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My latest blog is inspired by a practice, it’s simplicity and good-naturedness I may have taken for granted that non-Muslims also understand, in a seemingly ever-increasingly ‘phobic’ world.
Now, half my friends eat pork, don’t eat halal food, get intoxicated etc, and like other Muslims, I really have no issue with that because it’s none of my (God-damn! ) business. People observing my way of life can either join me or not. It’s not my business to preach and indeed I’m not blogging to convert anyone, just to be clear.
But over the years, likely to be exacerbated post-9/11, I have heard rumblings of discontent over this practice, culminating in a piece on The One Show in September this year where a particularly disgruntled member of the public was speaking about why many British people are against halal meat. Initially surprised years ago when I first heard that people could possibly have an issue, this very soon changed to not-being-surprised-at-all considering people can be just plain prejudiced, particularly post-9/11.
Negative Islamic stories in the media being the norm these days, I was nevertheless surprised to first hear in 2009 a mini-uproar at KFC’s plans for some of it’s chains to serve halal chicken. Mainly because, Muslims who before couldn’t get themselves a fix of some of the ‘Colonel’s’ fried-chicken now could, it wouldn’t stop non-Muslims from eating it and it would surely be better for KFC’s profit, so everyone’s happy….no?
It appeared not. People were up in arms over their ‘freedom’ being compromised and objected to this ‘barbaric’ practice. And the guy on The One Show, before being informed of the practice on site by halal butchers, said he had the right to know if meat he ate was halal or not, as non-Muslims have the right to not take part in this practice.
So, doing my bit to help people make an informed decision for themselves, here is an attempt to cut through the offal to get to the meaty truth. (Sorry ).
First things first – unless you’re a vegetarian, you could say that sacrificing any animal for consumption is cruel, full stop.
The One Show mentioned that in the West, animals are stunned before sacrifice, and as most halal butchers don’t, this is therefore cruel.
First of all, if no halal methods are available, then Muslims can of course eat what animals they like to survive.
So what is halal sacrifice exactly? It is where animals are slaughtered by a human making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck, cutting the jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides together with the trachea and oesophagus but leaving the spinal cord intact in this initial cut. Within seconds, the blood pressure in the brain falls to zero and the animal becomes unconscious, and so feels no pain as the knife is sharp. And this is done while a prayer is said, which is for the animal and also to bless the meat.
This is fundamental – if the animal feels pain, it cannot be considered halal.
But halal doesn’t stop there.
Like ‘kosher’ for Judaism, halal for Muslims means anything that is fit for consumption / inclusion in life that is good and respectful for all.
Most people have probably heard of halal food, where like with kosher, livestock that are permitted to be consumed are sacrificed in a certain way in God’s name to allow them to be fit for consumption. It also bans the consumption of pork, blood, carrion or animals killed by strangulation, being beaten, by predators or other non-halal means.
But the concept of halal is not just for food. It extends through life, complimenting Islamic principles to help guide individuals in living a decent life and in considering each other’s welfare.
In exactly the same way, halal food means the welfare of the animal throughout it’s life is of utmost importance. The privilege of eating animal protein implies a duty to animals from their rearing right through to their slaughter. So battery-hens or stunning cooped up animals on a conveyor belt are equally non-halal. Organic principles anybody? Yup, Islam had them from the beginning.
People’s rights to choose what they eat
I’ve come across some internet forums where people have expressed not only their disapproval of eating halal food, but that it represents an ‘Islamification’ of the West – Muslims forcing their way on non-Muslims.
Not to go off on a tangent, but the vast majority of Muslims don’t want to force people to do anything, because to do so is against Islamic principles.
But coming back to the point, I agree that any place where meat is served should state not only whether it is halal or kosher, but also whether it is organic or not, and other such factors. Totally agree that people should have the right to know what is on offer so they can choose to eat it or not.
But really…let’s be honest about what this exact ‘disapproval’ is of. Is ‘Joe Bloggs’ really that concerned about the welfare of the cow used for his beef-burger or the pig used for his hotdog? Mmmmm? Of course not. OK, of course more and more people these days genuinely are concerned, and so they should be. But I think for a lot of people, it’s more the fact that they just don’t want to feel that, at best, they are ‘encouraging’ or supporting Muslims, and at worst, they just don’t want anything to do with them. Am I right? Am I wrong?
I uphold anyone’s right to have the freedom to live how they please. But not if it’s through ignorance or lying about what the real reasons are.
So there you have it.
It turns out that some of the KFC branches had to revert to non-halal food as they also had to stop serving bacon on the premises, which led to a big reduction in sales (I know, I know, the Daily ‘Hate’ Mail). And quite right too! It’s simple business and the unwritten ‘law’ of the majority. If more people are going to be disadvantaged / inconvenienced from eating somewhere than those who would benefit, then it’s completely wrong to change things.
But in KFC branches located in parts of town where the vast majority aren’t going to touch bacon products, then why not have it halal? And non-Muslims who may be in the minority in that small town just won’t be able to have bacon – OK, I can see that as seeming unfair, but they can still have chicken if it’s halal, if they want to, and eat bacon elsewhere, it doesn’t make a difference. After all, large numbers of Nando’s are halal and have been for years and most non-Muslims eat there happily side by side with Muslims…when you’re hungry, you’re hungry!
Interestingly, there was a study done on comparing halal slaughter with non-halal slaughter. By no means is this post an attempt to criticise non-halal slaughter, but it makes for interesting reading where it states that ‘stunning’ and the subsequent procedures actually cause pain and not the opposite. See what you make of it, Deutsche Tieraerztliche Wochenschrift (German Veterinary Weekly), 1978; Volume 85: Pages 62-66.
So be a vegetarian, be a meat-eater, but use your (meat)loaf.
Light-Hearted Comedy Bit!
I tried to find the Pam Ann sketch on her dealings with offering halal food…but found this Malaysian skit. It’s a bit weird! :-/ But it’s not afraid to use humour and is actually quite informative, so I like it, hope you do too!
Having decided, in my flat with no garden, on getting a cat after learning that some must be kept indoors, I registered with 4 rescue-centres near me; Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Celia Hammond Animal Trust (headquarters in Lewisham), Cat Protection: North London branch and Paws4Life.
I must say how impressed I was with the dedication and hard work of all the staff, and often many are volunteers…Britain truly is a nation of animal-lovers! To see so many dogs and cats without a home, it was sad to see how often people take pets for granted, be it through the ‘Christmas-factor’, poor ownership behaviour, non-neutering or neglect and abuse.
On the other hand, the most loving owners could sometimes not continue to care for their pets if there were financial reasons, a relationship break-up, housing restrictions, etc. So all the hard work by the rescue-centre workers is to be admired. And it was heartening to see those same pets whisked away by new owners, both eager to share a new home together.
And so…on to me! I had chosen my cat!
And he was called Duke! A sweet looking white and ginger tom, 13 years old, whose owner died and needed a permanent home. I was sold! After a home visit, the lady running the rescue-centre said she needed to check with Duke’s foster carer if she didn’t want to keep him on and when I could collect him…it didn’t skip my attention that the carer had not replied to the lady’s email saying Duke had found a home. But next week came and as promised she rang to let me know the score…but it was not to be, the carer had fallen in love with Duke and decided to keep him!
Happy for Duke, but sad for me…the search continued!
Browsing through the different cat galleries for a week, at the same rescue-centre I found the perfect match! A pair together – so no need to be cautious of 2 stranger cats not getting on – China and Purrdie were a mother and son, 16.5 years and 16 years old. The owner could no longer afford to look after them, and I was delighted to offer them a home…the picture was so sweet! And I fell in love with the idea of a mother and son pair of cats needing a home and love that I would have so happily given. So early-July came…and then a phone-call, the owner had changed her mind because she apparently wanted to stay in touch with the new owner (me) to visit the cats (which was not allowed by the rescue-centre, but pictures / updates were) and that her son moving down the road was able to take them.
Hooray for China & Purrdie…but no joy for me again!
The weeks passed, my cat viewing upped it’s pace, with some cats not suitable, some cats taken, until life got in the way and the cat-hunt had to take a back-burner for a while.
At Cats Protection North London…in the gallery…2 cats were indoor-only. Both had FIV – feline immunodeficiency virus. Just like HIV in humans, it attacks the immune system, and to stop the spread of this amongst cats, vets recommend cats with FIV to remain away from the cat community. FIV is spread mainly through cat saliva when cats fight and bite, and not really through sexual fluids; female cats often get it when the male cat bites the females neck during mating.
Despite a compromised immune system, being kept indoors means that most FIV cats suffer few long-term problems. However, some owners are reluctant to adopt an FIV cat, partially because getting pet insurance is difficult, and partially because perhaps there is also a stigma attached to FIV as with HIV. For the record, FIV cannot be transferred to humans to become HIV if someone was bitten by a cat…it has never happened and is unlikely to.
So I headed down to rescue-centre where the 2 cats were a 12 year old ginger tom…called Ginger! And then Marbles, a 7 year old white and tabby ctom. Considering Ginger…I saw he had been reserved, awww. And then I saw Marbles, playful, handsome, inquisitive…and then he bit me! Not hard, but some rescue-cats like Marbles are strays / have been strays for a while so may have a somewhat less domesticated decorum. I was told he had only bit one of the staff once. Hmmm. But I like a challenge, and I was commited to getting an FIV cat especially if others might overlook one…he had been waiting since April to be homed!
So I said yes! I couldn’t wait. Now I just needed a playmate. And as if by magic, Battersea rang days later after I informed them I was adopting an FIV cat and was looking for a playmate; they had taken in a female (what I wanted, boy and girl!), 7 year old cat tortoiseshell who had to be kept indoors…as she also had FIV. Molly!
Marbles & Molly!
I could hardly wait till Sunday 8th August to get them. A stressful day, starting with driving to Battersea for Molly. Brought in the cat-carrier I had bought, she was miaowing away with stress…my heart melted, I wanted to get her home quick! It took a while for her to be micro-chipped, given the once over by staff and then have her up-to-date health status explained. And then off to Holloway for Marbles, again a few low miaows, with the same staff lowdown. By the time we got home, I had hoped that by placing them face-to-face in their individual carriers and adopting them on the same day, it would ease the stress of them going to a new environment.
Carriers in my hallway facing each other, Molly was the first to be unleashed. Full of curiosity, she eagerly peered around, marking her scent as she passed. And then Marbles…prepared for a fight, I was relieved to see no fur-flying…but he just sat in his carrier! Tipping him out, he walked passed Molly…pleasant, unassuming, sweet…until she hissed! He scampered off. As the day progressed, Molly’s hissing turned to pouncing in his direction! Poor Marbles!
Though no fights occurred, I kept them seperate. After a week, I’m pleased to say that while she has remained frosty (such a diva) she has definitely thawed. She is very much a lap-cat but does not like her back being touched. Marbles is a pensive vocal cat who loves his food and head-butting. The first night Marbles was miaowing desperately outside my bedroom door to come in. I didn’t cave in…but it’s only a matter of time! Bless him, his repeated attempts at trying to be friendly with Molly often results in her glaring him away, but after a few stern talkings to, she allowed him a ‘nose-to-nose sniff’ for the first time yesterday. She’ll make friends in no time!
So there we have it. Marbles and Molly! Early days all round for us three, and not without Molly’s initial poops outside the litter tray (!) or Marbles’ constant quest to eat!…but coming home from work, and seeing them lounging in my flat, it’s lovely to see the hard work paying off and them enjoying me and my home.
Question: What is Britain’s favourite pet?
Answer: Dog? Rabbit? Sugar Glider? (OK, not this last one by a long-shot…but they are soooo cute! Click here!) No…it’s cats! Previously holding our top sofa-spot, cuddly canines have been moved into second place (6.6 million dogs) by those feline friends (7.7 million cats. Source: Cat’s Protection).
Having lived on my own for sometime while enjoying the company of loved ones who visit / host, currently the daily grind of work and postgraduate study and sometimes feeling lonely led me to decide, “Fiez needs a pet!”.
My first pet at my family home was a lovely ‘chinchilla-furred’ grey rabbit, Tenpin…who astonishingly lived from when I was 14 years old to 23 – 9 years!
So now living in a second-floor flat with a balcony but with responsibilities of study amongst other things, I plunged straight into the web for all things animal! (Pets, that is…ah-em). Dogs – love to one day, but when I have more commitment. Rabbits – want them to have a garden and already had one. Chinchillas – always loved one!…but a little too high maintenance right now. Ferrets – really playful, but really smelly. Cats – again always wanted one, independent, social, not too time-consuming – perfect!…but alas, not being able to have a cat-flap I would never want to restrict one indoors…
…that is, until I investigated rescue-cats!
First stop was the famous Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Famous worldwide for housing stray dogs since 1860 (that’s 150 years!?), some may not know the home started taking in cats shortly after in 1883. Viewing the website half-heartedly, I imagined how nice it would be to home a cat, when to my surprise the drop-down list offered cats not requiring a ‘garden’. ??? No garden? Reading more, I realised that vets recommend some cats can only be kept indoors, such as for medical reasons, or being elderly…and as such are desperately looking for willing owners! Hoorah…I shall get a cat after all!
Early May this year I visited the home…you’d be heartless to not fall for at least one of the forlorn faces looking up at you wanting to go back with you! After registering, the staff must do a home visit to assess suitability, and a couple of weeks later a pleasant chappie in a rather fetching Fred Perry polo-T ( ) came to my humble abode! The half-hour chat allows the assessor to note how big my home is, number of rooms, whether there is balcony access, etc and give advice and answer any questions before – if successful – issuing a ‘pass card’ to be able to pick up a cat right away…and, of course, I passed!
As he left he mentioned it would take a week or so before I got a call, and so I went about ordering cat towers with scratching posts, litter trays, toys and all manner of things to house them in my second bedroom (he suggested as I work and study, 2 cats may be better for each other’s company…yay, I was getting 2 cats now!). And so I waited. And waited. And waited…! Browsing the website, suddenly the ‘indoor only’ cats seemed to have all been taken. Hmmm…my ‘cat room’ was looking all desolate, all kitted out with no-one to inhabit!
There was only one thing for it…search more cat homes!
And good ol’ Google didn’t dissapoint – chief UK website for cat-lovers seems to be Cat Chat, a plethora of all things moggie. A very impressive website. It turns out there are absolutely loads of cat-rescue centres across the nation, so I choosing a few nearest to me, I plumped for Celia Hammond Animal Trust (headquarters in Lewisham), Cat Protection: North London branch and the independent Paws4Life.
Contacting them, home-visits were all a necessity…reassuring to know how concerned they were with the cats’ welfare. And so one by one, I waited and was visited by them all…all happy to have me home a cat!
The question was…how long would I possibly wait? I wanted a cutie-kitty!
…CONCLUSION THIS WEEK!…