Last weekend, Nick Folkes and his anti-halal brigade were at it again.
After setting up a protest outside a Melbourne halal expo the week earlier, Folkes and his crew moved on to once more hassle expo-goers at the Sydney leg, waving placards, flags, and banners, as police kept them separate from an anti-fascist counter-protest.
Those involved in the anti-halal movement are fond of framing their objections to the process in pragmatic terms. Rather than saying they simply feel uncomfortable with Muslims, they try for broader arguments.
Folkes, as with others, likes to play up the animal welfare angle when making his case before anyone less than an open bigot. The line goes that halal slaughter harms animals in a way regular slaughter doesn’t. It’s a curious case to make when you consider the RSPCA is largely ok with halal slaughter in Australia, except for abattoirs that don’t pre-stun. The same problem applies to some kosher slaughter, by the way.
When Folkes recently went on talkback radio to defend the Melbourne protest, and host Neil Mitchell started to lose patience with him, he turned to the animal welfare argument.
For anti-Muslim agitators, ‘won’t somebody think of the chickens’, has become the equivalent.
So at the Sydney anti-expo protest, some effort was clearly made to frame the event as a matter of conscience on that point. The religious right are sometimes mocked for falling back to the line: ‘won’t somebody think of the children’.
People held signs branded with Folkes’ Party for Freedom logo that decried “halal animal cruelty” and chanted on cue, as this video shows.
Despite being posted by the same Party for Freedom, we can’t help but feel the video lets on more than it means too.
Which is why we chuckled as the camera pans across to reveal the other signs people at Folkes’ rally were holding.
“Anti-racist is code for anti-white,” one says.
“Illegals aren’t immigrants they’re criminals,” say observes.
Just your average animal welfare advocates, hey.
Folkes has a long history of anti-immigrant agitation, and in his case the animal welfare argument is clearly a fig leaf.
But the awkward juxtaposition of the half-baked side-arguments and the openly xenophobic placards seems like the perfect image to summarise the broader anti-halal – and indeed anti-Muslim – current in modern Australia. A relatively small number of people, terrified about an equally small number of brown immigrants, half-heartedly masquerading as something it is clear they are not. Happy to dog-whistle, but sadly aware that support for their core arguments only runs so deep.
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