For such a multicultural society, us British can often be quite ignorant about other cultures and their traditions. One such example is the Muslim practice of eating halal meat. There are over two million Muslims in the UK, with most of them eating halal meat. Yet, do most of us actually know what halal meat actually is, or the troubles that Muslims face to source it?
First year politics, philosophy and economics student Aquib Hussain eats halal meat, and explains that halal is an Arabic word that means ‘permissible’. In order for meat to be acceptable for a Muslim to eat, it can’t be from a forbidden cut (such as meat from the hind quarters of an animal), or any kind of meat that comes from a pig, due to religiously perceived hygienic concerns over this kind of animal. In addition, the meat has to be slaughtered in a special way. This involves the butcher invoking the name of Allah and then killing the animal, which must be conscious, by slitting its throat with a sharp knife. The animal then has to have its blood drained, as consuming blood is not allowed; this is usually done by hanging the animal upset down.
Aquib explains that finding halal meat in his home town of Bradford is very easy; the high percentage of Muslims in this area means that there are lots of shops that sell halal food. In York, it is slightly more difficult, as it’s only available in a few shops, and so choice over things like price and type of meat is limited. This means that Aquib tends to follow a more pescetarian diet whilst at university; often eating tuna and pasta based dishes.
On a recent trip around America, Aquib explained how it was very difficult to find halal meat anywhere except in New York, as in places like Pennsylvania, there are hardly any Muslims. Thankfully Aquib’s family was able to find a halal meat for Christmas dinner, although it was chicken not turkey; not due to religious reasons but because they find turkey too dry!