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InQuire Investigates: Halal Meat

InQuire Investigates: Halal Meat

halal

Picture the scene: you grab a burger from Origins, or you get a pizza from Essentials. Just part of your usual routine, right?  But, have you ever wondered where that meat comes from? Are ever you concerned about the food you’re eating?

With technological advances changing the way food is produced we – as consumers- are demanding more knowledge about the source of the meat we are eating. We’ve had the ‘free-range’  debate, the “horsegate” scandal and now we’ve got a new debate arising: halal meat. The first exposure of  halal started with The Sun and The Daily Mail  up in arms over the revelation of New Zealand lamb being imported to the UK, which was slaughtered under Halal conditions. As new legislation is going through the European courts, other media outlets such as the BBC and The Guardian have started to report on it so if you haven’t heard about halal meat before, I’m sure you will have now.

Over the past few weeks, media coverage of halal meat has focussed around what major food outlets are selling halal without labelling it, but what about more local outlets – like shops round Canterbury for example. I have never been a journalist who enjoys sensationalism, but with the issue being reported so widely by the media, we thought it was time we found out what students REALLY thought. Thus, the ‘halal investigation’ was born. 95 students were surveyed to find out their views on the source of their food and these were the results.

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We asked students ‘What is Halal meat?’

Nearly all students that responded to the survey indicated that they understood Halal to mean that a religious blessing was involved in the sacrifice of the animal.

What students know about halal chartWe asked students ‘Should food served on campus be labelled to whether it is Halal or not?’ and ‘Are you concerned about whether the meat you eat on campus is halal?’

84% of people said “Yes”, indicating the vast majority of students believe that the University of Kent, GK Unions and Kent Union should ensure that if Halal meat is being serving it should be labelled as such. The survey investigated why people said “Yes”, and 60% of people did not give a full reason and seemed to be influenced by the media – although this does not mean their opinion is disregarded at all.

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What it shows is that Kent should ensure that all meat should be labelled IF it is Halal meat because the debate has been happening. 40% of students wanted to know more clearly what they, and others were eating – some reasons included that they believed the slaughter method causes more harm for the animal, and 10% of all the responses included ‘religion-based reasons’. However, when asked if students are personally concerned about Halal meat being served on campus, 65% of those said they were NOT. In essence, students at Kent want to ensure that the choice is available for those that abstain or are required to eat halal meat.

Conclusion: Kent should do more to ensure that consumers are aware of the meat they are eating as  the vast majority of students are not personally concerned about eating halal meat, an overwhelming percentage wish to ensure that the meat is labelled as such based on inclusivity views.

halal1We asked students ‘What do you think about the media coverage surrounding halal meat?’

Most individuals had different thoughts on the media coverage, however a number of key phrases and words were common among some responses.

25% of all respondents said that they believed the media coverage incited “racism” or “Islamophobia.” 

The media coverage is purely stoking the fires of anti Islamist feeling which has come from the papers them self and also from the government war on terror.”

Tabloid are just stoking the fire of Islamophobia when they have not in the past paid much attention to the treatment of animals.”

“Racist fear tactics to sell papers.”

28% of all respondents thought the coverage was overblown in a sensationalist style.

“Blown way out of proportion.”

“I think that it is ridiculously out of proportion and that people are over-reacting unnecessarily for no reason.”

Media is massively blowing things out of proportion. It’s fuelling racist views and it is completely unnecessary.”  

18% of all respondents thought the coverage was necessary to bring the issue to light.

“I believe that it is good that the media are concerned about the lack of knowledge and information of the customers.”

“I believe that there should always be a option for halal and non halal meats to be available. ”

“There’s a lot of media coverage mostly because it’s an issue of animal rights and respect for religious diversity and respect.”

Conclusion: The public is still divided in the issue, but a clear line shows that the majority of students say the reporting on the issue by many of the national press is showing Halal meat in the wrong light.

For more statistics on the halal meat scandal – check out our IQinGraphics article

 

Editor's Comment Title

The issue was made national news when The Sun ran the front page story that Pizza Express was using halal chicken on all its meals – The Sun argued that consumers were not being told about the method of animal slaughter, one that the RSPCA has said causes “unnecessary suffering”. However, as The Independent reported in May, “Between 84 and 90 per cent of animals killed for halal meat in the UK are processed by one of the large number of halal slaughterhouses which do use electric stunning beforehand.” The process of stunning an animal is regarded as the most ‘humane’ way of preparing an animal for slaughter as it causes unconsciousness….so what’s all the controversy then? Not every animal killed and labelled as ‘halal’ goes through pre-stunning, as the EU has granted exemption if it is necessary because of ‘religious grounds’ – it’s this ambiguity that campaigners say needs to be clarified. What is happening, however, is the debate is being used to say that halal meat is somehow ‘less clean’ – and this, in my opinion, is totally unjustified. It has also incited racist comments directed as Islam as a faith, and I believe that is entirely unfounded and wrong. As a non-religious individual, I am not bothered about whether the meat is ‘halal’ or not – as long as the animal has had a decent life. We have to remember that no matter what method of killing we are using, we are still killing an animal for food. Meat is meat for me, and halal and non-halal both taste the same. The animal is still dead on my plate. Our investigation shows that the majority of people surveyed seem to share this thought. Clearer labelling is necessary to ensure all sections of society receive fair treatment – a thought that the majority of students surveyed agreed with. We have gluten-free options on the menu, vegetarian options, allergy warnings – but what about halal options? Labelling meat more clearly to allow consumers who are required to only eat halal to know they are being served it, or wish to refrain from eating it for whatever reason, can only be a good thing.

Do you agree with this view? Write your comments in the box below and let us know your opinion…

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