Aug 30 2012

Skegness abattoir controversy attracts fascists

Recent proposals to reopen an abattoir in Skegness have attracted local opposition, with a facebook group and online petition set up.  The Heath Road abattoir closed down in January after it ran into financial difficulties , and the proposed re-opening has generated opposition because slaughter methods used there would be halal.  Although the initial opposition was not overly linked to the far-right, fascists have been quick to take an interest in the issue, with the BNP’s Lincolnshire Coastal branch adopting it as their main campaigning theme.  Other groups have been sniffing around the issue as well, and it’s certain that none would have criticised the abattoir reopening if it were to be staffed by “indigenous” knifemen.

Ritual slaughter for halal is becoming an important focus for the far-right, with the BNP in particular targeting it; they recently held a (piss-poorly attended) national picket of a branch of Subway in Sunderland which sells halal meat.  They aim to portray their opposition to halal on the grounds of animal welfare, but unsurprisingly this rings rather hollow on investigation; there is no opposition from the fascists to factory farming in general, nor is there any indication of what they consider acceptable practice in a slaughterhouse might look like – the latest fundraising dinner of the Lincolnshire Coastal BNP featured Lincolnshire sausage, presumably obtained from consenting pigs who died quietly in their sleep, or something…..

The halal meat issue is (of course!) more complex than it is painted by the BNP.  It is often argued by muslims that slaughter without pre-stunning (which is the central issue giving grounds to accusations of cruelty) is actually less distressful for the poor animal than the conventional methods of stunning – although  almost every animal welfare organisation disagrees, and what scientific evidence there is suggests that stunning is less traumatic.  For what it’s worth, this writer would guess that pre-stunning is indeed “less cruel”, but hopefully I’ll never know for sure.

However, it is important to note that, contrary to general impression, halal rules do permit the pre-stunning of animals, as long as the stunning itself does not kill the animal.  It is also important to note that there are several interpretations of halal rules in practice – for example, there are differences about which methods of stunning are acceptable. The RSPCA cites an estimate, from the Meat Hygiene Service, that around 90% of UK halal-slaughtered animals are in fact pre-stunned – in other words, from a welfare standpoint, they are treated much the same as the majority of animals killed in non-ritual abattoirs. (The majority killed for kosher consumption are also pre-stunned, incidentally).

The BNP are yet again displaying their opportunism in portraying halal as “truly barbaric” and “un-British”, whilst showing no analysis of its complexities, nor any campaign on factory farming in general.  Their failure to mention kosher slaughter, which is very similar to halal in most practical aspects, also shows their expediency – it’s not considered strategic to be overtly anti-semitic at the moment.  A more progressive strategy for ensuring animal welfare in halal and kosher is not hard to imagine, perhaps involving campaigning for universal application of stunning to all ritual slaughter, for example.  Of course many would argue that a slaughterhouse can never be “humane”….and non-halal abattoirs are certainly not exempt from shocking breaches of welfare standards.

The key point here is that any worthwhile campaign on animal welfare must be careful to deprive the far-right of another opportunity to demonise British muslims.  The BNP and other fascist hangers-on will be unable to make political capital out of the Skegness abattoir controversy if they are opposed, and we hope that – yet again – they will be shown for the two-faced opportunists that they are.


Jan 28 2012

Race hate on the rise in Lincolnshire

Recent statistics released by Lincolnshire Police suggest that racially and religiously aggravated crimes in the county have risen by 22% over the past 5 years. The number of racist incidents has also risen by 12% over the same period. The most commonly reported crimes were racially  motivated criminal damage, verbal abuse and minor assaults. Nationally, racist incidents decreased by 18% over the same period.

The Lincolnshire Echo illustrates the story by interviewing Munir Zafar, an 18 year old from Afghanistan, who was attacked in Lincoln in 2010. Zafar suffered a fractured skull and cheekbone as a result of the racist attack.  “When I first came,” he said, “people would look at me in the street and argue with me over nothing. I was always thinking people might swear at me or want to start a fight.” He says he last experienced racist abuse in the street 4 months ago.

This very worrying trend might be partly explained by tension over the large number of migrant workers employed in Lincolnshire’s agricultural economy. Lincolnshire farmers have realised that they can take advantage of migrant labour at much lower wages than local workers. This has led to large numbers of migrants arriving in the area looking for work, often living in extremely poor conditions, and a strong downwards pressure on wages.

The far right have been looking for opportunities to exploit this tension. We are not talking about the deranged babbling of David Icke lovers, the Lincolnshire Voice here, but the more cynical elements in the BNP, EDL and their fellow travellers. They were given an opportunity last October, when Boston resident, Dean Everitt, organised a march against immigration on Facebook. Stating that “we are fed up of being second class citizens in our own town. The British person is being discriminated against in their own country”, Everitt claimed that “We are not racist…  but we are saying this place is now full and we should not have any more.” He was also reported as saying “The problem is simple – they need to shut the floodgates.”

Unfortunately Everitt failed to identify the problem as an economic one, driven by the bosses of the farms who want to exploit cheap labour. If decent pay and conditions were the norm and the practice of housing workers in poor conditions abolished, local workers would be able to find work again. Instead, Everitt focussed on cultural invasion, using language reminiscent of xenophobic politicians of the past. And whether or not you believe his claim not to be a racist, his march instantly became a beacon for fascists of all stripes.

It was soon picked up by the BNP as well as EDL offshoot, Casuals United. Each far right website moulded the story to fit its own agenda with the BNP trumpeting “People in Lincolnshire have had enough of migrant workers who have invaded their county”. The London Patriot used it to push the line that “the Labour party don’t support the white working class anymore” and the South West Nationalists claimed that “there are plenty of tales of drunken Eastern Europeans urinating in public, and of being able to walk through the town and come across next to nobody who speaks English.” Needless to say, no sources for these tales were produced.

Realising that he was going to attract all kinds of misfits, boneheads and delusional idiots if he went ahead with his march, Everitt cancelled saying that he was worried about it being hijacked.

The incident showed that organised fascists are taking an interest in the situation in Lincolnshire and trying to exploit the tensions between the settled community and migrant workers for political gain. Wherever the far right and their poisonous propaganda gain a foothold, racist attacks follow.