Mail on Sunday in halal hysteria
As mentioned in my previous post, The Mail has managed to provoke some pretty extreme reactions by publishing a story called ‘Britain goes halal…but no-one tells the public: How famous institutions serve ritually slaughtered meat with no warning’. The clear implication from the headline is that the whole of Britain is suddenly being subject to a covert plot to inflict halal meat on the public (I’m guessing The Mail doesn’t consider Muslims to also be part of ‘the public’). The story opens like this:
[A Mail on Sunday investigation – which will alarm anyone concerned about animal cruelty – has revealed that schools, hospitals, pubs and famous sporting venues such as Ascot and Twickenham are controversially serving up meat slaughtered in accordance with strict Islamic law to unwitting members of the public.
All the beef, chicken and lamb sold to fans at Wembley has secretly been prepared in accordance with sharia law, while Cheltenham College, which boasts of its ‘strong Christian ethos’, is one of several top public schools which also serves halal chicken to pupils without informing them.
Even Britain’s biggest hotel and restaurant group Whitbread, which owns the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains, among many others, has admitted that more than three-quarters of its poultry is halal.]
Is this about animal welfare, or religion? Concerns about animal cruelty are briefly mentioned, but then the scaremongering about ‘strict Islamic law’, ‘unwitting members of the public’, and ‘secretly prepared in accordance with sharia law’ comments somewhat outweigh the opening line. The mention of Cheltenham College’s ‘strong Christian ethos’ also gives the lie to the animal welfare angle.
[Animal welfare campaigners have long called for a ban on the traditional Islamic way of preparing meat – which involves killing animals by drawing a knife across their throats, without stunning them first – saying it is cruel and causes unnecessary pain.
Sharia law expressly forbids knocking the animal out with a bolt gun, as is usual in British slaughter houses. Instead, it must be sentient when its throat is cut, and the blood allowed to drip from the carcass while a religious phrase in praise of Allah is recited.]
‘Sharia law expressly forbids knocking the animal out with a bolt gun’, says The Mail. Viva, an organisation that is wholly opposed to killing animals for food, were more honest than The Mail has been when they published a report on religious slaughter called ‘Going for the Kill’.
[Dr Abdel Aziz El Khayat agrees with stunning cattle but says that with sheep and poultry: “The Islamic way of slaughter is still the best way and that which causes the least cruelty and suffering.” The former Syrian Mufti, Sheikh Aboul Yusr Abdin, issued a legal opinion on electrical stunning and other methods: “If the animal remains alive and the slaughterer is a Muslim, the slaughtering would be lawful.”
In conclusion, many Muslims do believe that stunning is permitted so long as the animal is killed by cutting the throat. In the UK, almost all animals killed for halal meat are now pre-stunned (see next section – Introduction of Pre-stunning for UK Halal Meat).
The Viva report goes on to include figures published by the then Meat Hygiene Service (now part of the Food Standards Agency):
Amusingly, The Mail have included a quote from Viva (along with a bit of name dropping) in their article which appears to completely ignore the information from Viva’s own report that around 85% of animals slaughtered for halal meat are pre-stunned. In fact, the report highlights Jewish slaughter as the method which outlaws stunning, but The Mail omits mention of kosher slaughter methods until the last few paragraphs. If this were truly an animal welfare issue, kosher slaughter should have been given equal coverage, since it is very similar to halal methods, but with even less, if not no pre-stunning at all.
There are so many other aspects of welfare in farming animals for food (link to Compassion in World Farming) that this sudden obsession with what happens during the brief moments at the end of their lives in order to get meat on the nation’s tables seems suspiciously like another manifestation of The Mail’s anti-Muslim agenda. Still, while they’re on the subject, they might want to report on ‘Animal welfare problems in UK slaughterhouses‘ (PDF file from Compassion in World Farming), or perhaps ‘The Humane Slaughter Myth‘ from Animal Aid.
Moving away from the welfare aspects of halal slaughter, what does the Pope think of it all?
The extent of halal meat consumption, even in areas of Britain with a very small Muslim population, was revealed as the Pope, on his first visit to Britain, expressed fears that the country was not doing enough to preserve traditional Christian values and customs.
In a strongly worded speech to Parliament, he said: ‘There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.’
Oh, was he talking about halal? I thought he was discussing the Winterval myth in his ‘battle to save Christmas’. Has the Pope become The Mail’s new ‘quote for all occasions’ provider?
The caption under one of the pictures accompanying this article is also dishonest. It reads, “A Manchester United fan tucks into a burger at Wembley Stadium, which serves only halal meat.” Further on in the text, The Mail says:
A Football Association spokesman confirmed: ‘All the beef, chicken and lamb sold at Wembley Stadium is halal which means a large proportion of the meat on offer to our customers falls into this category.’ Pork, which is forbidden to Muslims, is also served at the stadium.
So, not quite all the meat sold at Wembley is halal, then. There’s also a picture of racegoers at Ascot smilingly tucking into fish and chips, which would appear to have no bearing at all on the halal hysteria. I also don’t see any evidence of a secret plot of any kind, since the companies concerned largely appear to have openly discussed their suppliers with The Mail.
To summarise; trying to hide an anti-Muslim story behind the animal cruelty debate is dishonest. Most halal meat is stunned prior to slaughter, whereas it appears kosher meat isn’t, so the skewed coverage becomes even more obvious. Animals die so that people can eat them, and, overall, it’s not a nice, fluffy process, however you try to dress it up. The Anorak said it better than me here: Only Halal Meat Served At Wembley Stadium And Ascot – Except The Kosher Pork. Misquoting the Pope, telling untruths in photo captions, and using photos of people eating food that isn’t anything to do with halal slaughter does not give a story more credibility. The reaction, not only in the comments section of The Mail, but also elsewhere on the web, clearly demonstrates the effect of such toxic stories on some readers, so next time there is a violent protest against a mosque, or against any of the companies mentioned in the ‘Britain goes halal’ article, or another protest against Muslims as a whole like the scenes in Bradford at the end of August, I would dearly love to see papers like The Mail taking their fair share of responsibility for it. It’s guaranteed they won’t.