Halal Meat Hysteria

All of this attention on halal meat has helped me recover from my writer’s block so I thought I’d dedicate an article about this new “scandal”. A big shout out to the Daily Mail and The Sun for bringing it to my attention. They really did stuff halal meat down our throats with their recent headlines.

Many people ask questions like: “What’s the difference between halal meat and non halal meat? Chicken is chicken” and the famous “Why are animals left to die a slow and painful death when slaughtered the halal way?”

Let me break it down. The halal method of slaughter requires a swift incision to the throat using a sharp blade. The animal must never see another animal being slaughtered nor must it see the blade being sharpened. Before the slaughter is done, the butcher says ‘Bismillah’ and/or ‘Allahu Akbar’, meaning ‘In the name of Allah’ and ‘God is the Greatest’ – so they are recognising that this animal came from God and giving thanks to God. Please note that this is not an ‘evil chant/mumble’ made by a Muslim who wants to radicalise all animals and it is not a ritual that will bring the animal back from the dead either – it’s simply a mention of the name of God. The animal is given water to drink beforehand and the face is turned away from the blade. The intention is to make sure the animal is not going through any stress or panic. Once the procedure is carried out correctly, the sudden drop in blood pressure to the brain renders the animal brain dead within seconds. The blood is then drained from the body, which keeps the meat fresh and hygienic.

But honestly, I don’t think all of this is really about animal welfare or how it is slaughtered. The headlines that I’ve seen are doing nothing but inciting more hate towards Muslims and giving so many “animals activists” (who by the way suddenly became activists overnight), a platform to spew their Islamophobic views. Pretty sure after all of this settles down, the same people will head down to their nearest Sam’s halal chicken shop and order their usual takeaway. If halal slaughtering has always been “inhumane” towards animals, many halal meat stores would’ve been shut down by now.

In the Sun’s front page story, “Halal secret of Pizza Express”, it stated that Pizza Express didn’t mention that they served halal chicken in their menus and would only inform customers about it if they’d asked. As a Muslim myself, I was also surprised to learn that they served halal chicken because I hardly go to Pizza Express. The stores in my borough do not have the ‘halal’ signs outside their restaurants. So in this case, of course, it would’ve been great to know if it was halal too. It would definitely make things easier for Muslims and non Muslims if they had known. But Pizza Express made it clear that this is nothing new. If you go to the Customer Service section on their website, it says: “It is no secret that all the chicken used in our dishes is halal slaughtered. Our teams in restaurants have and always will provide this information.” Maybe now they will start putting out ‘halal’ signs on their windows?

Most of the comments I’ve read about halal meat criticise HOW the meat is slaughtered rather than the main issue of Pizza Express selling halal meat without informing customers. It’s as if people have diverted from the actual story and are now looking for any excuse to question or demonise what Muslims are doing. It’s really no surprise to me anymore.

Here are a few news headlines from the Daily Mail in the past few weeks:

“Unlabelled halal meat has become ‘default’ position in Britain’s supermarkets.”

“Halal meat being eaten by millions without them knowing it.” (This one sounds like halal meat gives you cancer)

“Now halal sneaks into our schools dinners.” (“Sneaks”? Yes, halal meat has certainly walked itself into schools now)

And here’s one from 2010:

“Top supermarkets secretly sell halal: Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and M&S don’t tell us meat is ritually slaughtered.” Look at the words ‘secretly’ and ‘ritually’.

Using phrases such as “This comes after Subway ditches bacon”, “strict Islamic law”, “sneaking in Halal food” and “ritually slaughtered” in news stories are just unnecessary.

I’ve never had to ask a staff member at a supermarket whether the meat is halal or not. Most supermarkets clearly state on the packet that the meat is halal. I’ve been shopping in my local Asda for years and there has always been a small separate section with a sign that lets shoppers know that they sell halal meat there. On the packaging, the word ‘halal’ is written in Arabic AND English, just to remind customers again. And the rest of the aisle has pork and other meat which do not display the ‘halal’ logo. It’s really not that hard to distinguish, people.

Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone deserves to know what they are eating. They have the right to know what’s in their food and I agree with putting labels on all foods. However, certain media organisations are using this halal meat scandal and blowing it out of proportion.

But of course, it’s not just halal meat that’s getting scrutinised. I’ve seen enough headlines about immigrants “pouring into the country” over the last few months. The Daily Express even started doing campaigns about it. Interestingly enough, most people working for public services and the NHS are not from the UK. But sure, let them pack their bags because they are not benefitting Britain at all.

The media has a huge influence on how people think. From scandals, to what a celebrity is wearing, the perfect body image, what Miley Cyrus is up to, throw in a bit of politics, Muslims, Obama, Putin, the selfie obsession and how fast Prince George is growing. It’s clear that in some way or another, newspapers are spoon-feeding information to people and sometimes it is either biased, stereotypical, discriminative or simply inaccurate. Totally against the elements of what journalism is actually about.

While people are throwing tantrums about meat being slaughtered a certain way, 100+ girls are still missing after a kidnap in Nigeria. Also, there are millions of people in poverty who would do anything to get hot food on their plates and a roof over their heads. There are much more important issues in the world that need our attention.

I’ll end this with a quote from Malcolm X: “The most important thing we can learn to do today is think for ourselves.”

Buy whichever meat suits you. Just get your priorities straight.

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