…the animal must be alive and conscious at the moment its throat is cut, and that the slaughterman must be a person of faith who pronounces the name of Allah before wielding his knife.
With sensitive religions like Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism, where the belief is that your mind and soul is deeply influenced by what you eat and therefore strict monitoring of food content is important, how do they feel about their food being acquired through jihad-like decapitation of animals and packed and sold after it’s been filled with prayers and supplications to the ‘Lord of the Devils’ (Muhammad’s reference to Allah)?
Can’t imagine a more insulting and forbidden food content than Halal for these religious groups. So basically, Britain is appeasing a 3% population at the cost and superimposed decision on 97% of people.
Why do these religious communities not bring a lawsuit against all these food stores and suppliers, for hundreds of millions in damages? Britain has basically denied the other groups the freedom of religion by forcing them to subjugate to someone else’s rituals – a completely forbidden practice in their own religion.
A stealthy takeover of Britain’s supermarket shelves
By GUY ADAMS
Tucked away in the back room of a tatty red-brick building near Birmingham city centre, a beady-eyed chicken is turned upside down and placed in an open-ended metal cone.
A man approaches, carrying a sharp knife. Sizing up the bird, he mutters a short prayer. Then he gently takes hold of the chicken’s head, and expertly slits its throat.
Blood and the occasional feather fall to the floor. The animal appears to twitch. Roughly a minute later, it’s dead, and ready to be plucked, disembowelled, and placed inside a long refrigerated meat counter in the next-door room.
This process is repeated roughly a thousand times each day at the premises of Taj & Co, a ‘slaughter on site’ wholesaler of halal meat and poultry, which has its headquarters in the largely Muslim neighbourhood of Handsworth.
Customers come from far and wide to visit the green-and-white-tiled store, where a small television constantly broadcasts rolling footage from no less than six CCTV cameras overlooking the back-room abattoir.
The TV, they explain, is designed to reassure visitors that their meat has been produced according to the strictest Islamic traditions.
These rules dictate (among other things) that the animal must be alive and conscious at the moment its throat is cut, and that the slaughterman must be a person of faith who pronounces the name of Allah before wielding his knife.
‘In so many other places, you just cannot be sure what you are getting, but here the screen shows you that they don’t differ from what the Koran says,’ said 45-year-old housewife Nawaz Udin, who drove to the shop yesterday from her home in Coventry.
‘My husband is a very devout Muslim, and I like to make sure we can eat truly halal food every day.’
Taj & Co, established in 1969, is one of 17 abattoirs in the UK which kill animals only in the old-fashioned, scripturally correct way: without pre-stunning with an electric current before slaughter.
Together, these premises produce about ten per cent of our country’s halal meat, killing 600,000 cows, sheep and chickens during the course of a typical week, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The remaining 90 per cent is slaughtered via a process which is almost identical – except that the animal is given an electric shock to render it unconscious, but not dead, prior to its throat being cut.
To ensure that Muslim consumers get their preferred variety of halal meat, a range of certification and labelling systems currently help Mrs Udin and her peers purchase a product that conforms to the exact religious threshold they desire.
Meat: A sign for halal, which means ‘permitted’
Controversially, however, a very different state of affairs currently prevails for consumers who happen not to be Muslim and – either for faith-based or for ethical reasons – would prefer to avoid halal produce altogether.
In recent years, thanks to a variety of commercial factors – which we shall detail later – the number of halal abattoirs in Britain has mushroomed.
Today, they account for roughly a quarter of the country’s 352 slaughterhouses.
As a result, 51 per cent of the lamb, 31 per cent of chicken, and seven per cent of the beef slaughtered in this country – from a total of 16million animals per week – is now ‘religiously killed’, according to the FSA.
That’s far more than the Muslim community, which constitutes around five per cent of Britain’s population, can possibly consume.
Yet despite this trend, there is no formal requirement for supermarkets, restaurants and other outlets to tell customers whether the meat they are buying happens to be halal.
These relaxed labelling rules, overseen by the EU, represent a daily nightmare for consumers who find themselves wanting to avoid such products.
Take Sikhs, whose faith strictly and specifically forbids them from consuming animals which have been ‘ritually slaughtered’. They currently have no way of telling what meat or ready meals they can or cannot consume.
‘Consumers are being denied the right to make an informed choice based upon their faith or other beliefs concerning meat from ritually slaughtered animals. This cannot be right and an urgent change is required.’
And then there are conservative Christians, who take particularly unkindly to products endorsed by a rival faith popping up on high-street restaurant menus. This week, for example, it emerged that the Pizza Express chain has quietly begun selling only halal chicken on its pizzas.
And earlier this month, it was revealed that the fast food chain Subway would be opening a string of ‘halal only’ stores that would sell turkey bacon instead of pork.
‘I am opposed to the Islamification of food,’ says Colin Hart, of the Christian Institute, ‘so I don’t want to buy halal, but it’s become very hard to avoid, even if you try.
‘If Muslims want to eat halal, that’s absolutely fine. But it should be clearly labelled. The problem is that, as with so many other things, the sensitivity only runs one way. People are being given the choice to choose halal. But they are not being given the choice to avoid it.’
As our research shows today, a very substantial number of the country’s restaurants, entertainment venues, and supermarkets are now selling some halal products – usually without seeing fit to inform their customers properly.
So, too, are many schools and hospitals. Indeed, a couple of years ago, the Church of England was informed that its schools may unwittingly be feeding halal meat to pupils.
‘We should be really concerned about this,’ said Alison Ruoff, a lay member of the General Synod.
‘There is a lot of fear about upsetting Muslims, but as a Christian you have to stand up for Christian values.’
Away from religious circles, the halal issue also excites animal welfare activists, who are widely opposed to the 10 per cent of Halal meat which is derived from animals killed without pre-stunning.
Two months ago, the incoming president of the British Veterinary Association, John Blackwell, called for a total ban on this method of slaughter, saying that it is ‘inhumane and causes suffering at the time of death’.
His position echoed that adopted by such campaigning organisations as the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming (CWF).
‘As things stand, unstunned meat is getting into the wider food chain,’ says CWF. ‘And it isn’t being labelled as such. We have a real problem with that.’
At the heart of the problem, he adds, lies the growing industrialisation of the food industry (a trend which, among other things, led to last year’s horsemeat scandal).
With ever-larger abattoirs now exporting meat to wider and wider markets, it has become simpler and more cost effective for many of them to subject all their animals to halal slaughter.
‘What increasingly happens is that at the beginning of each day, abattoirs don’t necessarily know what orders will be coming in,’ explains a CWF spokesman.
‘So they do all their killing by halal techniques. That way, if a halal order comes in they are covered. If not, they supply halal meat to a normal supplier. It looks and tastes the same, so no one is any the wiser.’
This trend is laid bare by the fact that more than 75 per cent of New Zealand lamb – much of which is exported to the Middle East – is now killed in a ‘pre-stun’ halal slaughterhouse.
Unless it is being sold to a halal wholesaler, or a Muslim country, the method of slaughter for the lamb is not disclosed at the point of sale. As a result, its highly likely that every British supermarket which sells New Zealand lamb is also selling unlabelled halal meat.
A similar manner of thinking prevails in large restaurant chains. Many choose, for example, to sell only halal chicken – but only advertise the fact on a relatively obscure corner of their website.
The companies presume, rightly, that observant Muslims will seek out the information (and therefore visit their outlets), while the majority of other consumers will be none the wiser.
Efforts to create a conspicuous labelling system have meanwhile been blocked by Left-leaning politicians who say it would discriminate against Muslims and Jews (whose shechita method of slaughter bears some similarities to halal).
In 2011, for example, the European Parliament voted down a bill to label food killed via ‘non-stun’ methods as halal.
Months later, the Conservative MP Philip Davies had a similar piece of legislation defeated by three votes in the Commons, thanks to Labour opposition led by Gerald Kaufman, the Jewish MP.
‘My bill said that halal and kosher meat should be labelled at the point of sale,’ Mr Davies recalls.
‘In my naivety, I presumed it would be non-controversial, but it was opposed by the PC brigade in the Labour Party.’
The result has been that halal has continued its quiet takeover of our high streets and our supermarket shelves.
‘As the Prime Minister said a week ago, we are a Christian country,’ adds Mr Davies.
‘People expect that the majority of meat in the country will be slaughtered in a traditional way, and that halal will be in a minority for people who want to seek it out.
‘But in many areas, it seems halal has now become the default position.’