Admittedly, I’m a little behind the curve with this story. But as the whole halal meat debate rolls on, with anyone and everyone adding their two pence worth to the debate, I thought I’d chime in and give my perspective.
So, if you’ve been hidden under a rock, or just a little behind on current affairs, I’ll provide a brief summary.
Essentially it has been revealed that us Brits are being unknowingly sold halal meat. Supermarkets have stocked up on New Zealand lamb, of which apparently 70% is halal, while Pizza Express, Nandos and Dominos pizza all serve halal chicken in most if not all of their branches. The nerve.
So the world – or at least the media world – is up in arms about the whole thing. People are offended by the fact that they’re not informed about exactly how the animal they eat is killed. There are cries of cruelty with regards to its slaughter process.
There was also a lengthy feature on The London Evening Standard the other week about how awkward it is accounting for people’s different cultures and how easily offended we are. So basically, something non-Muslim people have been eating, which tastes just the same as any other unblessed meat, has become a hot topic of debate. It’s also helped opportunists bring a fresh approach to their favourite topic of ‘how odd Muslims are’.
Anyway, being a halal meat eater, having a few more halal options is music to my ears. Being brought up in Wales where halal meat was non existent and we had to trek 40+ miles for our fortnightly stock up, to say I was deprived would be an understatement. There were no restaurants serving halal meat, and supermarkets didn’t offer any halal options – at least not explicitly.
I became accustomed to the veggie option, or the fillet o’ fish. It may sound small-minded now, but I never dreamt of a world where I could order a steak at a restaurant called the Meat and Wine company, nor that I could taste a KFC zinger tower burger. But now I can and it’s brilliant (in fact I enjoy the KFC far too much and too frequently).
The best thing is, the halal offering I’ve enjoyed in recent years never offended a single non-halal eating person I knew. Friends enjoyed the halal chicken at Nandos with me, or had a greasy kebab from Al-Madinah takeaway, without batting an eyelid at the halal credentials. Even if I went to a restaurant and asked if their meat is halal, nobody I knew was bothered by the question.
Equally, if halal meat wasn’t an option, which in most cases it wasn’t, I’d happily dine out on fish or veg. Essentially, meat needs to be halal for me, otherwise I’d eat an alternative, and for my friends, meat is meat in their eyes regardless of how it is killed so what did it matter?
I noticed that non-Muslim friends has no qualms about even getting halal meat from Tesco if they were having me round for dinner. Now this is exceptionally thoughtful and only do-able if you live in an area that has such an option. But if not, again I happily ate veggie. And again, this was just fine. Nothing was awkward, nothing was complicated, nobody was offended. Just as you wouldn’t serve steak to a vegetarian, friends who knew I ate halal wouldn’t serve me pork.
So all this furore has slightly baffled me. If nothing else, for halal eaters, some of the info is enlightening. I didn’t know Ask Italian had halal options. With all this in mind, I thought it best to tackle the main issues raises by the news head on, with my thoughts at least…
Why halal meat?
Rather understandably, the general public are probably slightly confused as to why there are so many halal options. And understandably so in a nation where Muslim people are a minority. However, the answer is simple – it makes business sense. Nandos isn’t offering halal chicken out of political correctness, it’s got it because there’s a whole new audience they’ve tapped into. As for unlabelled halal supermarket food, it was news to me too. Plus it clearly it tasted exactly like ‘normal’ meat so it didn’t bother anyone until it was made into an issue.
Food containing halal meat should be labelled accordingly
I couldn’t agree more. People then have the option if avoiding it on principle, whereas halal meat eaters know it is available to them. Everybody’s happy when we know where we stand.
The slaughtering process for halal meat is cruel
In truth, before this debate came into the public eye, how many people actually did know how animals were slaughtered?
And also, sorry to point the obvious, how can you be so strong on animal cruelty when you happily eat the animal yourself? I doubt the stunning process makes the ordeal of knowing imminent death any less frightening or distressing for the animal.
The whole halal thing is confusing and awkward as we’re so scared to offend anyone
This is the biggest bone of contention for me. A lot of the coverage, while attempting to seem unbiased and not racist, focuses on the stunning process rather than the cultural side. However, other articles use the opportunity to open a debate about Muslims in general and how it’s such a bind for suburban housewives to know which child to serve sausage to at their kid’s birthday party. Ah, first world worries.
But in in truth, these articles have been doing the rounds since, let’s say, circa 2001. Any mention of Muslims, and the opportunity was seized just to report on how strange we are.
The reality is, and I’m speaking frankly here, in most, but not all cases, it’s not the Muslim person who is offended by being asked if they eat sausage, it’s the non-Muslim person asking.
I’ve had people cringe at work during Ramadan when they offer me a cup of tea. Often with side retorts of ‘I won’t tell if you don’t’. People have apologies when they’ve offered me an alcoholic drink at a work do. But the truth is, I am not remotely offended, and neither should the person asking me. What they are offering is out of kindness, so why take it any other way.
In some respects, life was easier back in the day before people were ill-informed about Islam, and the religion made the news for all the wrong reasons. People at the very least didn’t feel so awkward about things, and it opened up the opportunity to explain the religion without any preconceptions set by the bearded man who had been interviewed in the street on the six o’ clock news.
That’s probably why I’ve never struggled with the halal debate myself. My friends have never felt awkward about things, because I had the opportunity to explain, before Islam-phobia had a chance to take over.
So in terms of the whole halal debate, I think there should be better labelling so people can choose as they wish. I imagine a lot of people won’t care if the meats halal, as long as these no horse in it.