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There is never a better time than now to be bemused bay the way that religious superstition tries to set the agenda in secular institutions, and there is no example that is better than the issue of halal meat being served to the majority of unwitting customers just so a few religious zealots can have their dogma respected. Its a subject that I have visited before at the Sandpit and apart from the usual claims that to resist the worrying trend to make Halal the default type of meat is to be Islamophopbic which I dismiss without reservation. I have seen no argument that validates the imposition of halal meat into the menus of unbelievers without their explicit consent. which is why I applaud the stance taken at the mother of all parliaments to insist that Halal meat will not be served in any of its cafes and restaurants:
In a democracy the majority view should prevail and on this occasion it has because it is entirely reasonable that the secular view that all animals killed so that we may eat their flesh should be killed in the least cruel manner possible quite rightfully trumps the archaic belief that a religious ritual that is innately cruel is at all justifiable to a modern world.
The mark of just how civilised any people are is very much related to how they address notions of cruelty to those creatures over which they have domain. Frankly you would have to be living under a rock if you are not aware of the scandal about the methods of slaughter that are common in countries like Indonesia and the middle east.
On a personal level I have dabbled with the vegetarian faith but I eventually came to the conclusion that as long as each individual is prepared to take personal responsibility for the life that must be taken to put meat onto the table then cruelty can and will be minimised. But lets make no mistake there is no entirely cruelty free way to kill the animals that we eat. All that we can do is try with the greatest sincerity to make the necessary death swift and as lacking of suffering as we can. Now I have previously denounced the practices of Halal slaughter and I find the stories that have inspired this current scandal entirely unsurprising. If you add a general indifference to the suffering of lesser creatures (or unbelievers ) to very poor governance on matters secular (like the regulation of abattoirs) you have the conditions for a sort of perfect storm of cruelty.But I also see the industrialisation of meat as a pernicious factor in this scandal as well because it allows the slaughter to be distanced form polite society and in that distance there is no social oversight of the practice either.
Well on this issue I find myself pretty much in tune with those who insist that unless the cruelty can be stopped (or at least minimised ) then we have no ethical choice but to suspend the export of Australian cattle until the ending of cruel slaughter practices can be assured.
One of the very nice things about blogging is the way that you get to meet and interact with different people and sometimes the people who you read about in the news stories actually give you feedback on the posts that you have put up on your blog. Back in march I wrote this post about the insistence of the Coburg West state school Parents and Friends association serving Halal sausages at its functions. The controversy has not gone away which I learned from Diane Rees when she sent me this email:
I read your blog about the school that would only serve halal sausages at sausage sizzles. Well I am the parent who was the topic of conversation and just wanted to update you on the situation. The Parent and Friends Association (PFA) have refused to buy non-halal or even advertise in the school newsletter that they will only serve halal.
I am at a standstill with these ignorant, PC parents who make up the committee and the principal, David Kilmartin, has washed his hands of the whole debacle, saying its up to the PFA.
I wrote a letter to the PFA, outlining my views on the cruelty of halal and the fact that as a secular school, why are we serving halal. Muslims account for 9% of the total population in our area of Moreland, with an estimate of about 2% at our school, Coburg West Primary.
Basically, my kids don’t attend the sausage sizzles and have to miss out on the social aspect of it and I am so angry with the attitudes of some people at the school, I’m treated like a pariah by some parents, in fact one mother has banned her son from playing with my son because of our halal views, its just nuts!
Glad I blew off some steam there.
Discussing the issue with Diane it appears that The main problem that this issue can’t be resolved has to do with the president of The PFA one Mr Peter Sharples who seems to have a very large dose of the Political correctness disease. Diane goes on to explain that she has been savaged because of her campaign against the use of Halal meat at the school by stealth:
thank you for replying and of course you have my permission to quote my email. I have also attached the letter I wrote to one of the PFA parents who has been badgering my friend, Louise, to meet with me over the halal issue. He read the letter and was fuming. He approached my friend after school yesterday and said that no way was he going to advertise in the school news letter that the sausages were halal. We are at a loss to fathom what his agenda is by not informing people that they are halal, its a bizarre situation. I have written a letter to the education department because I will not be held to ransom over a bloody sausage by some politically correct parent who has decided he holds the cards over what kind of sausages the school serves. You can imagine how frustrating it is, its comical really when the solution is quite simple. Another bugbear is that the school has probably 5 muslim kids, out of 500 and its supposed to be secular*. I haven’t had a reply to my letter from Peter Sharples from the PFA and the principal, David kilmartin is a waste of time, he just gives you this poker face and has passed it over to the PFA.
A few parents have commented that I’m being racist but they are ignorant as to what halal is, they assume its the praying and have no idea of the cruelty involved. Aside from the cruelty aspect, I am really annoyed that we are expected to eat Islamic food when they would not eat ours. What is wrong with me wanting to eat a normal sausage, I’m not Muslim, my family are Welsh Methodists, and religion aside why is everyone conforming to the minority in this country? We couldn’t go to Dubai and wander about in a singlet and shorts and eat pork sausages yet these people choose to live in our country and we stupidly pander to them.
A quick phone round of local schools yesterday resulted in every school, including the predominantly muslim school of Coburg North, saying that they served only non-halal and the muslim families brought their own food along, thats interesting!
Keep in touch
thanks for your interest
I suggest that readers might find the text of Diane ‘s letter quite interesting as it shows just how hard she has been trying to be reasonable and fair to all parties here.But also its clear that for Diane the issue here is a desire to ensure that all animals killed for meat are dispatched in the most humane manner possible, rather than any objection to Islam or its adherents.
24 October 2010
I am writing in response to a telephone call from my friend, Louise Davey, who has told me that you are interested in having a chat with me in regard to the halal sausage situation at Coburg West. I am studying a full time post grad, with exams in three weeks and have absolutely no time to spare with my friends, let alone time to discuss the PFA’s refusal to serve non-halal meat so thought I would put my views on paper.
I queued last week for sausages for my two children as Louise had spoken to Mr Kilmartin earlier in the day who assured her that non-halal would be on offer. I asked you if there were non-halal sausages and you said no, followed by a woman serving next to Louise telling me that you would have to have two barbeques to accommodate both.
The meat that my family eats comes from animals that have been stunned before slaughter in a humane and painless way. I find it morally unacceptable for myself and my three children to eat meat that is ritually slaughtered according to Islamic law. There are many studies and authorities that testify that the halal method is cruel. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) in the U.K. advises the British government on how to avoid cruelty to livestock and reports that halal causes severe suffering. With halal meat, Islam dictates that animals are to be killed by a Muslim and allowed to bleed to death. Their jugular vein and carotid arteries are severed whilst the animals are fully conscious and in my opinion this amounts to animal cruelty. Cattle can take between 2-3 minutes to die. There is no religious justification to this method of kill as many Islamic authorities now accept stunning prior to slaughter, so long as the animal is not killed. Nowhere in the Koran does it state that the animal has to be conscious before slaughter so the method in many countries is just cultural practice.
Its funny how we are horrified to hear of acts of animal cruelty such as that puppy last year, Buckley, having his ears cut off, fox hunting in the U.K. or a recent story in the Herald Sun about a horse that was slaughtered in his paddock in Melbourne, yet we tolerate the cruel slaughter of our livestock for food and when people like myself and Louise bring it to other peoples attention, we are seen as causing a fuss, I find it incredible!
I have the utmost respect for other peoples religious beliefs and totally understand their decisions to feed their families halal, or whatever food forms part of their beliefs. However, it is not my belief, both religiously and ethically to feed my family halal and I cannot understand why the school will only provide halal meat. Why am I expected to eat halal? Why can’t Muslims eat my preferred non-halal meat? There would be an uproar if the school advertised they served only non-halal meat, why are we then not outraged that the meat is only halal? The reason is ignorance, people have no idea what halal actually means and if people like me speak out against it, I am labelled as making a fuss and being racist.
I have had to tolerate the ignorant, bigoted parents of this school calling me racist and one Muslim parent actually banning her son from playing with my son because of our halal beliefs when I wrote a letter to the Herald Sun earlier this year highlighting the issue with the sausages. I work with a Muslim lady who finds it outrageous that we are not offered the choice of non-halal for our kids, why does the school not feel the same way?
A solution to this problem is to first of all, find out if parents actually know that the sausages are only halal. When I told some parents a while ago they were totally ignorant to the fact and just assumed the sausages would be regular non-halal. In fact many parents that I have canvassed have asked why is the school buying halal when it is predominantly a non-Muslim school? That’s a question I would like to have answered too. Another point to keep in mind is that most people don’t even know what halal actually means; they think it’s the praying over the meat towards Mecca, they have no idea of the cruelty involved. The survey should state what halal actually means and people should be given the choice. I would be happy for my children to eat “cruelty-free halal” if there is such a thing in Australia, I know it is widely available in the U.K. where 80% of halal is certified “cruelty-free“.
If the school, as I’m led to believe, is secular then why are you serving halal food? I would estimate that Muslims make up about 2% of the school population, yet the PFA insists on buying halal? Who made this decision to only buy halal? The school is multi-cultural and I stress MULTI – cultural and if the school is going to continue to serve halal then all cultures and religious denominations must be catered for otherwise you are discriminating.
I hope that you will take into account my views and hope that there will be non-Halal meat or certified “cruelty-free halal” on offer at Coburg West Primary at future BBQ’s. Unless it is advertised as so in the newsletter I will not waste my time again queuing at the next sausage sizzle.
Diane has done her homework and I admire her courage in standing up to the sort of PC nonsense that not even the Muslims in her community support. The most worrying thing of all is that the public are not being informed that all of the sausages being served are Halal. There is a malaise that comes from trying too hard to be accommodating to minority groups within our society it embarrasses the minority and ends up alienating the majority. I suspect that Peter Sharples thinks that most people won’t care and that by insisting on a Halal only sausage menu that he is being “inclusive”. If you read this post Mr Sharples then please illuminate us with your reasoning because it seems to me that you are doing more harm than good for community relations with this strategy.
To Diane Rees I say keep up the good fight and don’t let this PC nonsense blight the experience of sending your children to what seems to be an otherwise good primary school.
* my bold
This story is a typical example of , probably well meaning, political correctness enthusiasts making public institutions like our schools compliant with Islamic dietary dogma even though Muslims are only a tiny proportion of the school population.By their logic perhaps they should be making all school barbecues vegetarian affairs because they surely have some vegetarian students, Oh hang on, perhaps they should just stop barbecues altogether because they might have some Anorexic students and they don’t want to offend them by offering anything that is like , gasp, food…
Members of the school’s Parents and Friends Association believed they were being inclusive when they ordered halal-only sausages for last month’s barbie.
But some parents thought it was political correctness gone mad to offer only halal meat.
Parent Diane Rees said yesterday that she was outraged when told by the PFA that “we have to buy halal because we have some Muslim children in the school”.
“I said to the principal, ‘I think you’re discriminating against the majority of the school and appeasing the minority by only serving halal,’ ” she said. “It’s not fair on my children that they can’t eat at the school.”
Ms Rees said she wasn’t anti-Muslim – her concern was over the way animals were killed under the halal method, which involves a knife cut to the jugular veins and carotid arteries in the neck.
“They take two long minutes to die and I think that’s bloody cruel,” she said.
But Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel said research showed that, done properly, halal was a quick and humane slaughter of animals.
“I think they are using the issue of some halal sausages at a barbecue, for God’s sake, to bring out their own xenophobic bigotry,” he said.
“It was very thoughtful of the parents and friends association to try to cater for Muslims. I think they (the critics) need to get real and get a life on this one.”
School principal David Kilmartin, who has been in the job for only a month, said halal-only barbecues were not school policy and the PFA had been told to provide a choice of meat in the future.
“I don’t think it was done with any malice. I’m assuming there would have been requests from Muslim families to have halal meat,” he said.
Although I have previously expressed concern about the place of ritual slaughter in the preparation of meat I firmly believe that every one should follow their conscience and their taste when it comes to what they eat, but any group of people who seek to impose a set of dietary rules from a religion upon people who do not share that faith are doing no service to that faith or their followers.
After all who has ever heard of a halal pork sausage?
She outraged anti-racist groups by saying: “I’ve had enough of being led by the nose by this whole population which is destroying us, (and) destroying our country by imposing their ways.”
Ms Bardot, now 73 and suffering from arthritis, was absent from today’s court hearing in Paris.
She wrote to the court saying: “I’m sickened by how (these organisations) are harassing me.”
“I will not shut up until stunning is carried out on animals before their ritual slaughter.”
Ms Bardot already has four convictions on similar charges.
Besides the small but relevant fact that Muslims are not a “race” I find it outrageous that the French courts are basicly saying that the ritual practices of Halal slaughter are not to be criticised on the basis of their perceived cruelty. Bardot has for a very long time worked to campaign against cruelty to animals and I for one think that she should not have been convicted and fined for saying the truth about the barbaric method of slaughter required by the”religion of peace”.
Until next time Comrades