Halal and labeling

There’s been quite a bit of talk about halal meat being served by popular fast food chains of late. Quite a few people have tried to frame this as a racist attack on Muslims (conflating as ever a religion with a race, or are Saudi Muslims, Pakistani Muslims and all other Muslims all the same race?). Other people have taken the view that it really doesn’t matter as long as the welfare of the animals are the same, and apparently some of the food vendors do tell you that they use halal meat if you go to their website and look for such information.

I’d like to suggest an alternative view, serving halal meat is of course a matter entirely for the businesses concerned if it makes good business sense then obviously it’s something they’d should do. However I would say that they do need to improve their labeling, especially the various schools that reportedly only use halal meat, and for one simple reason – consideration to peoples religious beliefs. I’d assume that the move to serve halal meat was to cater to the needs of Muslim customers, however if one is concerned about your customers religion then clear labeling is vital as people follow other religions such as Sikhs are prohibited from eating halal food, and I can well imagine that adherents of other religions may not be so keen on eating meat offered to a different god. So serving Halal food without labeling it is hardly being culturally sensitive, unless the only culture you’re concerned about is Islam. In this case as well dismissing those other religions as superstitious beliefs (a common argument against making allowances for any religion) won’t work as the problem is making allowance for one religion over and above others.

So as is so often the case, if it makes business sense to use halal meat then do so, but advertise it as such so that those that have objections to eating such meat know that you don’t want their custom and so that your potential customers can make an informed choice without being expected to track down the information hidden away on corporate web sites. After all if it is a sound business decision there can surely be no reason to not clearly advertise it?

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6 Responses to Halal and labeling

  1. Katabasis says:

    I’m glad you mentioned the issue of other religions having an angle on this. It seems to have been glossed over in the usual outrage bus attempt to label everyone as racist.

    An argument I’ve seen presented also treats all meat-eaters as synonymous and not deserving of choice in this matter: the argument being that if you eat meat, why does it matter whether you know how it was slaughtered or prepared (with a heavy implication that you’re already morally compromised by eating meat).

    There’s an extension to that argument – many Jews and Muslims are already meat eaters themselves, so does it matter if they unknowingly eat pork or ham?

    • Giolla says:

      I’m finding a lot of peoples responses to this quite odd, as you’d have thought this was simply a consumer information/labeling issue.

      As you say the treatment of all meat eaters as not caring is odd, if that were the case there wouldn’t be a market for all the high animal welfare and organic meats.

      I did consider comparing the issue to putting pork into meat served to Muslims and not telling them, but thought that was a bit too obvious.

      Another thing I find odd (well not really that odd) is that all the usual suspects that can be expected to be jumping up and down if anyone so much as suggests prayers in school are completely silent on this.

      Samizdata has some good comments on the matter, due to discussion of a badly written article by reason.

      • Giolla says:

        In many ways I think this comment sums up the problems I have with many commentators on the matter:

        “At the point where food sellers remove from me the choice of whether to eat Halal food or not, I would expect Libertarians to be protesting on my side, not trying to protect Halal food vendors from what apparently Reason sees as an unruly mob of bigots. The position Reason magazine has taken does not seem to be reasonable.”

    • Giolla says:

      Oh and a further bit of research suggests that Halal meat is not kosher – so it’s quite a minority they are catering for

  2. crab says:

    treating race as if it’s an empirical category instead of arbitrary categorization defined by 19th century europeans lmfao, yeah you definitely sound like someone who knows what they’re talking about. why don’t you go check out the disparate ethnic groups that fall under the ‘black’ umbrella and try to pretend that western islamophobia isn’t a branch of racism you child?

    • Giolla says:

      Welcome aboard Crab, and thank you for your valuable feed back.

      Sorry about the delay in responding, life was happening.

      Can I take it that the only argument you have with the article was my brief aside as to the usage of the term “racist”?

      If you want to extend the meaning of “race” to include religions as well then I assume that you consider the sale of unlabelled Halal food as a racist action against those whose religion prohibits the consumption of such food?

      You’ll be amazed to learn that I am in fact aware that many cultures are lumped under the term “black”, which is rather insulting to those cultures don’t you think? So I don’t really see any benefit in further compounding that error by also treating religions which contain multiple cultures and nationalities as a single homogenous lump either – that sort of behavior leads to ignorance and intolerance I’ve always found.