Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Food We Eat

This is not an anti-Muslim post.  It is a story about animal cruelty because rather than being killed with a bolt to the head, a halal animal is killed by having it's throat slit and bleeding to death 'in accordance with strict Islamic law.'

When I first heard about halal meat being served in various outlets I thought the media were mischief making.  My grandfather was of a generation who fought for the humane slaughtering of animals which resulted in the Humane Slaughter Act of 1933.

Evidence is now readily available that sports fans are being served Halal meat without their knowledge. All beef, chicken and lamb at Wembly, Ascot and Twickenham is halal.  Whitbread, which owns Costa Coffee shops and Premier Inn hotels said 80 per cent of its chicken is halal.  School children are being fed halal meat and hospital patients - all without their knowledge.

GateGourmet, the Swiss-based catering giant which caters for all long-haul British Airways flights from Heathrow, wants to standardise production to drive down costs and boost profits. Peter van Niekerk, head of GateGroup in the UK, said : "We are competing for some more halal business and when we make that, the scale tips."  He said the company would consult with ustomers such as BA and Cathay Pacific to 'manage perceptions and manage such a transition'.  No bacon rolls on these flights in future.

Do we need to be informed?  Can you taste the difference?  If it is says 'halal' on the menu does it matter to you?

Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, secretary of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, says : "The vast majority of people in this country would not want meat of this origin."  Has he done a survey?

I'm reasonably content eating the little meat I do because I know it has been humanely killed.  My butcher can easily trace the animal back to the farm of origin.  But not all people have easy access to an old-fashioned butcher these days.  In supermarkets it can be difficult to assess the origin of meat as the labelling is confusing and the staff appear to be just as confused.

Do I want to eat halal meat?  No.  I wouldn't be comfortable knowing the process of the animal's death. Meat producers say the demand for halal meat is increasing.  Whitbread say they don't specify halal as a requirement in their procurement.  They base their decision on quality and price.  Some of their halal poultry comes from Turkey. Why would anyone want to eat a chicken which has come all the way from Turkey when we have a thriving poultry industry in the UK?  Price.

A couple of years ago I made a conscious decision to stop buying so much 'fresh' food from abroad.  Yes I do miss my baby sweetcorn and mangetout but I've found tasty replacements.  Bananas, melons and advocados I still purchase but that's about all. There is the other side of the argument of course. High quality Scottish beef, prawns and langoustines are exported to Europe.  Would I eat an Aberdeen Angus steak in France?  I doubt it because I prefer to eat local produce.

Do I want to be informed I'm eating halal meat without having to ask?  Yes.
As from now, when I eat out I intend to ask the source of the food I'm eating.  If I don't trust the reply then I'll choose the vegetarian option, a pork dish or leave.

We're fortunate enough to have a choice of home-produced food. I'm not suggesting anyone boycott the likes of Whitbread establishments, but I do suggest more of us become aware of the source of what we put in our mouths.  We may be surprised - and not pleasantly.



Harry said...

I don't want Halal foods because it is yet another example of the Dhimmification of Europe. If it were merely about profit for an airline company, why are the RN, Army and Education departments doing it?

Muslim screams, we bend over backwards.

When KFC tried this one they announced it publicly, and saw their sales go down.

If some savage want to torture animals like some kind of sick deviant, I want him doing it abroad, well away from here. Same goes for the buggers who want Kosher too.

RMcGeddon said...

SR. We've been eating Kosher food from Deli's for centuries and it's killed in the same way as halal food (apart from slight variations in the sky fairy prayer before the throat is slit.)
So are Jews killing the animals 'savagely' aswell ? I've not heard of any boycott of kosher Deli's.

I eat mainly Scotch pies which have no meat in them so I'm not affected :)

Alex Porter said...

Seeing RMcGeddon's point here.

Not made up my mind but a few thoughts come to mind. Some people refuse to eat anything they didn't kill themselves which I think has some sound moral underpinnings.

That said what about Halal?

"OK so let's start at the very top - what is halal? and what is halal meat?
"Halal" is Arabic; the term is used to describe anything permissible under Islamic law (Sharia). This includes behaviour, speech, dress, conduct, manner and dietary laws.

In non-Arabic-speaking countries, the term is mostly used in the narrower context of dietary laws; what a Muslim can and can not eat.

So what makes meat halal?

The principles of halal can be split into 3 areas; 1) the actual slaughter, 2) the welfare of the animal and 3) the state of the slaughterer."

1) The Slaughter: The following procedures constitute the ideal procedure for slaughtering an animal%u2026

a) The animal is given a drink of water and is to be placed lying down facing Mecca
b) The animal must be calmed
c) The animal is not allowed to see other animals going to slaughter or being slaughtered and ideally not let to smell other animals' blood
d) The animal can at no time see the knife
e) The knife must be razor sharp
f) A prayer must be read and the intention to take the animal's life for the correct reasons must be made
g) The neck must be slit in one clean pull of the knife cutting through the skin and oesophagus right to the back of the neck
h) The animal must be held securely until all life has left it

These methods are used as they are believed to be the kindest and most effective way of slaughtering.

Stunning is not the considered as an ideal method of slaughtering but some Islamic scholars have permitted it. Therefore much of the halal meat in the world is stunned and bled just like any other meat. The only difference is that halal meat would be cut by a Muslim."

As for not knowing the process of the death of the animal what difference does 'humane killing' make? And given that most Halal uses 'stun' then it would seem that there is little difference at all except the way that the animal is treated whilst being farmed.

Could be wrong - open to argument..

Apogee said...

Interesting,Alex. but I still wonder how this fits with the law of this country , or are we under Sharia law, just not having been told about it.
And dont think I will fly BA again , too many issues .

RMcGeddon said...


All of what you say sounds good but in reality the halal slaughter is brutal. I've seen sheep dragged from the back of pick ups and slashed across the throat in the streets. I doubt if the sheep was pointing towards Mecca.

graphic halal killing here..


Alex Porter said...

Well RMcGeddon,
Watching that really was an eye-opener so thanks. I will have to establish that that is the norm. Also, I will have to establish that Western slaugher houses are typically like the video portrays. I know that fast food chains have some horrific practices which includes even the rights of the humans who work in the food processing plants!
Two wrongs don't make a right so I'm not trying to justify one by pointing out that the other is worse but I would like to ascertain the facts regarding how typical these practices are!

subrosa said...

Harry, it seems chickens are killed abroad with the halal method then imported here.

subrosa said...

I admit I've had Kosher food now and again RM.

You must try a Dundee pie. The baker recites "nae ingin in twa duzen" every few minutes. It's known as the Dundee Pie Ceremony.

subrosa said...

There is some sense in that Alex and when young I had no problem plucking poultry or skinning anything. However 'modern' life took over and these traditions became a thing of the past. I have done it since but these days I have a butcher who is happy to prepare most things for me and as I don't eat much meat then that's fine.

What more concerning about so much halal food in this country is that much of it must be imported as there is only one halal slaughterhouse in the UK I believe.

I don't think stunning is used in the UK house but I'll see if I can verify that.

subrosa said...

You're not the only one to say that recently Apogee. People have lost patience with them, although they did have sympathy during the union debacle.

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link RM. I've seen it before but if some haven't I suggest they do.

subrosa said...

Our slaughterhouses are perhaps the most tightly controlled in the world Alex and come under very strict hygiene laws.

Not much gets by the supervisors. It's not worth their while to try as the penalties outweigh any unprofessionalism.

Frank Davies said...

Halal, kosher or humane killing is the choice but how does anyone taste the difference in the end products?

I never believe what it says on any package so why do the religious believe what their packaging says?

Sorry more questions than answers.

John said...

This is the way it begins. Just small changes at first creeping into our way of life. Keep doing things such as this and British will not notice. Until one morning when the police come to arrest you for some breach of sharis law that crept in when we were not looking.

JuliaM said...

"Do we need to be informed?  Can you taste the difference?  If it is says 'halal' on the menu does it matter to you?"

Yes. No. Yes.

JuliaM said...

And on the subject of kosher meat, can anyone imagine the food companies quietly ensuring all meat be slaughtered according to the Torah in order to appease the Jews?

No. Me neither.

subrosa said...

Ask away Frank but I doubt if I've the answers. I've not heard there's any difference in taste.

Unlike you I do tend to believe what packets/tins say. More fool me possibly.

The underlying concern is what John says in his message below.

subrosa said...

That's what's worrying John, the lack of openness and the underhand manner with which the majority of the population are being treated.

subrosa said...

My Jewish friends don't even ask when we're out to eat Julia. They just pick what suits their usual eating habits and there's never been a problem. I have to admit, I love her cooking though - it's a delight to be introduced to food which I would never eat otherwise. Except I can now make proper chicken soup. :)

RMcGeddon said...

" You must try a Dundee pie. The baker recites "nae ingin in twa duzen" every few minutes. It's known as the Dundee Pie Ceremony."

I tried buying a peh today SR and said to the assistant 'gies twa pehs a plen ain an an ingin ain an ah'

The assistant was from Lithuania and didn't understand a word. I felt like a stranger in my own country.

Budvar said...

Alex, your vision of halal slaughter is akin to shall we say, oh this little analogy.

I as a man after being plied with copious quantities of vintage champaign, am led by Cindi Crawford into her boudoir, all satin sheets, skimpy outfits and essential massage oils.

She then strips me down to my Y-fronts, faces me in front of the TV/DVD combo with one of her home movies of doing a turn with a shetland pony.

She then massages me with said essential oils, and applies enough squirty cream to her nipples to give me tongue fatigue, right before she slits my throat from ear to ear.

By this time, I've propably lost the will to live any longer as life for me wont ever get any better than this.

The reality of the above scenario is before I get my turn with Cindi, I have to wait in line hearing the screams of those that go before me, when my turn arrives, Cindi, her scanty outfits, the satin sheets, the TV/DVD combo playing in the background and tins of squity cream are covered in arterial spray, and by the exit door there's some Abduls sharpening up the filleting/boning knives etc.

I can't speak for you, but believe me there's no amount of vintage Champaign and squirty cream on the face of the planet that will get me to chill out enough to let Cindi anywhere near me with a sharp object.

subrosa said...

Oh dear RM, now that's tragic. I hope that's not the beginning of the end of that wonderful language Dundeese.

My butcher makes braw Scots pies but with mince. Thinking of that I've shopping to do. :)

Joe Public said...

I sense a boycott (as happened with KFC) of organisations serving halal meat; and, of products including halal meat.

Non-Muslim commercial organisations are only serving halal meat to lower their costs (by having a single source rather than two sources)& increase their profits. So far, they've got away with it because of the lack of public knowledge. Now the cat's out of the bag, I predict there'll be stiff (non-muslim) resistance.

Anonymous said...

Hi, there's a problem with your definition of halal meat, as the majority you'll find has been subject to stunning. In that sense, halal meat is no different to any other meat, apart from that the slaughterer will have said the name of God before making the slit.

You've identified cost as being the issue. Thinking about it logically, the production costs of not stunning will be significantly higher than the stunned process. This is just a guess, but Whitbread et al are all using pre-stunned meat.

FYI UK abattoirs that do halal use stunning, apart from one I believe (I could be wrong on that). The one that exists in Scotland definitely stuns.

I have a number of other thoughts on this matter which I may blog about in due course.

subrosa said...

It is all down to cost Joe as the catering chap said. What troubles me is the underhanded behaviour of the food industry.

subrosa said...

Hi Osama, it's very difficult to find an accurate definition of halal meat and certainly haven't found evidence that the majority is subject to stunning. Traditional Scottish meat is stunned. There are no ifs or buts or maybes. That's the way Scots (and the rest of the UK) have killed their meat.

I disagree that non-stunning is more expensive. Having spoken to a slaughterman recently stunning requires a separate section, more ted tape and more supervision so I can't see how it's cheaper.

I didn't realise Scotland had a halal slaughterhouse. Again very difficult to find accurate information online.

For me it doesn't matter so much except when I eat out but many aren't so fortunate in having a trustworthy food source. I use my trusty butcher.

If you do post about it please do give links because I spent 2 hours on this last night and the so called evidence was all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Hi again,

Online links are hard to come by as abattoirs don't normally see a need to advertise themselves that way.

There are Muslims pushing for more unstunned meat, but the fact that they are fighting a rearguard campaign against the tide of what prevails is telling.

As for cost, unstunned costs more to slaughter because it takes longer to get animals under control than if they have been knocked out by electricity. The control issue matters, as if it goes wrong and is messy meaning the animal is not killed instantly and humanely, it is not classed as halal.

Lastly, an interesting link http://blog.newhumanist.org.uk/2010/09/halal-for-humanists.html

subrosa said...

Hi again Osama.

There's plenty online about traditional British slaughterhouses and their policies, laws etc. but really nothing about halal houses.

I know I'm being a pest but can you explain why more Muslims want unstunned meat? I ask because so many fought for years to have British meat stunned as it was thought to be more humane.

Thanks for the explanation about why you think it's more expensive to kill unstunned animals. I'll have to disagree with you on that one until I can see some more facts as I only have the British slaughterhouse details.

Many thanks for the interesting link. Yes I'd agree with the writer, more discussion needs to be had about it.

Of course there is the religious aspect if it can be called that. I much prefer to have the choice of praying (if I want to) over my meat when it's on the plate than having someone do it their way without my consent. That's not prejudice just possibly an old-fashioned upbringing.

bob said...

I've been thinking about this, and i have come to the conclusion that i dont care, and it doesnt matter.

Who cares if the animal is humanly killed, if it has spent it's life in a cage?

I care that the animal has had at least some freedom and basic care.

Have you heard of the intensive milk farms that now coming to the UK.

Think of battery chicken farms but for cows.

How it is killed is rather insignificant compared to how it has lived. And i find it rather stupid that people argue for human killing when i know they eat intensivly farmed meat.

"I know I'm being a pest but can you explain why more Muslims want unstunned meat? I ask because so many fought for years to have British meat stunned as it was thought to be more humane."

The blood must be drained before it is killed, otherwise they consider it carrion which is not allowed.

Their concern is that stun methods can kill the animal before the blood is drained, there are some muslim slaughter houses that use methods that stun the animal without killing it, but they are not common that i know of.

subrosa said...

Bob you've hit the nail on the head there for me and it's something I should have mentioned in the post. The life of the animal is perhaps more important to me than its death.

Yes I've heard of them. No wonder farmers are up in arms. Heard somewhere that the average farm has around 140 beasts yet this US setup would hold over 3000 (figures varied on different reports).

Thanks for the explanation about stunning Bob. Seems to be a variety of ways to kill for halal.

Anonymous said...

RSPCA report says 90% of halal meat is stunned http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?blobcol=urlblob&blobheader=application/pdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=RSPCABlob&blobwhere=1109267162636&ssbinary=true

As for cost, I suspect if not stunning was cheaper, Pakistanis would be doing it ;)

subrosa said...

Excellent link Osama, thanks very much. I looked for ages for something similar but my search skills are wanting obviously.

There needs to be a lot more transparency doesn't there? Meat needs to be labelled as stunned or not stunned - just for starters. Wonder what your readers think?

HolisticHumanist said...

I wonder if you saw the TV series KILL IT, COOK IT, EAT IT, in particualr the 'baby animals' episode.
If so you would have seen that actually despite the 'stunning' process many animals are NOT 'out of it' when they have the bolt passed through their head AND when they do shoot the bolt thru their head it doesn't always kill them immediately AND that the slaughterman who was explaining the process admitted that particularly in the case of young animals (which most of our meat is) this IS NOT necessarily the most humane way of doing it... in fact when the bolt method fails the next step is to use the same method used in halal sacrifice, which is to cut the throat of the animal deeply enough to sever the spinal cord.

I have eaten halal meat in the past many times. Whilst Im sure that, as with *ANY* practitioners of slaughter, there are probably those who DO NOT stick to the rules or who can't do their job properly, I cannot think of any (good, non-racist) reason why muslim slaughtermen should be viewed with any more suspicion than non-muslims when it comes to animal welfare.
I believe that it is better to kill an animal in the halal way when this is executed correctly & tbh if they were to start labelling meat as halal I might choose buy this in preference to animals slaughterd in the not-so-accurate or humane 'British' way!

TheOldBrewer said...

While believing that stunning prior to slaughter may be rational I am not convinced that not stunning is worse for the animal. Stunning does not kill. It the stun is misdirected and an animal is not rendered unconscious immediately it may be subject to unnecessary pain. Without stunning an expertly apply cut to the neck causes a catastrophic fall in blood pressure that ensures a quick loss of consciousness. Most Muslims will accept stunning prior to slaughter. More than 90% of meat certified as halal is derived from stunned animals according to the Food Standards Agency in Sept 2011.

For information halal rules cover animal welfare before slaughter AND handling and processing meat after slaughter. It is not possible to process non-halal and halal meat at the same time in the same kitchens. Institutions serving substantial numbers of Muslims alongside non-Muslims would have difficulty coping. It is rational, therefore, to use halal meat.

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