A LEADING Welsh Tory was branded Islamophobic last night after claiming Muslims should support fox hunting because halal meat is also threatened by animal rights.
David Davies, AM for Monmouth, asked Muslim MPs who voted for a hunting ban to change their stance, because government advisers have also called halal slaughter cruel.
Ministers have ruled out a ban on halal and kosher slaughter, which states animals should be killed with a single cut to the throat while conscious.
But Mr Davies yesterday said Muslim MPs should join pro-hunting protesters outside Parliament, some of whom clashed violently with police last week, to defend minority rights.
Halal and kosher meat is exempt from rules on stunning animals before slaughter.
In a June 2003 report, the Farm and Animal Welfare Council said it "considers that slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and that the Government should repeal the current exemption".
It can take up to two minutes for an animal to bleed to death, the council found.
In April, Agriculture Minister Ben Bradshaw said, "We accept that there are deeply held beliefs on both sides of aspects of this argument.
"A ban could in any case simply result in kosher and halal meat being imported."
Mr Davies has written to Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, and Mohammed Sarwar, Labour MP for Glasgow Govan, who both voted for a ban on fox hunting.
Mr Davies said he knew of no Jewish MPs who had voted for a ban, but would write to any who came to his attention.
He said, "Hunting and halal are both long-standing traditions, passionately defended by a minority group, but not fully understood by the wider population.
"I hope that Mr Mahmood and Mr Sarwar will join with those of us who believe that minority traditions should be defended.
"Having seen the clear parallels between hunting and halal, they will hopefully realise that legislating to ban the traditions of one minority group is the thin end of the wedge."
He said the Government had "changed its tune" on hunting and would do so again on halal if it was going to be "logically consistent".
Mr Mahmood reacted angrily to the suggestion there are "parallels" between hunting and religious slaughter.
He said, "One is done in the pursuance of religious practice. The other is purely for pleasure. His attitude is totally Islamophobic."
He accused Mr Davies of "shoddy research" by only writing to Muslim MPs.
"I think he has just done this to be opportunistic," he said. "As a Muslim I find that very offensive.
"There has been a long debate in Government in relation to the issue of halal and kosher, which has gone into significant depth to ensure the animals are treated as humanely as possible.
"Fox hunting is a barbaric form of pleasure. It entails ripping an animal to shreds with dogs."
Mr Davies denied the accusation of Islamophobia.
He said, "He would perhaps understand why many people find it very offensive that somebody, who doesn't under- stand the countryside, is a supporter of halal meat and supports a ban on fox hunting.
"I strongly support his right to halal meat. I am merely asking him to give the same consideration to the people who live in the countryside."
In July, Cardiff County Council rejected a proposal by Plaid Cymru councillor Mohammed Islam to put halal meat on all school dinner menus.
Last night he said, "Fox hunting is totally cruel in my view. According to the Muslim view and my personal view, I would support a hunting ban. It's completely cruel to just kill animals for your own hobby.
"These days halal slaughter is done as any other animal. You can slaughter any animal in which way you want to, as long as you use the name of God."
Mr Sarwar was unavailable for comment last night.