- - Wednesday, May 14, 2014


There’s long been a running gag about what type of meat is used (or not used) by fast-food restaurants. It’s just been taken a giant step further in a manner that is completely devoid of humor.

In the United Kingdom, it was recently revealed that some fast-food chains had gradually switched to halal meat, which is prepared in accordance with Islamic law. According to The Guardian’s Jon Henley, “Nearly 100 KFC outlets around the country serve halal-approved chicken, as do around 75 — a fifth — of Nando’s.” Some Subway franchises “have contained halal meat since 2007, while all Pizza Express chicken is halal.” Moreover, “McDonald's tried a halal offering, before deciding the changes required to its kitchen procedures would be too great.”

Here’s the problem: In some cases, there’s reportedly no evidence of a sign listing the use of halal meat at a particular franchise. The Daily Mail’s Sean Poulter and Mario Ledwith wrote, “many restaurants such as Pizza Express, KFC and Subway are selling halal meat — mainly chicken — without printing the information on menus.”

If you think that’s baffling, take a gander at this tasty little morsel about labeling halal meat in supermarkets. Andrew Opie, the British Retail Consortium’s food director, told The Mail, “We have not seen evidence that this is what people want to see. Labels are very tight in terms of the space and what we can put on them. This has to be driven by evidence to show that people want to see it alongside the things that are already on it like durability, country of origin and price.”

I find this incredibly offensive and undemocratic.

What if a customer doesn’t want to eat something made with halal meat? Shouldn’t we have a choice between halal and non-halal options at fast-food locations? Most importantly, why has all of this occurred under the radar in the United Kingdom?

People should have the freedom to choose their particular meat option in a restaurant or supermarket, and not be restricted to halal. They should also have the freedom to speak out when an organization refuses to label it on either a menu or a visible location in a store.

Why is all of this happening? Alas, there seems to be an underlying reason — and it’s a significant attack against personal freedom.

These particular fast-food locations are located in areas with a significant — wait for it — Muslim population. As Mr. Henley notes, “Britain’s Muslim population is growing — 3 percent of the population in the 2001 census, 5 percent in 2011, and an estimated 8.2 percent, or around 5.6 million people, by 2030.”

I don’t have an issue with observant Muslims wanting to eat halal meat. I also understand why fast-food chains and supermarkets want to increase their reach within the Muslim community. There’s a demand for halal in the marketplace, and businesses have a right to sell this item and make profit.

At the same time, restaurants and supermarkets should be catering to all people, and not just a select group with certain religious and dietary restrictions. Companies such as Subway, KFC and Pizza Express are, therefore, giving the impression that they are simply bowing down and giving in to the Muslim community’s demands and practices. That may not have been their intention, but it’s very hard to ignore this perception.

Interestingly, British Prime Minister David Cameron wasn’t terribly interested in discussing compulsory labeling at first. The public’s fury over this issue, along with some Tory members of Parliament and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, led Mr. Cameron to say he’ll “review the situation in a few months’ time.” How generous of him.

Imagine if this were happening in the United States. Fortunately, Americans still haven’t faced the same problems with fast-food chains that their British counterparts have.

McDonald's attempted to switch to halal in two Detroit-area restaurants located in growing Muslim communities. As noted in The Detroit Free Press, their business strategy stopped last year “after a lawsuit filed in 2011 alleging that the fast-food restaurant was selling non-halal chicken it claimed was halal.” This led to a $750,000 settlement, which included “$275,000 to the Huda Clinic, a Muslim health center in Detroit” and “$150,000 to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.”

If you’re shaking your head right now, you’re in good company. Carrying conflict over faith into restaurants is not in good taste.

Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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