The Students’ Union has apologised for selling non-halal beef burgers to Muslim students in Falmer Bar, East Slope and The Hatch.
The Union blamed its private catering company, Blend Catering, for the error, saying: “Checking the menus are accurate is [their] responsibility”.
President of the Islam Society Ridwan Barbhuiyan told The Badger that some Muslims would not eat in the Union outlets again “due to doubt”.
He went on: “For most Muslims, eating halal meat is a significant aspect of their lives that they wish to uphold…to not maintain this behaviour, of eating halal food, is considered as going against God’s Word; something Muslims, by definition, do not wish to do and actively try not to do”.
However, he praised the Students’ Union for acting “swiftly to minimise any further fallout” and for consulting with on-campus Muslims to “prevent such an incident happening again”. He said: “I think [the incident] has actually highlighted the inclusive ethos of the SU”.
Blend Catering, the Student Union’s private caterer of six years, has agreed to pay out £500 to the Islam Society’s charity of choice.
In 2013 the SU strongly opposed the privatisation of University catering services, saying that private caterers have “poorer ethics”. It also cited the “negative impacts” of outsourcing on “student welfare” and “student employment”.
When asked to reconcile this position with its use of Blend Catering, the Union said: “We work very closely with our caterer, with elected students involved in decisions regarding product range, choice and pricing. This unique relationship has been very successful in providing food for almost all student dietary needs and budgets, meaning that more students now eat in our venues than ever before. “We have worked with Blend Catering for six years without incident until this unfortunate error…”
The Students’ Union said they “share responsibility” for the mistake, pointing out that “Students’ Union staff, as well as the caterers, failed to spot the error”. The mistake was confined to the “halal” beef burgers.
The rest of their menu has been thoroughly checked and no further mistakes have been found. A “far more robust checking procedure” has now been implemented to avoid further menu blunders.
Meat is considered halal if, at the moment of slaughter, God’s name is invoked with praise. Islam Society President Barbhuiyan explained: “[it is an] acknowledgement that one is killing another creature with God as their witness, i.e., they are not taking life for the sake of it, but are doing so to sustain their own (or that of others)”.
The animal’s carotid artery, jugular vein and windpipe must be severed in a single swipe; its blood is then drained. There is debate in the Muslim community regarding whether or not the animal should be conscious or stunned during the process.