Friday, 16 March 2012

Halal and Running around Like a Chicken with Its Head Cut off

A mini-controversy is brewing in Quebec over the fact that a number of chicken processing plants are now killing poultry in a way that conforms with Muslim strictures of halal meat. This involves cutting the birds' throats, and the abbatoirs which do it say there is nothing in the method that is any different from the way chickens were killed decades ago. No reason not to use the method, they argue, since it doesn't cause any more suffering for the beast and produces a tasty product.

But, critics say, the chickens aren't all labelled as halal, which misleads the consumer who may not want to buy birds that are "muslim." There's been much back and forth in the media about this, with some good points being raised by people who say that the controversy perhaps should be about the way we raise chickens in big factory farms.

Those who worry about this should remember the way chickens were killed back in the good old days. I remember my grandmother, who had a couple of dozen of layers, would occasionally pull one from the chicken house and then drag it to the stump in the backyard where she'd hold it down with one hand and chop off its head with an ax held in the other.

The chicken would run around, headless, and I, beastly child that I was, would rejoice. Not only would we have fried chicken soon (one of the few things my grandmother cooked well) but we had one less of the dreadful beasts who pecked at children when they were supposed to be feeding them.

Sounds awful, doesn't it? I can't imagine what Jeanne would do were I to dispatch a bird in front of her. But I think the comparison illustrates the disconnect between what we eat, and the way it gets to our table. Those who protest over unwittingly buying halal might do a lot more good if they looked into how the un-halal things they eat are produced.

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