There was a "fowl" smell in the air last week. It was caused by the slaughter of chickens, only it wasn't. It was the rotten stink of hypocrisy and prejudice masquerading as the people's right to know. The halal hysteria wasn't anything to do with animal welfare or food labelling. It was a media created moral panic and as such it told us much about the state of diversity in modern Britain.
This was not about animal welfare those supermarkets and restaurants using halal meat confirmed the animals were stunned before having their throats cut. In which case they is little difference between this and methods used by other abattoirs which involve stunning the animal before electrocuting it, or firing a bolt through its brain. But people need to know what they are eating and how it was slaughtered. Most of us don't care to enquires too deeply into the methods of killing the animals we are happy to eat as long as it was done humanly that is stunned first. If our objections were about the killing of animals in order to eat we would be vegetarians. Clearly to Muslims the method of slaughter is important but to most of us it is not something we are interested in.
So what do the news paper headlines and phone in radio shows tell us about diversity in this country. Firstly they confirm that we are becoming a more diverse country. At the present black and minority ethnic groups make up 15 percent of the population and the latest population trends predict this will rise to between 20 and 30 percent in the next 50 years. Whilst 15 percent seems a very small percentage it is not evenly distributed so in some cities it will be much higher and in some rural areas like Cornwall it will be much lower. The commercial world has realised the marketing implications of this which is why KFC,Nando's and Pizza Express use halal meet in their restaurants in the major cities. They want to broaden their customer base. Likewise hospitals and school will also be using halal meet for the same reasons so that everyone can eat the same meals. The out cry by some in the media that we are being secretly given "ritually slaughtered meat "is laughable when looked at rationally but then that is not how these issues are looked at. What the reaction to the use of halal meat shows is that as a country we may be becoming more divers but we are not yet comfortable with the idea. Something the Public Sector needs to address as it is required to provide a service to the whole community.
Blair McPherson author of An Elephant in the Room - about equality and diversity in the public sector published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk