An overriding feeling of panic gripped the nation this week over the slaughter methods of British meat. In what has been implied as a wily plot to 'Islamify' Britain, it has emerged that many restaurant chains have been serving Halal meat, while customers (for the most part) remain none the wiser.
Amidst the Halal-fury this week, a supremely unconcerned-looking David Cameron had the audacity to enjoy a half chicken (with coleslaw and chips) at Nandos, while members of the public have been in uproar about unwittingly being served meat slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. The consumption of Halal has been described almost comically by most as 'sneaky' and 'underhanded' and the entire debate has rather ludicrously escalated into a prejudiced argument about the Islamification of Britain.
Those who are opposed to Halal are missing the fundamental point - there is no pleasant way to kill an animal.
Pizza Express Halal Chicken
Pizza Express were the first to come under scrutiny when it emerged that the chicken they use is Halal. Accused of intentionally keeping this a highly-guarded secret, despite openly responding to Halal enquiries on Twitter and highlighting it on their website, Pizza Express came under fire for covert operations to allow Shariah Law to rule Britain and convert each one of their customers to Islam, one chicken pizza at a time.
Surprisingly, the revelations have now spawned a brand new nation of animal-welfare officers, who are suddenly taking an interest into the slaughter methods of their dinner. Instigating the nonsensical attack on Halal was The Sun and the Daily Mail. In an embarrassing array of hyperbolic journalism, both papers detail Halal methods of slaughter, cleverly insinuating it is highly barbaric in order to propagate a demonised view of Islam.
Journalist and Presenter from 'Living The Life Show' on the Islam Channel, Sadiya Chowdhury tells us: “Halal meat is being written about as if it's something scary. Reading a prayer over an animal before slaughtering doesn't change the composition or physical quality of the meat. Perhaps all this media attention can give us the opportunity to explore Halal meat further and find out more about the benefits of the Halal method.”
Those who are opposed to Halal are missing the fundamental point - there is no pleasant way to kill an animal. In a traditional abattoir, chickens stunned before slaughter are subjected to a metal bolt fired into their brain. They are shackled, hung by their legs and then dipped into a water bath, where an electrical current renders them unconscious. Alternatively, gas chambers are also used to mass-kill animals. However in some cases, gas mixtures do not kill instantly and can cause great distress. The Scientific Veterinary Committee of the EU say that when electricity is used, animals do not always lose consciousness and can therefore suffer a 'potentially painful' cardiac arrest. So, to those whose interest in animal welfare has just peaked - is this really any better?
The Halal debate is... an easy way to capitalise on the already existing anti-islamic feeling in Britain...
Ironically, 88% of Halal chicken is stunned before slaughter according to the Food Standards Agency - so really, there is not much difference between Halal and 'traditional British' slaughter.
In an open joint letter to The Telegraph last week, Henry Grunwald, chairman of Jewish group Shechita UK and Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, questioned: “If two chickens reared in exactly the same conditions are both electrocuted until they are unconscious and then one goes into an enormous machine which scalds, feathers and decapitates it, while the other goes to a Muslim who happens to be reciting a prayer, why are critics quite content with the former but up in arms about the latter?”
Unfortunately it seems that the Halal debate has not actually risen from animal welfare concerns, but is instead an easy way to capitalise on the already existing anti-islamic feeling in Britain. The debate surrounding humane slaughter methods has become a gateway to express hostility towards Muslims in Britain. You only need to take a look at the style of reporting on the issue from British dailies like The Sun to realise there was a clear intent behind the headlines. The availability of Halal was described nastily as a "a stealthy takeover." And of course there was input from the BNP who quickly accused Halal meat as an "obvious erosion of our traditions and customs" on their website.
Rather than giving voice to the anti-muslim sentiment, why not focus on the real issue, desperately waiting to be addressed - correct and clear labelling of consumer products. In essence, this is where the outrage should lie; people want to know what they are consuming, Halal or not, which is undeniably fair.