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KFC Canada faces new backlash over halal chicken amid Gaza boycott

Thousands have called for a boycott of the fast food chain, alleging start of a Muslim takeover, while others slammed the response as racist
KFC Canada launches a halal-certified menu across Ontario (Mohd Rasfan/AFP)

KFC Canada has found itself at the centre of controversy after announcing that it would transition to serving chicken prepared according to Islamic dietary laws.

Early in May, the fast food chain announced that it would start serving halal-certified chicken and discontinue pork products across much of its restaurants in Ontario province - which is home to Canada’s largest Muslim community -  in a bid to provide more "diverse and inclusive" options for its customers.

The transition affects all KFC stores within the southeastern territory, except for ones in Thunder Bay and capital Ottawa, though the change would be rolled out across the whole country by the end of year, the chain said in their statement dated 8 May.

Social media users were split on the change.

While some celebrated the steps taken by the popular fried chicken company, saying it would provide more dietary options, thousands took to social media, angry that the chain that been serving halal products for nearly two months, and called for its boycott under several hashtags.

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Some argued that halal meat was a "barbaric form of torture” and alleged that KFC's decision was a sign of an impending takever of the country by Muslims - who constitute around 4.9 percent of Canada's population.

In Islamic jurisprudence, rules for halal products - “lawful" or "permitted” in English -  encompass the sourcing, preparation, and cooking of foods and drinks. This also includes specific guidelines for meat, which animal welfare activists and far-right groups criticise as inhumane, as animals are not stunned before slaughter.

Others social media users alleged that the halal certification would lead to the establishment of sharia - or Islamic law - in Canada, and argued that KFC's announcement was a sign that “the loud minority dictates the policies”.

Several other users slammed these takes as racist or Islamophobic.

"When you see the #BoycottKFC hashtag trending and you're suddenly reminded how many dumb fucking racists live among us," posted one user on X, formerly Twitter.

Another said: "If you're upset by @KFC_Canada using halal chicken, turns out it's only because you suffer from Islamophobia. Hopefully, you can get past your stupid hatred and racism."

Officials and rights watchdogs in Canada have reported an "alarming" increase in anti-Muslim and antisemitic incidents in the country since the start of Israel's war on Gaza in October.

Last year, a Canadian Senate committee report found that Islamophobia is "deeply" entrenched in Canadian society, noting that far-right and anti-Muslim hate groups were growing, along with incidents of hate.

Double boycott

Several users also suggested alternative fried chicken joints, such as Mary Brown's, Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.

Others, however, pointed out that some of these chains had already been serving halal food at various locations prior to KFC’s announcement.

Meanwhile, another group of users have stated that they have already been boycotting the company for its alleged ties to Israel, which has waged a devastating war on Gaza since October.

“It doesn’t matter what @kfc did, still, Muslim world will #BoycottKFC due to their parent company association with Israel’s company,” one user wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

"They will try many things now that the boycott is there. But don't get distracted. Boycott KFC forever," said another user on Reddit.

Though KFC is not officially a target of the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the US chain has faced pushback in Muslim-majority countries across the Middle East and southeast Asia, and faced grassroots boycott calls alongside companies like Starbucks and McDonald's.

In April, KFC closed over 100 of its outlets in Malaysia amid a months-long boycott campaign over US support for Israel's war on Gaza.

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