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Halal

Halal

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Halal food, food prepared according to sharia law, has become a staple of the Western diet – and much of this food is sold unlabelled.  Halal is a multi-billion dollar global industry involving agriculture and farming, food processing, catering, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, tourism and trade. 

 

Sharia Watch UK is concerned about the growth of the halal food industry for the following reasons:

  1. It is our belief that funds from the halal industry are being used by Islamist groups to enhance the power of sharia law in Britain and around the world.  We oppose this primarily due to the threat the expansion of sharia poses to the safety and rights of women and girls (see ‘Women’), and we have serious concerns about the protections of free speech and the rights of non-Muslims and people of all faiths and none.
  2. Sharia Watch UK believes that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that halal funds are, at least in part, helping to fund Islamist terrorism globally.  We contend that this should, and must, be investigated by the relevant authorities.
  3. Sharia Watch UK believes that the consumer must have freedom to choose whether or not to purchase or consume halal products.  We therefore believe that firm steps should be taken to ensure that such choice is available and that all halal foods, including meat, be labelled as such.  Furthermore, we believe that the public should be informed as to the process of halal meat production, as well as information about the organisations which provide halal certification, thereby allowing the consumer to make an informed choice. 

A Mail on Sunday investigationhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1313303/Britain-goes-halal---tel... in 2010 found that schools, hospitals, pubs and sporting venues throughout Britain are routinely serving halal meat unlabelled.  Iconic arenas named included Ascot, Twickenham and Wembley Stadium.  NHS hospitals serving halal meat, without informing patients, include London’s largest Trust - Guy’s & St Thomas. 

In 2013, an East London newspaper reportedhttp://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/10334813.Halal_meat_served_in_thre... that three quarters of schools in the London Borough of Waltham Forest were serving halal meat to all pupils.  These schools were under the control of the Borough Council.  The same report referred to a school in Chingford which informed parents that meat served there would be replaced by an all-halal menu, prompting protests from some parents.  A council spokesperson is reported to have said “All meat provided to local schools is certified by the Halal Food Authority.”

Various reports of people being fired from their jobs for accidentally serving non-halal meat have emerged over recent years.  A dinner lady was fired from a Birmingham school in 2013 for serving non-halal meat at a supposed multi-faith school.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2281855/Dinner-lady-sacked-servi... The subsequent news reports confirmed that 1,400 pupils at Moseley school were routinely being served halal meat, regardless of religion and without being informed.  The head-teacher apologised for the unintentional error of allowing non-halal meat to be supplied, but many Muslim parents demanded punishment.  A Birmingham City Council spokesperson also apologised. 

Furthermore, many people have raised concerns about the non-meat halal market, and some have alleged that the money raised through halal certification is being used to fund Islamist organisations, and even terrorist groups.

In the United States and Canada, some foods have been reportedly receiving halal certification from the Islamic Society of North America, a group which advocates sharia law and which is allegedly linked to Hamas - a terrorist group with a founding charter that calls for the killing of Jews.  The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was co-founded by Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian.  In 2007, ISNA was named by the US Government as a co-conspirator in a federal trial for transferring millions of dollars of funds to Hamas.

Following criticism in 2010, Campbell’s Soups, which had been paying for halal certification from the ISNA, ended its association and changed its halal certifier to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA).  Not long afterwards however, it was discovered that ISNA and IFANCA had joined forces.  IFANCA had already been named as the largest halal certification organisation in the United States.

In France, the revenue of the halal food industry has been estimated at around $7 billion.  One reporthttp://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2011/january/muslim-halal-food-sales-su... claimed that the second largest fast food outlet in France – the Quick chain – is serving only halal in several of its restaurants.  This is of specific concern because, according to the report, Quick is almost exclusively owned by the French government and as such, campaigners have argued that the French state is in breach of its secular commitments by aiding a religion-based food supply chain.

It is further alleged that halal certification in France is often provided by the UOIF, or Union of the Islamic Organizations in France, which according to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.  French journalist and author Alexandre del Valle was threatened with violence when he investigated the extent of halal food in France.  His investigation concluded "Nearly 60 percent of halal food is controlled by organizations belonging to the Muslim brotherhood."

Thought to be the most influential body involved in certifying halal food in Britain is the Halal Food Authority (HFA).  HFA claims to certify a “variety of foods including ready meals, snacks & savouries, bakery and confectionery products, dairy, beverages, food additives, colours, flavours, emulsifiers, oils & fats, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.”http://halalfoodauthority.com/about-us/achievements-of-halal-food-author... It also claims to be the first organisation of its kind in Britain to have issued a book of guidance for manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and retailers of halal food.  Furthermore, its stated objective is to facilitate “the Muslim Ummah to be partial to genuinely manufactured halal food in compliance with HFA Halal Standards.” 

The HFA provides a definition of halal as follows:

Zabihah [the ritual slaughter] require animals to be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter, since carrion is forbidden and, jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe have to be severed by a razor sharp knife by a single swipe, to incur as less a pain as possible. Here the only difference is that a rabbi will read what is required by his faith and, a Muslim will recite tasmiya or shahada, which fulfills the requirement of dedication. The question of how to overcome the issue of recitation of shahada on individual bird whence we now have poultry being slaughtered at a rate of six to nine thousand per hour, has already been addressed. A Muslim is commanded to commence all his deeds in the name of Allah. All the flowing blood (al- An`am 6:145) must be drained out of the carcass, as blood is forbidden

Swine flesh is also forbidden, and it is repeated in few other places in the Qur`an

Forbidden is an animal that has been killed by strangling or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall

What now becomes abundantly clear for halal purposes is that:

  1. An animal should not be dead prior to slaughter
  2. A Muslim should perform slaughter
  3. Any flowing blood of the carcass should be completely drained
  4. Choice of modern and in vogue method has to be considered with caution and, it should be in line with Islamic principles

A list of companies supplied with certification from the HFA can be found here:

http://halalfoodauthority.com/certified-members/newly-approved-clients-members

The Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) is a registered charity based in Leicester.  It claims to have been established “to help ensure that all Muslims could be confident that the meat and products they consume are ‘genuinely Halal’. The HMC organisation is an independent, non-profit, registered charity which monitors, inspects and certifies Halal products for the benefit of the Muslim community.”http://www.halalhmc.org/test-demo.htm  The committee also professes to employ approximately 145 members of staff.  As a registered charity, the HMC will enjoy tax breaks including tax relief and exemption on some income. 

Among the “problems” listed by HMC which can render halal authenticity questionable, include non-Muslims carrying out the slaughter - rendering the meat Haram (forbidden), and the stunning of animals prior to slaughter. 

HMC describes the eating of halal food as “an essential part of the Islamic faith” and states “By being careless about the dietary laws of Islam a believer puts himself in harms way both in this world and the world hereafter.”  The HMC organises several events across the UK to discuss halal and raise awareness of both the religious requirements and issues regarding authenticity.  Almost all of these events scheduled for 2014 were either for male attendees only, or were segregated by gender.http://www.halalhmc.org/news_listing.htm?news_cat_id=2

How are animals slaughtered in accordance with halal? 

The halal preparation of meat consists of cutting the throat of a fully conscious animal while uttering an Islamic prayer, and then allowing the animal to bleed to death.  This procedure can only be carried out by a Muslim.  By law, animals slaughtered for meat in the UK must first be rendered unconscious (“stunned”) – but the law allows exemptions to this stunning requirement for religious reasons. 

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has stated that “Evidence clearly indicates that slaughter without pre-stunning can cause unnecessary suffering.”http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/farm/slaughter/religiousslaughter 

The Government advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council argues that the practice should be bannedhttp://www.fawc.org.uk/reports/pb8347.pdf because animals experience "very significant pain and distress" before they become unconscious. 

According to the National Secular Society, “the Government no longer keeps statistics on religious slaughter and said in October 2010 that it did not know the number of halal slaughterhouses.”http://www.secularism.org.uk/uploads/ritual-slaughter-of-animals-briefin...

As well as the above, there are further concerns surrounding employment; only a Muslim can carry out the ritual slaughter demanded of halal, and as such, as the market grows, a de facto discrimination against non-Muslims emerges in the abattoir employment field.  The law potentially allows for exemptions to discriminatory employment laws for reasons such as these (if it can be argued, legally, that there is a “genuine occupational requirement”), however this merely compounds the advantage of Muslims in employment terms in the meat market as halal continues to expand.

Halal and Kosher

Whilst many people express concern regarding the slaughter methods employed in both halal and Kosher meat production, from an animal welfare point of view – and Sharia Watch UK believes consumers should be able to make an informed choice in respect to both – we believe it is important to make the following important distinctions in relation to the halal and Kosher meat markets. 

  1. We can find no evidence to suggest that the funds from Kosher meat are being used to fund the advancement of a parallel legal system which discriminates against women
  2. We can find no evidence to suggest that funds raised from the Kosher meat market is being used to promote or sustain terrorism-linked organisations
  3. We can find no evidence that people have been fired from school canteens for failing to serve, or wrongly serving, Kosher or non-Kosher products