French far-right leader Marine Le Pen switched her presidential campaign strategy back to Muslim-bashing on Sunday, by claiming all meat in Paris was halal, as she tried to head off President Nicolas Sarkozy's attempts to lure away her supporters.
Le Pen claimed during a party congress for her National Front party on Saturday that all meat produced in abattoirs in the Paris area was halal and not subject to standard slaughter regulations. According to her, there is not a "single abattoir in Ile-de-France that is not halal" and she has "proof".
"This situation is a real deception and the government has been fully aware of it for months," she told reporters at the conference. "All the abattoirs in the Paris region sell halal meat without exception."
The claims come after a television program "Special Envoy" on France 2, in which FranÃ§ois HallepÃ©e, the director of the Ile-de-France Livestock House that also represents breeders, said abattoirs in the region "all slaughter according to Muslim ritual, therefore 100 percent of slaughter is halal in Ile-de-France."
Aides to Le Pen said she would file a legal complaint against distributors for "misrepresentation of the product" of halal meat to consumers.
Dominique Langlois, President of the National Association of Interprofessional Livestock and Meat (Interbev) which represents meat industry unions said "Ritual slaughter in France represents less than 10 percent of the total and the Ile-de-France abattoirs represent less than one percent of French slaughter.
"To say that all meat sold in Paris or around Paris is home halal, it is absolutely false."
The Ministry of Food said Sunday that meat distributed in Ile-de-France was by no means exclusively "halal", as stated by Le Pen, saying it came from various regions of France and not only the Ile-de-France. "The meat is distributed in the Ile de France comes not only from slaughterhouses [there], because there are very few and these are very small slaughterhouses," a spokesman said. "It comes mainly from the Rungis market, which come from meats come from all over France," he added.
Industry professionals claim she has confused "slaughter" and "distribution". According to FrÃ©dÃ©ric Freund, the director of OABA, the movement for assistance for abattoired animals, three of four meat abattoirs in the region practise ritual slaughter without stunning. The fourth is a pig slaughterhouse. There are no figures for poultry abattoirs. "The problem," says Freund, "is that this meat (halal) are not found in all distribution channels halal. As a result, consumers unwittingly eating the meat of the Jewish ritual slaughter or Muslim." OABA said that not all halal meat ended up in halal shops and consumers sometimes eat it without being aware of it.
Le Pen is third in opinion polls behind front runner Francois Hollande and incumbent Sarkozy as she struggles to avoid a repeat of 2007, when Sarkozy wooed the far right, destroying her support base.
The first round of the presidential election is on April 22, although the final round on May 6 is expected to be a showdown between Sarkozy and Hollande, with Hollande in the lead in polls so far.
There has been a noted increase into anti-Muslim sentiment in France in the political sphere, with a ban on the burqa coming into force in April 2011, and a ban on street prayers after Muslims were forced to pray in the streets as there were not enough mosques to accommodate them.
"Le Pen attempts turns up heat on Sarkozy with all Paris meat halal claim" Al Arabiya February 20, 2012
"Marine Le Pen aims to put bite on Nicolas Sarkozy with halal meat claim" The Guardian UK February 19, 2012
"France Elections: Marine Le Pen, Far-Right Presidential Candidate, Slams Sarkozy For Bowing To 'Islamic Radicals' Over Halal Meat Claims" Huffington Post February 20, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today