Sunday, 19 September 2010

Appetite for distraction

Congratulations go to the editorial team at the Mail for inspiring the third successive post this week - the ambassador really is spoiling us.

Today's foaming-at-the-mouthpiece is the latest chapter in the Mail's ongoing battle with Islam, as they uncover the 'shocking truth' about the widespread use of halal meat. Of course, it would be easy to accuse the Mail of bigotry for its incessant attacks on Muslims, so they've taken a different route this time.

Shifting the blame away from their own cynical fear-mongering, the article's writers focuses on issues of animal welfare, despite having no compelling evidence that the animals suffer in any greater degree than in non-halal slaughterhouses. Churnalists Simon McGee and Martin Delgardo have shared their reactionary report with an RSPCA 'spokesman' who helpfully gave them a quote: "The public have a right to know how their meat is produced. Many people are extremely concerned about animal welfare. What The Mail on Sunday has discovered shows that people are not being kept informed."

This argument is disingenuous at best, since most members of the British public seem only loosely aware that their food is even animal in origin. High profile campaigns to eradicate battery farming have been met with the kind of apathetic ambivalence usually reserved for party political broadcasts. And when Jamie Oliver tried to get parents focused on the food their kids were eating, we saw desperate mothers poking Turkey Twizzlers through the school gates.

In a world of mechanically-recovered animal derivatives, the plight of Bessie the Cow in her final moments on Earth seem to be of minimal concern to the general public. I'm sure if people actually gave a moment's thought to the way our farmed animals are slaughtered and processed, there'd be a mass conversion to vegetarianism overnight. But that's not the way the world works, and McGee and Delgardo know that.

The real clue to how these purchasing decisions are made, can be found in a quote from a spokesman for Whitbread, which 'admitted' (a far more powerful word than 'confirmed' or 'said') that 80 percent of its chicken comes from halal poultry suppliers: "We don’t specify halal as a requirement in our procurement. We base our decision on quality and price. It just turns out that we source that amount of chicken from suppliers that happen to be halal."

The facts may suggest that meat is sourced according to price, and that the general public don't interrogate the origins of every value burger they cram into their mouths. But that doesn't stop the Mail from carefully choosing its examples to portray the full extent of this insidious Islamification of Great British institutions.

They're concerned that "famous sporting venues such as Ascot and Twickenham are controversially serving up meat slaughtered in accordance with strict Islamic law to unwitting members of the public." The article is even illustrated with a hilarious picture of two rather posh-looking race-goers "indulging in fast food" at the famous racecourse, despite the fact that the 'fast food' in question is clearly a cardboard box of cod and chips. I'm no expert, but I imagine that the North Sea fishing boats have very few Muslim elders on hand to bless the floundering fish as it breathes its last.

It's clear that the real issue here is the fact that unsuspecting white people are tucking into food intended for Muslim mouths - why else would the writers investigate the sourcing policies of Marlborough and Cheltenham Colleges? They're hardly hotbeds of racial and cultural diversity.

With every passing day, the Mail is becoming more and more of a caricature of itself, as if it's being pieced together by Maggie and Judy from Little Britain.

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