As the elections in the French Republic approach, the topic gaining maximum momentum is not the present slowdown or the increasing unemployment. Funny as it is, this time, the outgoing French President has chosen a topic out of the blue to gravitate his election campaign.
Halal and Kosher meat, the ritual way of killing animals by Muslims and Jews for human consumption has interestingly become the latest hot topic in France with most parties laying stress on it in some way or the other.
This topic was first raised by the candidate of the extreme right anti-immigration National Front Marine Le Pen. She claimed that all the meat that was being sold in greater Paris region was killed in the Muslim ritual way while the consumers were unaware of this. This provocative statement by Le Pen raised a lot of eyebrows all over the country.
It is significant that her comments came a few days after the French meat industry was exposed on a television show. A television report focused largely on the sanitary conditions at the 275 slaughter houses of the country. It showcased that most abattoirs in the Paris city practice only halal slaughter methods as it is too expensive to slaughter animals using both methods.
Pointing at the data made available in the commentary, Le Pen demanded that as a citizen, everyone has a right to know whether the meat they are buying has been killed in horrible cruelty. However, this statement, apart from being a provocative one from Le Pen, also delved deeper into the religious issues of ritual slaughter. Although, according to a European law, animals must be made unconscious before being killed, exception prevails for religious slaughter in which animal’s throat is slit while it is alive and conscious.
In the wake of this statement by Le Pen, Sarkozy reviewed the Rungis wholesale market for food which is located just outside of Paris. After this review, he remarked countering Le Pen that only 2.5 per cent of the meat consumed in the region was halal and that was not a problem. However, he retracted his earlier statement and later proposed a law to impose transparency on the way animals were being killed for being consumed here.
Adding fuel to the fire was another statement issued by the Prime Minister Francois Fillion who suggested that both Muslim and Jewish traditions for animal slaughter were outdated. This comment left French Muslim and Jew communities infuriated. This statement by Fillion has also isolated some members of the Jew community who have supported Sarkozy since his initial days. Now, it is heard that he is meeting Rabbis and Muslim leaders to repair the damage already done.
Amidst all this controversy about halal and kosher meat in France, is it not evident to the politicians that just by creating furore over something so trivial, they are diverting the attention of the voters from the real issues that mar the country presently.
Besides, halal or no halal is a question no Frenchman is interested in. This question may have become a political hype off late but it still does not affect the general population at large. The general public in France, far away from these trivial issues, is jostling with bigger issues of life like unemployment and the public debt.
This political controversy actually does not show Sarkozy’s attachment with the general public of France or for that matter even Le Pen’s statement also came off the fly. The birth of a controversy like this just ahead of the presidential elections in France only shows how disconnected Sarkozy and other political leaders in the country are from the general public and its day-to-day problems.
This controversy not only brings to limelight Sarkozy’s ignorance but also gives a feeling of déjà vu to the French public which has seen similar issues of immigration, national identity and multi culturalism being raised during his 2007 campaign.
France is home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, officially estimated at least four million and its largest Jewish community estimated at up to 700,000.
Perhaps what the French president needed was just to speak to a normal country man to find out what are the things that really bother the normal public more than the ‘no-issue’ of the religious diets.
Meat for those who can afford it even today in France lies much lower in the serious list of concerns which affect their lives.
Agreed, there may be some who would be interested in knowing whether the meat they are eating has been produced by halal, kosher or any other way of slaughter as it would affect their religious beliefs which they have preserved so well over centuries.
And as it is, these French politicians must not forget in their rat race that they should abstain from hurting any community’s religious beliefs, no matter how small, as it would create an uproar among masses.
It is perfectly all right if the Europeans want that meat should be labelled that under what slaughtering method it is being made available. All we ask for is that these political parties should not stoop down to such a level where they need to hurl stone at someone else to make things work for themselves.