The papers: Thursday 8 May, 2014
Well, at last! After three weeks of Twitter campaigning and worthy thoughts in the comment pages, the Nigerian kidnappings have finally made a splash.
Developments are not quite as they may appear from the Times headline. There will be no heavily armed men from Hereford in combat gear tramping through African forests. There will, however, be some technical advice and support from a small group of Brits. A first leader also tells us that the US will be co-ordinating some efforts from its Abuja embassy and that French troops will also help.
The Guardian also gives the story a front-page presence, in the form of a picture montage, and runs a full page inside. But what about the massacre?
Halal meat The Mail has picked up the Sun's scare story and gone to town with it. It's hard to know where to start on this one. If, for example, the splash head said "Millions are eating arsenic without knowing it" we could understand the alarm. The horsemeat horrors may have been overblown, but were justified in a way that this isn't. Customers were being sold something that wasn't as described.
But where is the problem with not being told every detail of how a living creature became the meat on your plate? If you have a problem with animals dying so that you can eat, you become vegetarian. If you have a problem with the way animals are housed or fed before going to slaughter, you avoid the meat and find a source of happy pigs or poultry.
But this guff about ritual slaughter and livestock bleeding to death is absurd. There are some abattoirs that follow some religious teachings that do not stun an animal before its throat is cut. Most do. Those photographs of chickens dangling from hooks on a production line of death do not portray a process unique to halal. It's what happens.
There are two interpretations of the coverage of this "story", which is given a spread in both Mail and Sun under such joyous headings as "A stealthy takeover of Britain's supermarket shelves" and the imaginative "Fowl play".
One is that it is designed to stir up religious and ethnic hatred or distrust of supermarkets, farmers and the entire food chain. The more charitable view is that it is borne out of ignorance and confusion. There was a fuss recently about people selling non-kosher food as kosher - and even including bacon in it. That was wrong because it was duping people into disobeying their religious teachings. It was also wrong because it involved lying about the true ingredients of the food.
There is nothing involved in halal slaughter that goes against other religious laws. Before all this blew up, did the Sun or the Mail have any idea how a non-halal lamb or a pig or a turkey was prepared for death and killed?.
In a spirit of helpfulness, SubScribe again offers the link to the Defra guidelines on animal welfare and slaughter
It is also worth looking to the Telegraph for view from faith leaders who agree that labels might usefully say whether an animal had been stunned and whether meat was halal or kosher. Which would answer one niggle that's been bothering SubScribe: if it is all being done by stealth and the meat is not labelled, then how do Muslims know it's OK? Are they being denied a whole range of goods because they don't know? Or is there some secret message system that excludes Christians?
It's not a big deal, whatever the Sun and Mail might like to think. Just so long as we all realise that if we have universal labelling, the information will tell us no more than we already know about the quality of life or the taste after death.
Jordan's divorce So much for the serious stuff. It is clear that the only story people really care about is Katie/Jordan's next divorce. Lots of wedding pictures and bitchiness plus the obligatory shot of the cuckolded bride taken from above so as to make certain areas of her body seem larger than they might be. Oh yes, and even though Ms Price announced the news herself on Twitter, it is "exclusive" to both the Mirror and Sun.
Do SubScribe readers want to know about this? It's clear somebody does, given the acres of news print and screen space devoted to this lady. To spare you - and me - the trouble of investigating further, let me direct you to that expert on how to profit from the misery of cheatdom, Fleet Street Fox. It includes advice not only on how to turn situations to your advantage - which to be honest our Katie probably doesn't need - but also a quick resume so that we're all up to date on her
achievements/marriages/divorces so far.
This is a resource that no journalist should be without.
Twitter puts smug Press to shame
A million tweets, demonstrations all over the world and only now are the papers waking up to this story
"Slavery is evil, no matter the colour or faith of who is responsible for it"
- Michael Burleigh
of The Times.
See what else the commentators have to say on the kidnappings here
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