparency within the next few months. Another issue has hinged on animal welfare, including whether animals are stunned before slaughter which does not always happen in halal abattoirs. Halal comes from the Arabic word which means ;permissible' and refers to a ritual method of slaughtering animals by a Muslim using a sharp knife.

But Ronald Lee, communications officer for Worcestershire vegans and veggies, said: "People claim that the halal slaughter method is crueller than the ordinary slaughter method. In some cases that may be the case but there is also a tremendous amount of cruelty in what is called conventional slaughter methods as well. The animals are terrified. One animal is slaughtered in front of another. The animals aren't treated with any respect. There is very little difference between halal slaughter and conventional slaughter. What goes on in conventional slaughter houses is just as cruel as in halal slaughter houses."

He said, as an organisation, they preferred to encourage people not to eat meat at all or reduce consumption at least. He said: "You can't have meat without cruelty."

Worcester has a Pizza Express where all meat is halal but all animals are also stunned before slaughter.

Nando's Worcester is not a halal only restaurant. The chain has 314 restaurants, 64 of which serve only Halal chicken and are signposted both in the restaurant and online.

A small proportion of chicken sold in the other 250 restaurants is also halal and is not currently labelled when served.

A spokesman said: "We continue to look at ways to offer chicken dishes which are guaranteed to be non-Halal."

KFC provides halal food in parts of the UK and they are running a Halal trial within communities where they anticipate a strong demand. KFC in Worcester's Elgar Retail Park, Blackpole is not one of the trials.

KFC say they insist that their poultry is stunned before slaughter, using a technique called 'stun-to-stun'.

Robin Walker, MP for Worcester, said: "I think it's right there should be clear labelling. It is right that people should know the source of their meat and have as much information about it as possible. I know Muslim and Jewish leaders have spoken out in favour of clear labelling." However, he did say there was a danger of a 'media hysteria' over the issue of halal meat. He said: "It is also very important animal welfare is respected."

Haris Saleem, chairman of the Muslim Welfare Association, said as long as the meat was properly labelled it should not be a problem for anyone. He said if restaurants did offer halal meat it would allow them to appeal to Muslim customers as well. He said: "If it clearly says halal then people have a choice. From my point of view that is a good thing. It is not doing any harm to anybody. There is a demand for halal and they should supply that demand."