Nanny State Culture and Halal Meat

Culture is my thing, I love working with people on their engagement strategies, I love making companies better places to be. I try and avoid strong opinion and controversy, but embrace crucial conversations – which is why I’m a little worried about publishing this blog.

 
Last week I was talking with David D’Souza about his blog “The Sexy Women of HR” and some of the trouble it caused. I enjoyed it, it made me laugh – and I didn’t take it too seriously – ultimately it started a great debate which is always healthy.
 
But I wouldn’t be brave enough to have written it.
 

chocHowever, two things just pushed me over the edge. Firstly, I was astonished to hear the leader of our political opposition talking about banning the displays of sweets at supermarket checkouts, and making that a major policy should they reach government after the next election.
 
Really? Is there nothing better the government of the sixth largest economy of the world could be doing?
 
He claims it’s to help obesity rates decline, especially with regards to children. But I have an alternative policy – trust people to say ‘no’ to their children and make up their own minds.
 
I have a fundamental belief that it’s my choice to resist (or give into) temptation, and it’s certainly not the place of the government to dictate the positioning of goods in a supermarket. Weird I know, freedom of choice……it will never catch on.
 
If the opposition wants a controversial policy about obesity, how about giving the UK population five years to change before introducing a ‘no free healthcare’ policy for the clinically obese. 
 
That should make people a lot healthier, reduce food consumption and reduce health expenditure – and it’s easy to measure (may improve our chances in the Olympics too). That beats moving the chocolate a few feet away from the checkout…..
 
cow-face
 
 
Then today I find that much of the supermarket meat sold in the UK is Halal, and the companies involved haven’t thought to mention it. Stunning.
 
Cards on the table here – as a family we buy most of our meat from the butcher, we keep chickens that I kill and eat on occasion, and I’m a very imperfect Christian (aren’t we all).
 
But this Halal debate makes me angry. 
 
Do I object to an Islamic blessing being said over an animal as it dies (“In the name of Allah, who is the greatest”)? A little bit, but maybe I should take more offence –  there are plenty of scripture interpretations out on the web that say I should.
 
But personally I take this verse from the Bible as the final word… 
 
“It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth………..Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you” Matthew 15:10 & 15:17
 
Do I object to an animal having it’s throat cut after being stunned unconscious? No – but that cannot happen with cattle, electro-stunning won’t work and I do certainly object to a live, conscious animal having it’s throat cut and dying slowly.
 
But what really makes me upset is that this activity has been kept from the consumer. You would imagine after the horse meat scandal last year, somebody might have thought honesty would be a good option.
 
Because it IS dishonest – everyone working in the food industry (at least those with any common sense) know that labelling meat Halal will affect sales – so it was deliberately left off the packaging. That’s lying by omission, even if many don’t care (or prefer not to know) about how their meat gets to the table.
 
It must increase the cost of our meat, it’s certainly not the most efficient or fastest way to kill on the scale needed for modern appetites, and that means everyone is bearing a shared extra cost for the activity.
 
4.8% of the UK population is Muslim – and regardless of the ‘secular’ make up of our society, it  is wrong to make universal decisions based on a small minority. If 5% of your company wanted to start and finish work an hour early, I don’t think that would change corporate policy.
 
But most of all I object to seeing any objection or debate about this practice being labelled as racist. Grammatically it is incorrect – Islam is a religion not a race, and ethically it is wrong.
 
Objecting to the way animals are slaughtered is not racist, or even Islamophobic – it’s a matter of personal opinion.  
 
And the executives of the supermarket chains should hang their heads in shame for intentionally supporting the practice of concealment.  
 
So I leave you with this thought – what kind of culture are you condoning within your own organisation?
 
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