Halal meat has been hitting the headlines this week, with revelations that several major UK restaurants, including PizzaExpress and Subway, have been “secretly” selling it to customers.
Here’s the thing: no religion needs to slaughter animals for food. For anyone who’s concerned about animals raised and killed for food, there is only one label that really matters: “vegan”. Yes, people have a right to know what – or who – is in their food, but the simple solution to avoid mystery-meat scandals is to eat plant-based meals, which are kinder to animals and open to all faiths. And it’s so easy to eat with a clear conscience. At PizzaExpress, try ordering the new vegan Pianta pizza, or at Subway, try the Veggie Delite.
Don’t get us wrong, as long as animals are still killed for food, stopping the most inhumane slaughter methods – in which cows and other animals have their throats cut while they’re still conscious – would be a step in the right direction, but even in conventional abattoirs, millions of animals are improperly stunned in the UK every year and face the fatal incision awake, alert and terrified.
And let’s not forget that the actual slaughter, whether the animal is stunned and killed or just killed, is only part of the long and blatantly cruel process of modern meat production. At the “best” of times, meat is a product of a bloody and violent industry with no respect for other living beings who value their lives in the same way that we do and experience the same pain and terror that we would if we were killed for a sandwich or a pizza topping.
Chickens are mutilated by having the sensitive ends of their beaks cut off – without painkillers. Pigs are castrated – also without painkillers. Animals may be kept in darkened sheds for their entire lives and never see the sun or confined to cages so small that they can barely turn around. They have their beloved babies taken away from them when they are just days or even hours old. And on their journey to slaughter, they will be crammed into dirty lorries on a punishing journey that can last for days, often with inadequate food or water, before reaching their final destination – all of which directly contradicts the basic principles of compassion and reverence for life shared by most religions.