The MoD has confirmed that only troops who request specific meals are told the source of the meat they are eating.
Food served in MoD canteens in both UK and permanent bases abroad is not routinely labelled to indicate it has been slaughtered using religious methods to ensure it is halal or kosher.
Only military personnel who specifically request their meals are prepared in accordance with religious practice are told which dishes they can eat, a Freedom of Information request disclosed.
The MoD said it does not label halal food, in accordance with current Government guidelines which state dishes do not have to indicate the method of slaughter.
The Government has so far refused to introduce compulsory labelling and said a review of the process would only take place once a European Commission study had been completed.
The MoD confirmed food served at bases in the UK and overseas is not labelled to indicate how it had been prepared.
They said: “Troops can ask at the serving point if the food that is being served is halal.
“There is always an alternative option.”
The MOD said there is no requirement for them to label halal or kosher meat.
In a statement they said: O”ur policy is in line with current UK legislation and Government guidelines and while there is no requirement for menus to state that a dish may or may not contain halal produce, service personnel with special dietary requirements are fully informed as to which dishes are suitable for them to eat.”
The statement added that pre-prepared ration packs are labelled and only people who specifically request these are halal would receive them.
Religious leaders and politicians have called for clear labelling on food packaging and said the issue of canteens and restaurants selling kosher and halal meat is one of “religious freedom.”
Philip Hollobone, conservative MP for Kettering, said he thought the MoD and the British government should take the lead on labelling food.
He told the Telegraph: “I absolutely think they [the MoD] should label the meat they are serving to their servicemen and women. We all want to know what we are eating.
“Religious groups want to know and a lot of people have objections to ritual slaughter. I think it’s only fair that they know if they have been stunned.
“Just because they don’t have to label food doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.”
George Eustice, minister for farming and food, marine and fisheries, and animal health, said labelling would only be considered once the European study had been done.
He told the Commons there were difficulties in simply labelling meat as kosher or halal as it did not distinguish whether the animal had been stunned.
Under both the Muslim method of slaughter, known as Zabiha, and the Jewish practice, Shechita, a surgically sharp instrument is used to cut straight through an animal’s throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in its neck. Religious groups insist the method kills animals instantly, although this has been disputed by the British Veterinary Association.
Under Shechita animals are not stunned before being killed, while some Muslim slaughterhouses do not pre-stun – which some critics say harms the animals.
Mr Hollobone branded Mr Eustice’s response “weak and pathetic” and suggested food was labelled as stunned or un-stunned.
The minister replied that other countries had run into difficulties while trying to act independently.
He said: “The advice that we have received is that actually if we were going to introduce such regulation, it would be better to do such a thing at the European level.
“Other countries have looked at this, including Spain and France, and have run into difficulties.
“But I do think he makes a good point. If you were to introduce some sort of compulsory method of labelling … you would not, I think, go for halal or kosher … but you would go for stunned or un-stunned.”
Henry Grunwald QC, chairman of Shechita UK, the Jewish representative body, and Dr Shuja Shafi, Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, previously told the Telegraph they believe all menus and packets should specify how animals have been slaughtered, and if they have been stunned.
They both said animals killed in accordance with religious practices are treated no worse than others that are killed to be eaten.
Originally published on www.telegraph.co.uk