Parisians May Be Unknowingly Eating Halal Meat

Majority of Parisian butchers don't alert customers to halal meat, but say issue is larger than food

If you have a problem eating halal meat, you may want to stick with salads in Paris.

The newest controversy from the French presidential campaign is for the pigs — after candidate Marine Le Pen announced that Parisians ate halal meat without knowing, the debate between Le Pen, President Sarkozy, and Muslim residents has been slowly brewing.

The term "halal" refers to what is lawful for Muslims; accordingly, halal meat has been slaughtered according to the Zibah ritual. The riutal states that the (still alive) animal's throat is cut with a single swipe to the jugular vein, carotid artery, and airpipe, after a recitation to God. Even though the laws in Europe mandate that animals be unconscious before being killed, they make an exception for "religious slaughter," NPR says. While this method supposedly kills the immediately while the blood drains away, many argue that it is more cruel than gassing or electrocuting the animal. (The process is similar to kosher slaughter.)

After a French investigative show exposed Parisian butchers' neglect to inform customers whether meat is halal or not, Le Pen took the fight even further, saying she and others had a right to know whether the meat she ate was "slaughtered in horrible cruelty." Said Le Pen, "Don't French people who don't want to eat halal have the same rights as Muslims do?" Sarkozy, in response, has called for stricter meat labeling and tried to make amends with Paris' growing Muslim population.

The issue (which has now spread to Quebec as well) has overshadowed the true problem, Parisian Muslims say: longstanding stigmas and prejudice. Said one halal butcher to Al Arabiya News, the growth of Muslims in his neighborhood and the lack of youth wanting to become butchers would make non-halal meat nearly impossible.