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30 April, 2007

Why Some People Don't Eat Yoghurt

I'm an omnivore. I'll eat pretty much anything that's edible (which, of course, excludes MacDonald's burgers, calamari, and textured vegetable protein.) The point is, I have no serious moral objections to killing animals for food, although I do have threecaveats on that:

  1. The animal must not be self-aware to any obvious extent. This rules out people and the other great apes, monkeys, whales, dolphins and, probably, squid (doubly-safe there, then, guys).
  2. The animal must not suffer during it's life. This rules out veal, factory-farmed chickens, and pâté de fois gras, for example.
  3. The animal must not suffer during its death. This rules out almost anything that is hunted rather than farmed, and almost all yoghurt.
Yes, I said yoghurt, and no, I don't care how many lactobateria are killed to make everybody's favourite dairy product. The problem with yoghurt is that almost every brand available in the supermarkets contains 'halal gelatine'. Gelatine is a thickener and it is obtained by boiling up various body parts from cows (like their feet). Halal is an Arabic word meaning 'permissible'. In this context, it means 'permissible under Islamic dietary laws.' More specifically, in the case of the gelatine in my yoghurt, it means that the cows it came from have been killed by slitting their throats and letting them bleed to death (the method is called 'dhabiha').

Why would anyone do such a thing, you ask? Well, it's a religious thing. The Muslim deity says you can't eat an animal's blood (so no black pudding in Indonesia then.) The people who believe in this particular god have worked out that bleeding an animal to death is the best way to go. In my country, where people tend to believe in different gods, they kill big animals by firing a bolt from a gun onto the animal's skull. This stuns the beast and they kill it while it is unconscious. I ask you, if you had to choose, would you rather be whacked on the head and killed, or have your throat cut and bleed to death while still awake?

I know there isn't a lot to choose between them but, in my view, there is no reason at all to make an animal suffer one second longer than it needs to. And I don't care what your particular deity says on the matter. Believe whatever nonsense you like – all that matters to the poor animal is the way you treat it. There is even scientific evidence that draining a dead animal of its blood is just as effective at getting it all out as draining a live one. So there isn't even a crazy reason for doing it the dhabiha way.

I'd like to know why all the yoghurt in Brisbane's supermarkets has halal gelatine in it. I suppose it's simply that the Australian manufacturers want to be able to export it to Indonesia and other Muslim countries. But then again, I don't really care what their motives are. If they want to sell me yoghurt, they can use gelatine from animals that have been killed humanely.

1 comment:

Bex said...

Although an identical set of moral guidelines has led me to be vegetarian (points 2 and (especially) 3)...

~ Daughter.

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