Fast food giant Subway has removed ham and bacon from almost 200 outlets, and switched to halal meat alternatives in an attempt to please its Muslim customers. It has confirmed turkey ham and turkey rashers will be used instead in 185 of its stores, where all the meat will now be prepared according to halal rules. The chain, which has around 1,500 outlets across the UK, explained its decision by saying it had to balance animal welfare concerns with ‘the views of religious communities’.
Traditional halal slaughter sees animals have their throats slit before bleeding to death. But Subway stressed that the meat served in its sandwiches would come from animals that have been stunned first, a practice that aims to reduce any suffering. In Arabic the word halal means ‘permitted’ or ‘lawful’ and defines anything that is allowed or lawful according to the Qur’an. It is often used to indicate food – particularly meat – has been prepared in accordance with Muslim principles and techniques.
Muslims are forbidden from eating any non-halal food and meat from pigs and Subway said customers can identify those stores selling halal food by the special ‘All meats are Halal’ sign, which must be displayed in participating branches. In the halal-only branches ham and bacon has been substituted for turkey ham and rashers. Many animal charities condemn halal slaughter as being cruel to animals.
Traditionally in halal abattoirs the throats of the animals are cut while they are fully conscious – an act many campaigners say is inhumane and needlessly cruel. In non-halal abattoirs, livestock are stunned before killing to prevent any unnecessary suffering. Some halal butchers also practise pre-stunning, though it is not permitted by some Islamic scholars.
In Britain, killing an animal without prior stunning is illegal, but the law gives special exemption to Muslim and Jewish meat producers on the grounds of religion. There are thought to be around 12 abattoirs dedicated to unstunned slaughter in the UK, while hundreds practise stunned halal slaughter.