The kids love to go to Pizza Express as a treat so it was with not inconsiderable disappointment to learn that all their chicken is Halal. Readers of the great tome of outrage (The Daily Mail) have been regaled all week by various infographics showing who sells Halal meat (not forgetting of course similarities with Kosher food requirements), together with helpful information about whether the animals are stunned first.
For those unfamiliar with the traditional Halal method of food preparation, the slaughter of the animal should be performed by a Muslim who must invoke the name of Allah. The animal should then be slaughtered by cutting the throat without severing the spinal cord and the blood from the veins must be drained [source: Wikipedia].
Leaving aside any religious issues, this method of slaughter is pretty revolting although, as Janet Street Porter remarked today on ITV’s uncomfortably lightweight lunchtime current issues show “Loose Women”, if you eat meat it is your responsibility to understand where it comes from and how it is slaughtered. I have heard many stories about the equally terrible treatment of cattle in abatoirs.
What is really galling, though, is the fact that our Food Industry considers it quite alright to keep its consumers in the dark or, on the part of some of our restaurant chains, to court the business of a particular segment of the UK on the basis of its religious preference. You can bet that Christians would not be shown the same consideration.
Actually, I think, for all the puffery and outraged quacking of the Daily Mail commentators, this is not a religious issue. It’s about trust. We trust our Food and Catering Industries to treat its customers with respect and honesty. Poor old Jamie Oliver is regularly pilloried for pointing out the disgusting content of chicken nuggets but he really had a point.
As parents, some of us (and I am guilty of this) just coast along trying to avoid those products we know are bad for our kids (e.g. any trans-fat / sugar combo, fizzy drinks, high sugar juices), but we fail to ask the really important questions – where does our food come from and, in the case of meat, what conditions and slaughter methods are used.
I really hope this does not become an issue which results in a lack of respect being shown to any religious faith but rather acts as an enormous wake-up call for parents to start asking difficult questions and, in the case of some fast food establishments, voting with their feet.