Fire and Knives – issue 6Posted: March 25, 2011
So, I’ve written another piece for the wonderful Fire and Knives food quarterly. It’s on the subject of Halal and Kosher slaughter, and sadly the following conclusion didn’t quite make it to print:
“…Kosher and Halal. Two words you’ll rarely if ever, see in a Michelin starred restaurant or a farmer’s market, but with a growing global population of Muslims and with around 18 million Jews worldwide, they’re deeply relevant ones. In this world of endless racism, fear, ignorance and rabid wall-building between one another, surely it’s more vital than ever that we emphasise our commonality and remember our humanity- and what better place to start than with the food on our plates?
The main similarities between these Abrahamic religions are only partially down to the semantics of slaughter. Like so many aspects of modern life, too much emphasis has been placed on their outward appearance and ritual. Ultimately it’s all about the purity and integrity at the core of these laws, for these are so much more than mere restrictive rules; they can in fact be viewed as a clarion call to holiness. By imposing strict rules upon what can and cannot be eaten, a strong sense of self control is inculcated, which in turn helps to rein in our most basic and primal instincts. By being gentle with our beasts we reinforce the very things which keep us from becoming like them. In “to be a Jew” Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin states that it’s about being able to tell the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, the sacred and the profane. The Qur’anic reasons for banning carrion and blood and “the animal that has been strangled or beaten to death or gored to death or savaged by a beast of prey..” are not just about the health of the consumer and the consumed. They’re designed to emphasise the “good” and the “pure” rather than the casually violent. It’s about minimising the pain of the eaten and increasing the responsibility of the eater. Cleanliness, integrity and self restraint, proper animal welfare and respectful slaughter – these are the real messages here and in advocating them, eating becomes the ultimate act of worship.”
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