Pizza Express has been using only halal meat for years (See Article Two below). All those orangey chicken bits that top pizzas and fill calzones come from poultry that have been slaughtered in the Muslim ritual way. It turns out, for of the biggest supermarket chains also sell meat that has been slaughtered this way — though their packaging doesn’t say so.
The pizza chain explains this on its website — but religious leaders have written to the Daily Telegraph to call for explicit labels from now on. Just as a Muslim needs to know that their meat is halal and a Jew that their meat is kosher, the rest of us should know what kind of meat we are eating.
The incident has exposed something nasty: we’ve all been eating halal for years, and never seemed to care. No one talked about little lambs, or chickens, being slaughtered cruelly. Suddenly, this has changed. Could it be that the change is down to anti-Muslim prejuedice?
Earlier this year, the new Chief Vet sparked a row when he said that ritual slaughtering should be banned. It was cruel to animals, John Blackwell bleated, going against all scientific evidence. Many agreed, claiming that halal slaughter did not belong in a civilised culture. Others – I was one — argued that an individual’s right to practice their faith trumped the rights of a lamb to be stunned. The debate grew heated — and nasty: fuelled, I would argue, not so much by traditional sentimentality about cutesy animals as by anti-Muslim prejudice.
Animal rights easily become a proxy for Islam-bashing and anti-semitism. Get at these people through their diet. It’s an ancient tradition, rising back to the Middle Ages, when bigots liked to say that Jews ritually slaughtered Christian babies. This blood libel would be unthinkable today, in our “civilised culture” — but it finds an echo in the attacks on the dietary laws of faith communities. These days, it’s not just Jews, it’s Muslims, that can be targeted.
Ritual slaughter turns out to be cheaper than the traditional methods. This will mean retailers like Pizza Express will continue to serve halal meat against the bigots’ opposition. Let the Chief Vet chew that over.
Originally published on halalfocus.net