Wednesday morning in the United Kingdom started off with a controversy.
The notorious daily tabloid newspaper The Sun featured a giant pizza on its front page accompanied by a rather scandalous headline: "Halal secret of Pizza Express."
Of course, the style of journalism this particular publication follows, such sensational captions are expected.
But there is nothing controversial about it as such if you come to think of it. Mainly because the kind of news these papers churn out is essentially sensational and with no authenticity whatsoever.
The appalling bit, however, is the fact that people still give undue importance to such baseless and ridiculous gossip by reacting to it.
“All chicken served in the chain is halal," the paper reported. "But customers are not being told."
The language used in the piece was obviously an attempt to provoke outrage and it worked.
As unnecessary as the debate was, it did highlight the lack of knowledge among people in general regarding halal meat – although it’s a topic that has been documented to death across the globe.
Following are some of the most common myths generally associated with the concept and their explanations that may help clear at least some of your confusions.
Halal meat is like horsemeat:
The ongoing meat adulteration scandal in Europe made headlines in January 2013 after several news reports revealed that horse DNA had been discovered in frozen beef burgers sold in several supermarkets across the continent.
Many people think, or at least as The Sun's outrageous caption suggests, halal meat is some kind of taboo food that people need to know about.
First off, halal meat is normal animal protein that comes from cows, sheep, goats, deer, chickens, and ducks. Horses are not even included in the halal category because it is forbidden to eat them in Islam.
So, no. Halal meat has nothing to do with horsemeat.
It is cruel:
During the #halalhysteria discussion, Anita Singh from The Telegraph made a really good point:
"Do people upset about halal chickens in Pizza Express think regular abattoirs are like luxury health spas?"
Not just that, the Islamic way of slaughtering animals without stunning them has a whole scientific methodology behind it.
An exploratory study from one of Malaysia's leading research universities, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), states:
“Islam prescribes that the halal animal should first be slaughtered before its consumption, in order to get rid of the blood. The Islamic method of slaughtering an animal is to cut its throat to enable as much blood to run out and not congeal in the veins.”
“The incision is made in the neck just below the glottis, cutting the throat and esophagus, the jugular vein and the carotid artery.”
The research says that it is important to note that this should be done without cutting the spinal cord or severing the head from the body. It must be ensured that the animal is dead before the “skinning and dismembering” of its body takes place.
"By cutting the windpipe and the carotid artery, the flow of blood to the nerve in the brain that causes the sensation of pain, is stopped," Times of India quoted a religious scholar in its 2012 article “Science of Meat”.
"This leads to reduced pain. The animal may appear to struggle and kick but that's due to the contraction and relaxation of muscles deficient in blood rather than pain.”
It’s not healthy and/or safe:
The slitting of the jugular vein, during Islamic sacrifice of animals, allows blood to drain rapidly from the body which prevents illnesses.
“Blood in animals carries organisms that are responsible for diseases, although their clinical symptoms may not be present when they are still in the animal’s healthy living body. Separated from its body, however, these disease-carrying organisms are harmful,” the UPM study states.
Dr. Ibrahim Hussein Ahmed Abd El Rahim, professor of Infectious Diseases, Umm Al-Qura University, Saudi Arabia, reiterated the same point to the Saudi Gazette.
“Prevention of neck separation is very important to complete the bleeding process to remove all the blood from carcass. Blood is a typical media for proliferation of different kinds of microbes, therefore its complete removal from the slaughtered animal is vital to protect consumers from infectious diseases,” he said.
When a similar controversy broke out almost in the United States in 2011 over "stealth halal turkey", Kieth Olbermann addressed the issue in the most perfect way on his show "Countdown":
It contains Ebola virus:
It’s true that cases of the Ebola hemorrhagic fever are common in West Africa – that mainly comprises of Islamic countries – but that doesn’t necessarily mean all the food cooked over there contains that deadly virus.
Meat that comes from wild animals such as bats, antelopes, squirrels, porcupines and monkeys hunted down by people in Africa and Asia is known as bushmeat. It’s one of the most popular traditional and cultural – not religious – food delicacies in West Africa.
Researchers have commonly linked the consumption of bushmeat to the transmission of various diseases including Ebola.
Just an FYI, according to the halal dietary guidelines, bushmeat isn’t permitted in Islam.
It converts you to Islam or at least makes you think like a Muslim:
Coming towards the more ridiculous myths, there are many people out there who believe – or rather fear – that halal meat consumed by Muslims can give birth to jihadist and extremist thoughts.
This, of course, is an unintelligent arguement and needs no research or study in its defense because it’s way too obnoxious a claim for that.
Halal meat funds terrorism:
People like American octogenarian televangelist Pat Robertson think that profits from Halal butcheries go to banned terrorist organizations in the Middle East.