Tuesday, 21 September 2010

How journalism works: sins of omission

I have several friends and friends-of-friends who work in Civil Service press offices. In the pub on Saturday night one of them mentioned, with a groan, that the Mail on Sunday had spent the second half of the week ringing round every single government department asking them how much of the meat in their staff canteens was halal.

As a life-long vegetarian I applaud the Mail group for developing a sudden interest in the finer points of animal welfare - obviously this story has NOTHING to do with the fact that halal meat is something Muslims eat. No no no. It's all about how inhumane the halal slaughter process is. To prove it, there's even an angry quote from someone at animal rights group Viva!, an organisation the Mail has not previously expressed a great deal of love for as one of its leading lights is Heather Mills. She got the full Jan Moir treatment in July when the Mail's resident hate-monger visited her vegan cafe on the south coast.

Anyhow, it turned out that the vast majority of canteens in government buildings don't actually serve any halal meat as a matter of course, although most can order it in if required for specific functions and events.

However, I found this out by speaking to some government press officers. You wouldn't have found it out by reading the Mail on Sunday. Its story simply listed all the places that DO serve halal meat - Wembley Stadium, some pub chains, a few hospitals and some schools - in order to prove that we're living in what the headline calls "Halal Britain"

Had it emerged that every building in Whitehall was stocked to the rafters with ritually slaughtered sheep and cows, you can bet that it would have been right there in the headline. However, in Mail World if a fact doesn't fit the story, it's always best to leave it out.


Press Not Sorry said...

I looked at this story too, and found a Viva report called 'Going for the Kill', which stated that an estimated 85% of halal meat is already pre-stunned before slaughter. It also states that it's kosher meat that isn't pre-stunned, but I don't see anyone attacking that.

As a non-religious, non-meat eating person, I can clearly see that this is simply more anti-Muslim propoganda from The Mail. They've removed all sense of perspective. If there was a genuine concern for animal welfare, the reporters would have looked into the entire process of getting meat on plates, and not just the brief moments at the end of an animal's life.

the_voice_of_reason said...

Buried deep in paragraphs 30 and 31 of the "story" was the information that the vast majority of animals killed for meat are not slaughtered using kosher or halal methods, but any reader who bothered to get that far was probably in a frothing rage about teh Muslims.

Also, there was no reference AT ALL to the animals' quality of life up until the point of death. Thus we learn -

Battery farming = "Shrugs"
Halal slaughter = animal cruelty
Kosher slaughter = we don't want to upset readers by going there

Richard T said...

In the context of the Mail's history of supporting fascism, it's interesting to recall that in the 1920s and 1930s, a number came to fascism because of their abhorrence of ritual slaughter - for kosher meat. They then generalised from this particular into a wider anti semiticism. A parallel possibly?