And this is why I won’t be eating at your restaurant…


A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at a motorway service station near Oxford.

Culinary options were limited, so I found myself waiting in line at Subway, behind a group of teenagers – seemingly nice kids of about 15 or 16.

Because I’m chronically nosy, I was ear-wigging their conversation

“I wonder if it’s halal?” 

“Is it like ham, then? Does it taste like ham?” 


“But is it halal? It’d better bloody not be.” 

“If it is, that’s disgusting.” 

“Yeah, I’m not eating here if it’s halal.” 

Bloody hell. I don’t even know where to start describing how sad overhearing that conversation made me.

I get that this can be a sensitive subject. And my opinion on it might not be the same as yours. That’s okay. We can respectfully disagree, I’m sure.

But to me… those kids were being offensive.

Now, if you happen to believe that stunning an animal and slitting its throat (which applies to the vast majority of both halal and shechita slaughter in this country) is somehow less acceptable than stunning an animal and gassing it, or electrocuting it, or any of the other non-religious ways that animals are slaughtered in the UK – well, that’s your opinion and I can respect that.

But if your objection is simply based on a fuzzy understanding that halal meat is different, and Muslim, and therefore “disgusting” – well, I have an issue with that.

I was still thinking about this incident a few days later when my friend Joanna, who lives in Israel, remarked about the rise of anti-semitism in the UK and Europe. I said that, in the UK at least, I think it’s still considered very shocking and unacceptable in most circles to say something anti-semitic. But Islamophobia? I see that becoming frighteningly common.

My fear is that my country – which is renowned for being tolerant, and liberal, and accepting (Daily Mail readers aside) – is becoming a place where it acceptable to treat someone unfairly because of their faith – providing that faith is Muslim. I have written about this before – racism dressed up as moral outrage at the supermarket check-out.

Consider how many stories you read in the press about halal meat. How does it compare to stories about schechita, and kosher meat? For every story you read about Muslim faith schools, how many have you read about Christian faith schools? For every debate about the niqab, how many debates do we have about the turban? How often does the Daily Mail get its knickers in a twist about Sikhs, or Quakers, or Mormons?

And then there are things like this, which I saw yesterday a short drive from my home – sorry for the shocking photo quality, it was a sunny day:


An Italian restaurant, and in every window a sign announcing that the establishment is HALAL FREE.

I was shocked when I saw it. Because the sign isn’t about providing helpful information to anyone. That sign is all about letting Muslims know they’re not welcome in this restaurant; and non-Muslims that they’re not about to be “polluted” by eating any “disgusting” meat that is – to all intents and purposes – identical to any other meat in every single way except for the manner of slaughter.

Maybe the owner has a strong religious faith – but personally, I don’t believe these signs were about faith. Not least because no God that I understand would be okay with this crap. The only thing I see that’s disgusting here is intolerance, mistrust, and hostility.

To quote the kids in the service station, I’m not going to be eating there. It’s disgusting.

32 thoughts on “And this is why I won’t be eating at your restaurant…”

  1. Could it not be that the signs in the window were there to make sure Muslims were aware that the food wasn’t halal so they were fully informed? There’s a real drive in the restaurant and food sector for transparency on what we eat and where it comes from. I’ve also seen a number of pieces in the press about different faiths being outraged when eating places thinking it was halal (or other) when it actually wasn’t the case. Could you not give them the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming its an anti-muslim initiative?

    Just my thoughts anyway. It’s open to interpretation I agree, but perhaps just badly worded? I hope so anyway.

    1. You know? I’m usually all about benefit of the doubt and thinking the best but if someone was REALLY being considerate to Muslims (I live in a town where around 99% of the population is white) then this isn’t how they’d do it.

      One sign by the door reading, “We regret to inform Muslim customers that we are unable to provide halal meat” is helpful. Six big signs in a row proclaiming that you are FREE of Halal? That’s just ugly and confrontational.

      1. Fair enough. I hope you told them of your opinion too. – to give them the opportunity to change it.

        Our town is very multicultural so I wouldn’t have looked it at it that way. More like “in brief” comment. Pardon the pub, but food for thought!

  2. I actually had a massive go at family members for their shocking comments over the subway halal meat thing. It ended with me leaving an event early because I just couldn’t be bothered to argue with their ignorance anymore.

    That sign however is a new low. That isn’t a subtle announcement to the majority of the population in the area that it isn’t a suitable restaurant for them to eat at that’s a shocking way of segregating the population.

    Oh and I’ve found that it doesn’t matter what religion you are these days, if it’s not what everyone else does then you’re in the wrong and it’s only a matter of time before the Fail starts up on all other religions in “equal measures”. Tops wanted to watch a TV show the other week that I forbade for this very reason.

    1. Thanks Pippa, I’m glad it’s not just me who was shocked by the sign. And I completely agree that if unchecked, there’s nothing to stop the media attacking other minority groups – whether it’s Jews, Quakers, Mormons or any other group for that matter. It’s amazing to me that 59% of this country is identifiably Christian while around 4% is Muslim, yet there’s got to be at least 5 times more coverage of Muslim “problems” in most of the media. And that allows things like hateful signs in windows to flourish. Sad.

  3. This is something I’ve become sensitive to because of taking in Foreign Language Students and being asked to provide Halal meat for some of them. Lots of host families refuse to do it on principle, but I don’t mind seeing as it seems animal welfare (as far as killing them goes!) is better regulated regarding it nowadays and what I have learned is that swathes of our meat is actually slaughtered to be acceptably Halal without being labelled so, plus you can probably guarantee your local Indian Takeaway is serving Halal meat as a matter of course, without feeling obliged to put posters in the window announcing it. I think the wording of the sign you have photographed is shocking and most definitely meant to offend and segregate and feed the stupid paranoia that is building around the subject. Ignorance at its worst I’m afraid and yes, disgusting. Talking about ham and halal in the same sentence when Muslims don’t touch pork says it all, FFS!

    1. I agree with you that huge amounts of halal meat is eaten unknowingly and I’m not sure if that’s making it worse – allowing the Daily Mail brigade to feign outrage at being “tricked” into eating halal. I mean, for God’s sake, it’s meat! It’s exactly the same as any other meat.

      As with so many things, I suspect the solution lies in education and information – those kids were ignorant, and that made them prejudiced. Had they really understood what they were saying, perhaps the attitude would have been different?

  4. I totally agree with you. As someone who loves the taste of meat but is trying to be as vegan as possible because the whole meat and dairy industry sucks (including shechita, Halal, and any other mass produced factory farming of animals) the ignorance behind these teenagers’ comments is the saddest thing of all – we know nothing about it but it’s disgusting anyway. Ugh!!!

    1. I agree – I do eat meat, but I’m not under any illusions that the meat I buy which is non-halal and non-kosher is any less barbaric than those alternatives! It’s all degrees of awful, isn’t it?

  5. That’s ghastly – wrong on very many different levels

    It worries me that this sort of outrage driven hatred is increasingly being peddled by the media – the issue here isn’t halal but plain racisim

    1. Isn’t it? I was really very shocked and quite sad when I saw it. The moral outrage that masks this sort of racism really troubles me.

  6. I am truly shocked on both accounts.Although we don’t eat meat often, I think my kids (I hope) have a sound idea on how animals are killed for human consumption and why people do it differently.Perhaps it’s something I should discuss with them ,so I don’t let them out into the world with narrow minded views.

    1. Hi Aly – I agree, I think if we don’t talk to kids about this stuff, goodness knows what they’re picking up from the media (or other people’s parents)

  7. The sign is deeply ignorant on many levels. If it said ‘Halal *meat* free’ it would make some kind of sense, although still offensive. But as Halal is “any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law” then in order for an establishment to be ‘Halal free’, you would not be able to breathe in there (for instance), and even if we just stick to the food rules, that means no vegetarian options either. It’s sickening. Especially at Ramadan.

  8. Your post has saddened me, I’d hoped that as we become evermore a multi cultural society that our children are being properly educated. It appears that total ignorance remains and prejudice is unfortunately very much alive. That restaurant sign is just shocking, and not acceptable at all.

    1. I think educating our children and talking to them about these issues is SO important or we’ll never overcome this sort of prejudice.

  9. A Facebook friend commented on a page about subway being halal and commented what a disgrace it was. I was so shocked because they’re generally nice and it was a really strong opinion. I never understand the outrage if it’s purely because it’s “halal”. It comes across so ignorant and racist. At the height of it a few months back I was more shocked that there were all these places I (bring Muslim) could have eaten from and didn’t know 🙂

    1. I really laughed at the stories about Pizza Express “tricking” customers into halal dining, and the info being “hidden away” on their website and menus. Because surely that’s just being helpful to customers?

  10. I went out for a meal with friends recently we went to an Indian restaurant then on to a pub, where the conversation somehow turned to the subject of halal meat. How it wa disgusting and shouldn’t be served in this country, because it was wrong and would not taste the same as ‘normal’ meat I had great joy in pointing out that they’d more than likely just eaten halal meat and that what they were arguing over was whether it was better to stun an animal slit it’s throat and let the blood drain out during the slaughter process- once it’s throat is cut it’s dead anyway. Or gas an animal so it’s sedated, then kill it an let the blood drain out during the butchering process. I’ve not been invited on a night out with them since!

    1. Slaughter isn’t ever pretty, in modern slaughterhouses, and arguing that halal is somehow crueler than kosher or ordinary slaughter seems pretty ridiculous to me, overall.

  11. My husband is an RE teacher and he comes up against these kind of comments more and more often now. Obviously he does a very good job of setting them straight and helping to reduce the ignorance at least in one tiny corner of the world! It’s very sad that these kind of attitudes are so prevalent though (and that RE as a subject is being cut back and marginalised when really in our ever more multicultural society we should be making damn sure that kids are educated about how to understand and respect what everybody believes.

  12. I’m actually really sad as we’ve eaten at San Marco’s a few times, both there and when it was on Highfield Road. But we won’t be going back whilst that sign is there.

  13. Unfortunately, it is pure ignorance. I live in a sleepy little village in the north of England where the vast majority of people (and I’m talking 99%) are white Christian. I once overheard a group of teens talk about a man just out of his ear shot, saying how ‘awful’ Muslims where – this man was clearly Sikh. So sad that there is this much ignorance when the last time I checked Religions Education is still a compulsory subject in schools??

  14. I absolutely wholeheartedly agree with you. I hate racism or prejudice in any form – I couldn’t be more liberal. A lot of the time I think it is ignorance that shows itself, and it is particularly nasty. That sign in the window is shocking.

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