The divisive politics of pork in Europe

French far right National Front leader Marine Le Pen poses at a meat stand in the south of Paris (Jacques Brinon/AP)

French far right National Front leader Marine Le Pen poses at a meat stand in the south of Paris (Jacques Brinon/AP)

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Whether smuggled into mosques or jammed in the shoes of worshippers, pork has reportedly been used as a means to alienate, offend and attack those who follow Islam's dietary restrictions in parts of Western Europe.

Against this backdrop, the far right French political party National Front declared that pork-free meals would be banned from school canteens in any town where an NF candidate won -- a decision that some see as intentionally divisive.

For insight, Jian speaks with Gavan Titley, co-author of The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age. Titley is a journalist and an academic focusing on racism in Europe; he also teaches at the National University of Ireland.

Pig-whistle politics

Playing on the phrase 'dog-whistle politics' -- associated with former Australian Prime Minister John Howard -- Titley calls the pork issue an example of "pig-whistle politics".

The academic argues that Howard's government was quite prepared to play with strong anti-immigrant sentiments, but in a way that they could plausibly deny racism.

"Like a dog whistle can only be heard by dogs, but not by people, the idea was to phrase and frame issues in such a way that those who wanted to hear what you wanted them to hear could hear it -- but to others you could deny that that was your intention."

Similarly, in many European countries, he says pork has become "non-negotiable" to national identity. "In other words, if you don't eat pork, you're not really part of the national culture."

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