CRESR Seminar - Halal and kosher meat – concerns over animal welfare, migration and integration

Start date: 
Wed, 26/04/2017
Closing date: 
Wed, 26/04/2017
Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Stoddart Building, Room 7139
Event contact: 
Ian Wilson & Will Eadson

Time: 4.00-5.00 pm

John Lever, University of Huddersfield


In recent decades the availability of halal meat in shops, restaurants and public institutions in the UK has become a reoccurring feature of public debate. Muslims (as well as Jews) are exempt from the legal requirement to stun animals prior to slaughter and it is thus widely assumed that most halal meat in the UK is produced without stunning animals, when the reverse is in fact the case. There is a distinct lack of transparency in the UK meat industry and public understanding of these issues is not as clear-cut as it could be. Misunderstandings often emerge because halal meat is difficult to identify in the food supply chain. As meat from 'non-stunned' halal slaughter has become visible in recent decades, the commercial sensitivities associated with halal meat from stunned animals have also grown, with supermarkets now often failing to label meat as halal; this adds the confusion, both for Muslim and non-Muslim consumers alike. Not surprisingly, evidence suggests that as well as animal welfare considerations, public concern about the availability of halal meat and methods of slaughter in the UK is also linked to wider concerns about immigration and integration, as perpetuated through the media.

 In this paper I explore and compare these issues with developments that emerged around Jewish migration to the UK in the 19th century, when public controversy emerged around the 'Alien Question'. During this period, Jewish migrants from Russian and Eastern Europe were seen to be responsible for unemployment, housing shortages, and the increasing cost of poverty, very similar concerns to those expressed about Muslim migrants and refugees today. Concerns about religious animal slaughter and animal welfare are consistent across these historical periods and the paper explores the extent to which these issues act as a proxy for real life problems connected to wider processes of socioeconomic development and change. Based on research on halal and kosher meat markets, and Jewish and Muslim communities (around Europe) over the last two years, I draw on a range of theoretical perspectives to illustrate the underlying complexities of the issues involved. In conclusion I offer some reflections on these issues in the post EU referendum period.


John Lever is a sociologist with research interests in food (particularly the meat industry), communities and sustainability. Before moving to Huddersfield three years ago, he worked at Cities Research Centre at UWE: Bristol and in the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University. John’s forthcoming publications include a research monograph with Johan Fischer from Manchester University Press entitled Globalising Kosher and Halal: Between Religion, Regulation and Consumption.

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