By Minna Jaffery
The upcoming French election should have politicians stirring. With unemployment and an economic crisis on hand, you would think political debate is focused on these large issues. Instead, the most prevalent matter of discourse seems to be the issue of Halal meat in France.
In order for meat to be considered Halal, the animal must be slaughtered in a specific manner and a prayer must be said. In this sense, the ritual of slaughtering an animal is similar to Kosher rituals. However, French politicians are now trying to pass a law that bans the slaughtering of meat in this manner, and thus have stirred up a debate about the “true French identity” and multiculturalism.
This issue was called into question when far-right politician, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made the claim that many French diners were unknowingly consuming Halal meat. While it’s understandable why people want to know what they are eating, it’s not clear why this issue has become the crux of the French election.
From an animal rights perspective , a ban on no-stun slaughter may make sense. However, from the perspective of human rights, it is wrong and unjust to prevent people from following the mandates of their religion, so long as it does not harm others. I do not see why eating Halal or Kosher meat would harm anyone who does not desire to eat the meat, but this is a problem that can easily be solved. Despite the fact that current president Sarkozy visited multiple slaughterhouses and confirmed that the majority of the meat in France is not Halal, this issue remains at the forefront of the election.
Why is this even a problem? If the majority of the French populous does not want to eat Halal meat, would it not be easier to enforce stricter labeling laws? Preventing not just one, but two, large religious groups from abiding by their religious mandates seems extreme, and much too harsh a reaction to an unsubstantiated remark.
What I cannot grasp is why this is such a seemingly important issue in the election. With larger problems to worry about, who has the time or effort to care about an issue that only concerns certain members of the French population? This seems like a problem that can easily be solved; there is no reason for it to be a matter of such concern. Banning Halal meat in school cafeterias serves no greater purpose other than to further an agenda that is staunchly against multiculturalism.
This ban would hurt the French economy, which is already fragile enough as it is. By preventing the ritual slaughter of animals in line with Islamic and Judaic mandates, the French government is effectively banning a multi-billion dollar industry.
Ultimately, the debate about Halal meat is a proxy debate about multiculturalism, and it should not have a place in the upcoming election. Politicians should focus on actual issues-an increasing unemployment rate and a crumbling economy, not the personal dietary habits of their citizens.