Last week, the Daily Mail informed readers that hundreds of Subway branches went halal. Ham and bacon were off the menu as turkey took its place.
The story originates from a Subway press release:
“Due to the growing popularity of the SUBWAY® chain, with the diverse multicultural population across the UK and Ireland, we put a programme in place in 2007 to ensure that the population demographic is taken into account when new store openings are considered in order that we meet consumer demand in each location.”
Subway has over 1,700 stores across the UK and Ireland. A halal option is only available in less than 12 per cent of places. Yet, with this context removed, the scale of the problem seems larger.
Instead, the author reminds readers of the cruelty of religious slaughter. Buried a few paragraphs down is the inconvenient truth of pre-stunned meat. Subway emphasise this point in the original press release:
“All our suppliers comply with EU animal welfare legislation as a minimum and we require suppliers of Halal products to adopt the stunning of animals prior to their slaughter. All Halal meats are certified by the appropriate Halal authorities.”
After all, a vast majority of halal-meat sold in the UK is pre-stunned.
In under a week, the story had over 231,000 online shares, as readers called for a boycott of Subway. A response that is as disproportionate as the story’s popularity. Half-truths help turn a non-story into a meme to spread the myth of ‘Islamification.’
Of course, not every Muslim will agree with Subway. Yet, any decision to switch to halal is only taken after consulting local communities, to see if the demand is high enough.
Newspapers in Plymouth and Lincolnshire informed readers that their local branches remain unaffected. Whilst in Bristol, the local press reported that just two out of the 24 stores in the city are halal-certified. In spite of this, each story garnered hundreds of individual Facebook ‘likes’ as the meme spread.
Elements of social media soon reacted to the story with racism and anti-Muslim bigotry:
“Muslims? Yeah right Subway yeah right? Our food you bombing c*nts. F*ck off to your country have a sh*t, shower, shave now f*ck off”
“F*cking foreigners taking ENGLISH meats from subway if you don’t like it get back on the plain to your own f*cking country!”
“There is a simple solution to muslim halal meat problem just don’t go to subway to eat food you tea towel wearing c*nts”
“Makes me sick…Predominantly Christian country and now we pander to this sick religion :(”
“F*ck Subway p*ki lovers. No more ham and bacon coz of p*kis. Im not goin Subway no more. F*ck Subway f*ck p*kis. F*ckin joke this country”
“Won’t be back in Subway again. Britains gonna be end up a Muslim country”
“This is f*cking stupid. I’m not racist, but Britain isn’t an Islamic/Musim country and NEVER will be”
Similar remarks appeared on the English Defence League’s Facebook page as they also called for a boycott.
In response to a string of abusive and threatening emails, Subway removed the halal search option from their website.
For Fiyaz Mughal, the Director of TELL MAMA, the online reaction proved shocking:
“Seeing the reaction and the number of shares of the article is not only depressing and shocking, it also demonstrates that there is a responsibility on papers to address the facts and not push out stories that are titled and headed in a way that can inflame tensions and potentially undermine cohesion in our communities.”