Austrian supermarket pulls halal meat after hate postings

VIENNA (AFP) - Austria's second-biggest supermarket chain has stopped a trial of selling halal meat after a storm of what it called "shocking" Islamophobic comments on social media.

"Because of (unfounded!) accusations and the overheated Facebook discussion, SPAR is ending its trial sale of halal meat in Vienna," the firm said in a statement on Thursday (Dec 3).

"As a local retailer for all communities in Austria we are sad and shocked by the tone of this discussion and taking the necessary steps," it added.

SPAR began last month selling two halal meat products - from animals slaughtered according to Islamic sharia law, widely available in other European countries - in 20 supermarkets in areas of Vienna with sizeable Muslim populations.

But the firm's Facebook page was inundated with comments criticising the trial, with many taking their opportunity to lash out at Islam, immigration and multiculturalism.

"What next - that you're only allowed to go shopping in a burqa or what?," one posting read, referring to the traditional face veil worn by some Muslim women.

"Halal stands for everything that Islam is about - brutality, contempt for life and intolerance for anyone who thinks or believes differently," another comment read.

Many of the criticisms were also about the way animals are killed in halal fashion but SPAR said its meat came from animals that had been stunned before their throats were cut.

"We are not pleased. But it seems that the time is not ripe yet in Austria for something like this," a SPAR spokeswoman said.