Slaughterhouse Quebec, or, That's a halal of a way to make a country -

Slaughterhouse Quebec, or, That’s a halal of a way to make a country


The Journal de Montréal website is this morning running footage of chicken heads being cut off. This is an excellent step up in verisimilitude for Quebecor, which had heretofore preferred chicken suits and anchors who act like chickens with their heads cut off. But already I digress.

The thinking behind today’s QMI Two-Minute Hate is that “everybody in Quebec eats halal,” and that a Parti Québécois MNA with some extra time on his hands has decided this is the biggest threat to Quebecers’ health. English story here in the Globe. And you can see why the PQ and its house organ in Quebec’s biggest city, the Journal, would be concerned. I know a separatist who ate some wings once and turned into a Muslim. True story.

The Journal does eventually get around to admitting that, despite the PQ’s late-breaking outrage, there is no difference under Canadian food safety regulations between meat that’s slaughtered after being stunned and meat that’s slaughtered under halal or kosher traditions. But it’s all so horrible, goes the subtext. The chickens “are hung, still alive, from hooks,” says a photo caption. And on and on.

You will perhaps not be surprised to learn that Youtube is full of videos of chickens being slaughtered and cows being slaughtered. Having given them a glance, I now know that animals are often hung from hooks during their last minutes in many of our finer secular and religious culinary traditions.

What’s a bit striking, although perhaps not as surprising as it should be, is that the pipeline for this latest bit of alarmism began at a microphone perched in front of Marine Le Pen, the leader of her father’s right-wing Front National party in France. Le Pen, who’s polling better than her dad did in the end but not well enough to be much of a factor in this spring’s French presidential elections, has lately been working on a polarity shift that’s gone largely unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic: where Jean-Marie Le Pen was suspicious of Jews, Marine worries about Muslims, thus bringing her solidly into the mainstream of modern European xenophobia. The younger Le Pen’s electorally motivated fascination with unlabelled halal meat dates from late February — about three weeks ago.

That the Quebec left — for the PQ is still a leftish party — should be really quick to pick up on a talking point of the French right is, again, not as surprising as it should be. When one wants to promote the defensive self-awareness of an identitary nous, one is often on the lookout for some autres to warn against.

In my last blog post for L’actualité a year ago, before I admitted to myself that I couldn’t devote that project as much time as it deserved, I quoted at length from an excellent analysis by UQAM sociologist Micheline Milot, who talked about how easy it is to slip from an attitude of tolerance toward religion — “you and I don’t have to do the same thing” — to one of intolerance toward others’ displays of religion — “because I don’t show off my religion, you must not.” As always, these issues could use a good talking-about, once we get over this week’s foolishness, which consists of telling one another that THAT SANDWICH YOU’RE EATING WAS ONCE A DEAD MUSLIM BIRD.


Slaughterhouse Quebec, or, That’s a halal of a way to make a country

  1. What’s a bit striking, although perhaps not as surprising as it should
    be, is that the pipeline for this latest bit of alarmism began at a microphone perched in front of Marine Le Pen, the leader of her father’s right-wing Front National party in France.

    This nonsense goes back further than that. Rightwing Islamophobes have been peddling it in the US for quite some time.

    • Robert is correct about the situation in the U.S..  Also, the Que. Right will jump on this quick enough if they haven’t already.

      And if Wells hasn’t already noticed the polarity shift on this side of the Atlantic, its not because it hasn’t happened.  All sorts of formerly anti-semitic groups have switched to Muzzy bashing here and in the UK.  In some cases, right wing Jewish groups like BB and the JDL have even embraced these guyss

      • Can you share an example of B’nai Brith, or even the JDL, embracing a formerly anti-semitic group that has switched to – I can’t even bring myself to use your phrase, so I’ll say Islamophobia? Not saying it hasn’t happened, but would be curious to see a specific example.

        • JDL/English Defense League meet and greet last year.  EDL used to be BNP Nazis and soccer Hooligans.  Now they’re heroes battling creeping Shariafication.  According to them.  Google it.

          BB defended Michael Coren’s recent remarks re Jews controlling Hollywood basically because he’s been such a staunch supporter of Israel.  Google that too.

          • Interesting, thanks.  

      •  Actually, they aren’t “formerly anti-semitic.” Arabs are every bit as Semitic as Jews.

        • Actually, he was using a word that refers to a particular tradition of racism, not your racial classifications of Jews and Arabs.  (News: race is a fiction.)

          • Ethnology and racism are two different things…

      • ” Robert is correct about the situation in the U.S. ….All sorts of formerly anti-semitic groups have switched to Muzzy bashing here and in the UK.” 

        CBC ~ June 2011 –
        The number of hate crimes reported to Canadian police rose 42 per cent in 2009 on top of a 35 per cent increase the previous year, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday.

        The largest increase was in hate crimes motivated by religion, which increased 55 per cent, the agency said, and seven in 10 of those involved hate crimes directed against Jews, who were the target of 283 reported hate crimes. Hate crimes against the Muslim faith increased to 36 incidents from 26 in 2008. Police reported 33 hate crimes against Catholics, three more than in 2008

        FBI 2010 Hate Crime Statistics:

        Hate crimes motivated by religious bias accounted for 1,409 offenses reported by law enforcement.  A breakdown of the bias motivation of religious-bias offenses showed: 65.4 percent were anti-Jewish, 13.2 percent were anti-Islamic.

        • So?  That’s true but beside the point.

          • “So?”

            Facts are useful because not all of us have same feverish imagination as you and RobertMcClelland.

  2. Quebecers very insecure in their culture if they think halal meat is threat to their civilization. Trying to attract French speaking immigrants to populate prov and then banning their religious and cultural products is witless and counterproductive. 

    “That the Quebec left — for the PQ is still a leftish party — should be really quick to pick up on a talking point of the French right is, again, not as surprising as it should be.”

    Merriam-Webster ~ Fascism:
    a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

    Jonah Goldberg interview:
    I think the fundamental difference, the difference that defines the difference between American, Anglo-American conservatives and European welfare states, leftists or liberals, is Locke versus Rousseau. Every philosophical argument boils down to John Locke versus Jacques Rousseau.

    Rousseau says the government is there, that our rights come from the government, that come from the collective. Locke says our rights come from God, and that we only create a government to protect our interests. The Rousseauian says you can make a religion out of society and politics, and the Lockean says no, religion is a separate sphere from politics.

    • “Quebecers very insecure in their culture if they think halal meat is threat to their civilization.”

      You mean in a province where laws dictate the relative prominence of French-vs.-English on shop signs?

    • Gold burg is an ass, pushing his intolerance of the left with asinine oversimplifications/ generalizations ( a favored tool of fascists oddly enough).
      Here he seems to equate non anglo American European traditions with fascism( or maybe it’s just you doing it?) and making facile distinctions without merit – ie., liberals can’t be Lockeans; I’m pretty sure without Locke there can be no Liberalism… my political philosophy is a little rusty these days but I’d be prepared to stick my neck out and say that last para is a gross oversimplification… Something you seem unhealthily overfond of.

  3. Thanks for the much needed laugh Paul!

    Other people’s silliness is nice distraction from time to time. LOL

  4. Radio-Canada’s site:

    “C’est une déclaration de l’ancien politicien Mario Dumont qui a ouvert le sujet.”

    I just don’t think people care much.  Reminds me of my childhood when mon oncle would bleed a live pig and we’d eat ‘le boudin’.  I hear they kill the pig first now – I hope they do!  That was very inhumane. There are a few things I won’t eat, and that includes bulls’ testicles that they tried to pass on to me in Spain. No way!

  5. What about, say, Christians who take seriously the dietary injunction of Acts 15 (gentile converts are forbidden to eat meats defiled by sacrifice to idols, but get off easy on circumcision)? Wouldn,t they have a Charter-protected right to be able to tell what is halal or not in order to freely observe their religious precepts?

    Should their freedom of religion (not wanting to eat meat consecrated to a God that’s not theirs) be respected, or do only the religious requirements of those who have specific sets of butchering instructions from their god need apply?

    Also, the issue is not so much xenophobia, at least as far as I see it, but consumer freedom of choice — if I’m a devout Christian as in the example above, or if I prefer my chicken to not be at higher risk of E. Coli infection, as the halal ritual is apparently vulnerable to according to many veterinary studies — shouldn’t I have a choice to purchase halal OR non-halal poultry? That’s the main issue here, not that Olymel is supplying a market segment with halal chicken (which would be fine, free enterprise, freedom of religion and all), but rather that its ENTIRE poultry production has been converted to halal to court that market segment, while neglecting to inform all its customers of the change, perhaps even knowing a significant number of regular customers would be upset if they found out… Given its large market share (no word from Exceldor if they do the same…) it complicates life for those who — for various reasons — might not consider eating halal as the height of trendy multicultural enlightenment?

    Here, I’ll save the easily offended the trouble: yes I’m a horrible racist and I secretly worship a guy born in Braunau am Inn; now for the more elaborate counter arguments: right this way please…

    • Those Christians will have to find a trusted source for meat that’s been slaughtered according to their beliefs — as do Muslims today. Or people who only eat free-range chicken.  Problem solved!

      • Didn’t they have one of those before it was entirely “converted” to accommodate the beliefs of Muslims? Did that solve a problem, or just create a new one?

        • You’re right. This is about protecting the prerogatives of those armies of consumers who stay close to what Acts 15 tells them. How could I be so naive as to believe otherwise.

          It’s true that Olymel is seeking the lowest-cost solution to an expressed consumer preference. If it runs into several conflicting consumer preferences it will need to diversify its production line. I suppose the rest of us will have to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives and move on. 

        • Unless Olymel, Exceldor, and others were explicitly operating the slaughter and processing in accordance with Christian norms and beliefs (ie. no “Acts15” equivalent to Kosher or Halal markers), they did not.

      • How to people verify that the chickens they are eating are free-range?

        • Easy. They’re the ones who still have functioning legs.

      • What makes a rooster Halal or Kosher?  Has it been circumcised?

  6. There are many good reasons for Quebec to separate if they wish to.

    Halal/kosher isn’t one of them.

  7. If only the Islamophobes really cared (or knew) where their meat came from and how it got to be that way… or realized how similar kosher and halal laws are… or read Fast Food Nation… but then, we’re not discussing rational people in the first place.

  8. …I quoted at length from an excellent analysis by UQAM sociologist Micheline Milot, who talked about how easy it is to slip from an attitude of tolerance toward religion — “you and I don’t have to do the same thing” — to one of intolerance toward others’ displays of religion ”

    As always it becomes trickier once politics is added to the mix. Take the case of Harper signing off with god bless Canada or Bush’s displays of public religiosity or Obama for that matter. I’m not opposed to it it I’d less then truthful if I didn’t say it makes me uncomfortable. Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with it – I’m as put off by ostentatious displays of secularism .But there remains that uneasiness whenever I see or hear a politician openly mixing politics with religion. Harper for instance is quite likely merely being sincere when he blesses the nation but given his record of always seeking political advantage in anything I remain uneasy and probably paranoid

  9. Australia is still dealing with a similar situation but brought on by the animal rights folks. 

    I would like to know if it is halal or not.  I stopped buying kosher meat years ago when a fellow who worked at a slaughter house in Winnipeg told be how it was done. 

    “THE brutal methods used at 11 Indonesian abattoirs now banned from importing live cattle from Australia are wrong according to Islamic law, a senior Indonesian cleric declared yesterday.”  

    • I don’t think there’s anything is nice about abattoirs. I worked in one. briefly in Auatralia (luckily in the tanning section only) but my roommates said after a couple days you adjust. By the end of the week they were chucking eyeballs at each other and playing silly buggers in the offal pit.

      • I think people would be surprised to know that it is probably far more humane to shoot a cow/horse/dog in the head with a gun/bullet than to get a vet to use an IV with potassium to put them down.  Even with the sedative, that potassium burns excessively in the vein and a large animal like a horse would require so much sedative, chances are it still feels the pain.

        • I get your point. I would have. no problem shooting a suffering animal myself. Yet people are irrational nevertheless . I couldn’t bring myself to shoot my dog.

          • No, that is why you get a friend to do it.

      • His job was shooting the bolt gun so the cattle went down and out instantly.  He said when the Rabbi came for the kosher killing, they had to rope them and pull their neck tight so he could slice their throat.  What upset him was the next in line could smell the blood and hear the distressed animal which made them crazy.

        • Yeah I heard that too where I was. Apparently the cattle waiting to go up the ramp could smell the blood and were crapping theirselves in terror.Killing anything’s a nasty business. I’m glad I didn’t have to witness it. These days I can barely stand to kill the fish I catch – they’re so lovely. Never been able to fish soley for pleasure – but I like eating them.

          • I am sorry kcm2 but cows crap themselves constantly.  They crap EVERYTIME they go from lying to standing up.  Any kind of transporting them makes them anxious, this leads to a release of lactic acid and makes the meat tougher.  It would be much better to shoot them in the head in the pasture. 
            The Japanese are apparently feeding their Kobe beef wine and giving them massages, all to make the beef more tender and tastier.

          • Sorry yourself . I have worked with cattle, horses, camels you name it – they do feel fear and terror.

          • I didn’t say cows don’t feel terror or fear…I just said “crapping” isn’t necessarily a sign of showing fear….because they are always crapping.

  10. “I know a separatist who ate some wings once and turned into a Muslim. True story.”

    That made my day!

  11. It’s a funny thing, the perception of intolerance. I recall thinking that non smokers should just shove off in the eighties when they first started to regulate smoking in bars. Bars then, at least most of the blues bars in Edmonton I hung out in, we’re heavy on smokers( I don’t smoke) but I thought I could live with it in order to hear the free music. First they tried smoking sections – we all know how that went. Then the full Monty.
    Non smokers ought to start their own bar instead of raining on others parade I thought…still do really. But unfair as it seemed then, I wonder how many lives it saved? Sure they might have achieved similar results via public education campaigns alone -or would they?
    Even so last time I was in Europe people seemed to be happily indulging their freedom to smoke in bars and have their dogs there for company even if it did shorten some of their lives voluntarily and otherwise…wonder if nanny state put a stop to that there too?

    • Och kcm2, smoking inside a building is not at all the same thing because second hand smoke impacts the health of the workers in the building.  They are a disadvantage because there would be limited work opportunities even if there were a few non-smoking bars.
      Legislating non-smoking outside of a building however, is crossing the line.  There is no scientific evidence that suggests smoking in out of doors impacts anyone but the smoker negatively (unless you are cuddling up with a smoker and then that is your choice and your problem).

      • I remember that was the prevailing view at the time, but I don’t completely buy it. If you applied for a job where you know smoking is a work Hazard because most of the customers at the time enjoyed a smoke with their drink, wasn’t that your choice? They did have extractor fans which theoretically were mandatory , or should have been.
        Anyhow, as I said perhaps the public health care benefit outweighed the libertarian one in this case. Thank goodness they didn’t start ruling that failure to accommodate the musical Tastes of the staff was an infringement of their rights – although I might allow an exceptition in the case of C and W. :)

        • I am not sure how old you are but I am 50 years old and when I was a teenager, patients and staff were smoking in the hospital…the nurses were doing it right at the desk.  I worked as a secretary in my early 20’s and people smoked at their desks.  In fact, people smoked everywhere but the movie theatre.  Many of those “bars” you refer to were family restaurants in Alberta during the day and then turned into bars after 8:00 p.m.  I’m sorry but the move to not smoking indoors came with the knowledge of the health risks.  When we know better, we do better.  How could we justify having children rubbing their faces on tablecloths with carcinogens all over them just because you want to have a smoke while you drink your beer and listen to music.  Go outside and puff with the band on their break.

          • You really don’t pay attention to well do you. I mentioned blues bars in Edmonton. The notion of them being family restaurants before 8pm is bizarre, and in this case simply not true.

          • Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realize because you were talking about your own personal experience in a blues bar in Edmonton that you weren’t talking about smoking in bars in general.  No, the blues bars in Edmonton were not family restaurants before 8pm but a few of the bars in Sylvan Lake were and likely still are. 

          • that’s ok…it’s interesting that some bars were multi puropse in Sylvan lake. But i imagine this is no longer true since the plcae has grown a lot recently.

  12. good article, but i would dispute that this is a left-wing response: this is supported by the coalition avenir québec, who are strongly right-wing, and the parti québécois is a big-tent party which originally had trade union roots but whose members today have little in common except their separatist agenda — their former leader andré boisclair often spoke of the need to distance the party from big unions. neither the right-wing & federalist parti libéral du québec nor the strongly left-wing & separatist québec solidaire would ever support this sort of immigrant bashing. also, this particular scare tactic originated with marine le pen of france, who is about as right wing as politicians come in that country, and was imported by talk radio host mario dumont, the former leader of the action démocratique du québec (predecessor of the coalition avenir québec).

  13. Paul,

    Having lived in France for a fair number of years I can say that Jean-Marie Le Pen was always anit-muslim (well anti-arab) as well as being anti-Jewish.

    Sadly in France it is quite common to hear anti-semitic comments of all sorts thrown into casual conversation with otherwise worldly and open French men and women.  In fact I would say that one of the few time the French stand up for Arabs is when they are talking agains the Jews.

    As to what is going on in Québec, it must be some periodic fit of collectivist madness that rises up from time to time.  Dommage mais il n’y aura pas trop d’impact à long terme je crois.

  14. Andre’ Simard didn’t only comment on Halal – Kosher was also mentioned as Kosher
    uses the same method of slaughter.  I think the media is again targeting muslims

  15. The reason Quebec slaughterghouses have gone hallal is that they supply the White House, well except for bacon and ham.

  16. Le Pen is definitely left-wing about everything except for her nationalism… Much more leftist than the PQ. Just check her program, she’s a separatist too, from the European Union.

  17. —————————- Original Message —————————-
    Subject: Canadian Hindu Advocacy extends our support to PQ re halal meat
    Date:    Thu, March 15, 2012 1:29 pm

    The Canadian Hindu Advocacy is Canada’s largest such organization,
    representing the views of Canada’s half million Hindu community.

    Our faith prohibits the consumption of meat from animals which have been
    slaughtered by barbaric and inhumane methods. Consumption of halal meats
    falls under this category.

    Our community is appalled by the failure by some establishments to
    properly label meat products as ‘halal’. Our community applauds the PQ for
    raising this issue.

    In the Toronto area, our organization intends to target Fresh Slice Pizza
    and Popeye’s Chicken with large scale demonstrations and pickets for
    failing to label their meat as halal. Last year, we successfully massed
    hundreds of protestors in front of the TDSB regarding Islamic prayers in
    Toronto schools, and we will be renting buses for trips to Quebec for
    similar demonstrations.

    Thank you for standing up for real Canadian and Quebec values, whose
    tenets of animal rights and compassion dovetail with traditional Hindu
    beliefs. Our community intends to support you fully in your endeavours in
    this matter.

    Our executive management team will be contacting you shortly to discuss
    further collaboration on this important matter.

    Narain Devendra
    Canadian Hindu Advocacy