Sunday, May 11, 2014

To Halal or Not to Halal

Okay, I found another twitter topic to discuss. Yay. Good ol' twitter. Perfect for writing prompts. The issue this time? Halal vs non halal meat. There has been quite a kurfuful regarding the use of halal meats in the UK by some chain restaurants, which has brought a wide ranging discussion about how meat is slaughtered, the role religion plays in this slaughter and in society as a whole, the desire for people to have halal meat labelled as such and then outright right wing attacks on everything to do with Islam or Muslims (as well as right win religious attacks on all that is of the kufr).

Now, apparently, when the glorious Quran was revealed to everyone's favourite prophet, Mohammed, god had a specific way in which he wanted animals slaughtered. This involved a slitting of the neck of the animal and having a lovely prayer said over the beast. That god. He thought of everything, didn't he?

Some say that halal is a brutal, cruel way of killing an animal because it is not stunned before the life ending procedure. Others say is it more humane because....well, god said it was. Truthfully? I don't see it as being any better or worse than non halal slaughter. In theory, both are supposed to be humane or not humane depending on who is determining this (which is not the animals who aren't able to tell us what they would prefer). Too much of our meat comes from factory farms and mass slaughterhouses that hardly provide animals with a decent life. At the same time, there is a growing desire by people to have their meat prepared in more humane ways, wanting to ensure that it is free range and free of growth hormones. They want a better life for the animals they eat before eating them. So, this desire is growing. People want less brutality, but still love a good burger!

Proponents of halal meat say that their method is the antithesis to the brutality of non halal meat while proponents of non halal meat say their method is the antithesis to the brutality of halal meat. Both are right and both are wrong. On paper, both systems look good. In non halal, animals are supposed to be stunned before slaughter. The fact is, that this can often be botched or not adhered to in the most humane of ways. Likewise, the idea that a quick slice to the throat provides a snappy demise is often not properly adhered to with not sharp enough blades, slightly off slices, etc. In the end, both systems have their flaws and benefits.

The demand in the UK is at least for labelling of halal meat so that people know what they are getting and can decide for themselves. Seems fair and reasonable. Yet, for some reason, there seems to be a backlash against this idea. Why? I have no clue. Just label the stuff. There are others calling for an outright banning of religious slaughter like Denmark did. Is this right? Well, sure, I'm not against it, nor for it. I don't believe some god of some sort gave man the idea of how to slaughter animals. It was a man made idea and it's from 1400 years ago (at least in terms of halal). If we have better methods now, and we know how to kill an animal in a more humane way because, you know, we have evolved in our understanding of the world and the creatures we exist with, then we should go with the best method possible. I'm not sure that halal is necessarily, however, as horrible as some say. Again, not being an animal that is about to have it's throat slit, I have no clue what an animal would prefer.

There seems to be some ridiculousness on all sides. First off, I'm getting a bit tired of the Muslims who are critical of non Muslims who wish to not eat halal meat. I've seen them be called ignorant racists, over reactionaries, etc. At the same time, if Muslims were eating non halal meat that they thought was halal, the outrage would be significant. So, there seems to be a bit of a lack of understanding of peoples desires outside of the Muslim community, dismissing the requests of non Muslims. Basically, I say, if you would refuse to eat non halal meat, don't get mad at people because they don't want to eat halal meat. At the same time, we have people saying this is another case of creeping Sharia and must be fought and using it as another way to be right wing idiots. Whatever. Both sides are kind of clued out.

Basically, the solution is, just label the stuff. Make sure people know what they are consuming. We have/request labels for everything from GMO's, free range, organic, place of origin, quality, etc. I don't understand why labelling halal meat as halal meat as an issue. One person on twitter said that it would open up restaurants and people to attacks and they shouldn't be singled out. Huh? Look, just label the stuff. Nothing wrong with it.

It's interesting though that the fury echoes an experience had when we were living in Qatar. Qatar is a pork free country. You can't even buy proper marshmallows because apparently they contain pork by products. Alcohol could only be purchased at a few select restaurants, and at a store in the industrial area that you had to have a special permit to shop at. The store thought they might import some pork so that people with this permit could indulge. Oh man, the uproar. The store was run by Qatar Airways. There were calls to boycott the airline, and so much furor over the idea that a bit of pork may enter the country. The backlash was immense. There, however, when there is anger like this, it is called asking others to adhere to "cultural sensitivities". When it happens in the's racism...:) Mind you, I still can't figure out which race Islam is, or what race halal slaughter is associated with.

Russell Brand visited the East London Mosque (guided by non other than our good friend Mo Ansar) the other day and said something to the nature of "If you don't want to eat halal, become a vegetarian not a racist". Again, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the fact that Islam isn't a race. As I have said a million and one times, it is a religion, a set of ideas that are open to disagreement, debate, satire and even outright dislike. It is not, and should never be, immune to criticism. It is a religion. It's not okay to hate Muslims just because they are Muslims. That's hating people. But to hate ideas? Not an issue. The idea of halal meat is just that, an idea within a greater set of ideas of how the world should be. Therefore, it should not be protected. It should be questioned, and struck down if shown to be wrong.

So, the issue of halal vs non halal is complex yet simple as the same time. Let's go with the simple part of this: Just label the stuff. Accept that there are going to be differing opinions. If determined to be a completely inhumane way of dealing with slaughter, then consider banning it. It isn't racist to ban a practise that isn't good. Will people have an issue with it? Of course. But, first and foremost, animal welfare should come first here. At the moment, because I don't know enough because I am not an expert in this field, I say just label it. If there is conclusive evidence that halal slaughter is not a good way to go, then I'm not against banning it. At the same time, I think we should be looking at factory farming and mass slaughter practises as well. There is a huge movement scrutinizing them, so it's not like it is an ignored issue as some on the pro halal side claim. It is an issue and many are working on it. But there is no doubt, that is just as big of an issue as halal meat. Let's just do the best we can for the animals. Label meat so people know the source. And continue to research the best methods to slaughter.


  1. Hi, we've been debating this issue on Twitter, so I'm just going to tell you my point of view, which can't be taken as the definitive response of Islam but by the same token, I hope most Muslims agree with me.

    Firstly, in response to the idea of meat being labelled. Yes. It makes sense. I have no objection to meat being labelled. That's my view and it's probably the view of most Muslims.

    The debates taking place seem to be about the method of halal meat. The debate is healthy, but the way this issue has been portrayed in the media has really highlighted the anti-Muslim feeling many seem to be holding.

    Many digs have been thrown not just at the halal method, but also at Islam itself. We explain the method to the best of our ability and get responses like, "Well that's your belief, not ours. Why is being forced down our throats? It should be labelled. Sharia is taking over."

    Straw Man Fallacy.

    All we can do is explain our methods. Agree or disagree. Don't use the fact we are explaining it to say we are forcing it on non-Muslims or that we are opposing that it should be labelled.

    Muslims aren't stupid. We can read the feeling behind the comments. This feeling has lasted for some time. Fine, hate us. But don't try to portray us as an uncompromising bunch of insensitive brutes who want everything their own way. The more you do that, the more Muslims will see that side in you.

    1. You do make some fair comments here. However, I think it must be stressed that Islam is a religion and is open to criticism. Yes, indeed, halal slaughter is governed by the religion which is a belief system. Like I say in my post, I am not convinced halal slaughter is worse/better than non halal. Both have their advantages/disadvantages. But, it seems that some of the backlash by Muslims goes back to this whole idea of defending the religion, that the religion can't be questioned, that it's bad to not like certain religious beliefs. I don't believe it is. I don't believe it is wrong to dislike belief systems. It is wrong when people attack Muslims just for being Muslims and I can't stress that enough. But a religion is a belief system, so there is nothing wrong with looking at ideas within it, or the whole thing, and not liking or agreeing with it.

      So, if the idea here is to stop people from speaking badly about the religion that you feel they don't understand, then I don't think that is a fair argument at all. You did raise the point on twitter about blaming Muslims for halal meat being used at places like Subway when it wasn't their decision. Very fair point and I give that to you. BUT, that doesn't mean that people necessarily should like the fact that the meat is halal. If they look at the methods, look at some of the statements made by vets and animal welfare groups, and decide that they don't feel halal is a good, humane slaughter method, then there is nothing wrong with that. And people should have the right and ability to choose based on their beliefs or evidence they have, just as Muslims choose to eat halal meat.

      I do feel that the desire to protect the religion and the backlash by some Muslims to the labelling of meat as halal or non halal so that people can choose is a bit unfair. Even if people hate Islam, it doesn't's a matter of choice. And, like I pointed out above, the same "hysteria" happened when I was in Qatar, just the opposite way. Of course, as I point out, when it is there it is adhering to "cultural sensitivies" but when it is done in the UK it is "racist" and "Islamophobic". Why? Interesting.

    2. Again, you seem to be having the wrong argument. This isn't a Muslim backlash against people who are criticising halal. Even in our twitter debate, when it was first brought up, all I did was explain the method and the benefits.

      I didn't ask you agree, I didn't criticise your methods, I just explained our way. On the other hand, we have to put up with criticism of our methods, hear people say that they hate Islam and have every right to do so and then told to adhere to a system of labelling.

      Why do this? Who is it helping? You think any group will happily accept this level of criticism without responding?

      You have every right to hate Islam, but why announce it so brazenly? What would happen if you declared that you hate Jews, Hindus or Buddhists? Think about that for a second.

      You have every right to criticise our methods but why complain when a Muslim responds to the criticism and say that we don't allow any criticism of Islam.
      Would you stay quiet if I criticised your blog and said it was racist, for example? There's a difference between not allowing criticism and responding to criticism.

      You then offer a solution of labelling and then insist Muslims are somehow against labelling while we are still explaining why we think our method is right.

      Whether labelling exists or not, Muslims will still defend their ways. When a compromise is made between two parties, both sides will still continue to argue their case. That's not to say they can't abide by the compromise.

      Like I said earlier, the way this whole debate is taking place says a lot more than what is actually said.

    3. Replied to this below. Forgot to press the reply button...:)

  2. Again, you seem to be blurring some lines here. Like I said, Islam, just as Judaism, Hinduism, Maoism, Communism, Capitalism and any other ism is a set of ideas. Therefore, YES, they are open to being disagreed at and even completely disliked. Ideas are not people. Attacking Muslims just for being Muslim, or a Jew just for being Jew, or whatever IS bad. Disliking a set of IDEAS is not. If you don't like people NOT liking your particular set of ideas, that is your problem, not anyone elses.

    You keep trying to insist that your method is right. Well, it's very much up for debate. You believe it is right, others disagree. They have every right to and every right to demand labelling. Heck, I'm just reading a report from the RSPCA who recommended labelling YEARS ago so people can make an informed choice. Again, I don't understand this backlash about labelling, which it is. You seem rather erked at the idea that people don't agree that your method is the best way, and I question why you think your method is the best way? Like I said, as a Muslim, you don't really have a choice. You believe god has told you the method you follow is the right method. That means it is part of a belief system. It is a belief. And, if you do not at adhere to it or change your belief and start to believe that halal maybe is not the best way, it becomes a direct challenge to your religion, god and the quran. So, your hands seem a bit tied. Those who aren't Muslim don't have there hands tied and are demanding labelling. Well, no everyone, but a good number of people AND organizations like the RSPCA and the EU. Yet, the idea that food would be labelled as such seems to be a big issue amongst Muslims, and I don't get it. There is a backlash to this idea.

    The thing is, you keep saying your method is RIGHT. There are arguments and evidence for AND against it. You seem to fail to see the against it side, or at least dismiss it, and I believe that part of that is because it would create a difficult situation where you would have to question the demands of your god, and most religious followers aren't about to do that, especially when the belief is that the god and the religion are perfect. So, I DON'T believe the belief that halal is the right way is coming from an unbiased view. That isn't to say I believe halal is completely wrong. What it means is that I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

    The best solution that I can see to all this is label it and make it clear what people are consuming so that they can make their decisions. It doesn't even have to matter WHY they choose what they choose. They have the right to choose. Period.

    And, if you want to call my blog racist, go ahead. That is your opinion and your view. I may say it isn't. But ultimately, if that is what you believe, then that is what you believe. And you are right, there is a difference between not allowing criticism and responding to criticism. Unfortunately, too much of the responding to criticism against Islam seems to come down to "How dare you criticize our religion, you racist Islamophobes!", combined with a desire for people to not say anything negative about the religion.

  3. Holy damn, I'm sorry but your last comment is PURE drivel. None of the points you have made refer to anything I've actually said and you've created false arguments attributed to me so you can knock them down.

    I'll say it again. Straw Man Fallacy.

    1. Labelling. I've said that this is something I agree with twice. Why bring it up again in a way that suggests I disagree?

    2. I didn't actually call your blog racist. I even said 'for example'. My point was - and I'm pretty sure you know this - that you can criticise Islam but don't expect Muslims to quietly accept that criticism. Everyone has a right to reply. If you are big enough to criticise something, then be big enough to listen to the response.

    3. Again, I haven't disagreed with your right to dislike any religion. What I had an issue with was your brazen attitude and how you think that would improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims on opposite sides of the debate. If you disagree with something, disagree respectfully.

    4. When did I call you Islamophobic? Yes, I believe the method of my faith is correct but I'm the only one here debating that method. You are not debating the issue of halal vs non-halal. You are debating my right to believe what I want. I believe halal is correct and have stated the reasons. You haven't given your reasons, you've just gone into a tirade about how Muslims think they're right.

    I really urge you to read my previous comment again and read the points I'm actually making and respond to them. Don't make up pathetic little ideas that neither you or I agree with and then attribute them to me.

    1. 1. Okay. Good. Agreed. Still don't know why so many other people have an issue with it. But glad you agree. We agree. Agreed. Good.

      2. I know...:) I know you weren't. The point I was trying to make is, it is okay to criticize. My blog, any blog, is a set of ideas basically. It is open to interpretation and criticism. The point is that you can call it whatever you want. I may respond or defend or whatever. But, I did get your point. I know you didn't think my blog was racist necessarily. You were trying to make a point, I was trying to make a point using the same analogy, but I don't think it worked.

      3. What I am trying to say is that there is a difference between disgreeing with Islam and a difference between disgreeing with Muslims. Again, Islam is a set of ideas that are open to interpretation, disagreement, debate, even outright mocking and disliking. Ideas are NOT protected. It is not wrong to not like ideas. Now, like I said, attacking MUSLIMS just for being Muslims isn't right. That is not attacking ideas, but people. The distinction needs to be made here. Ideas should not be protected. Basically, the impression I get is that what would satisfy you is blasphemy laws. That is not a direction I wish to see any country go in.

      4. No, you haven't said I am Islamophobic. What I am talking about is some of the reaction by others that I have seen. Much of what I was trying to do was not meant as what you personally are doing, but what I see happening in this larger debate. On the reverse side, I was talking about you and this sense you have that halal is right and therefore people who eat it shouldn't be concerned. There just seems to be a lack of understanding of the feelings of others. I do see you insisting that halal is the right way, and I was trying to point out why I feel that this is the case, and I stand by what I said. Basically, even if Muslims did look at halal and feel that it wasn't right, it would shake the foundation of the faith to admit it. So, that puts the idea that halal is good in a troubled position. I don't mean that as an attack and never did. If you don't agree, fine. Do I think halal is right? No. Do I think non halal is right? No. What I think is both have their pluses and minuses as I have been trying to point out. I do have an issue with the fact that so many Muslims are taking the approach that halal is the right way, the only way, and can't understand why others wouldn't agree. If you aren't, good. Then we are seeing eye to eye. If you think it is absolutely right and other methods are wrong then I DO disagree with you.

      Hope that helps. I didn't think I went that far off track. Sometimes my brain gets going and I write a ton of stuff that pops into my head and sometimes it can seem rambling and chaotic. Sometimes it doesn't come out clear and I have to clarify. So, I hope that I am more on the mark with this response.

    2. I really didn't like the tone of this one. It was quite disrespectful. It also missed many facts.

      First of all, I know many non halal eaters that prefer halal meat because there is less blood in it. It tastes better.

      Also, it is respect for the gift of eating the meat you can say in a way. You kill the animal in the name of God, like a blessing which native cultures also do and Western people always find so beautiful and engaging but this is the same thing.

      In terms of being humane, medically speaking it is a much easier death to cut the aorta and bleed quickly than some other ways. Maybe cutting the neck quickly is also painless, but as far as I understand this is not a painful death and gives the time to kind of bless the soul of the animal as it passes.

      You only have to watch Food Inc to know there are some pretty inhumane ways to slaughter animals, and if you see the animal not quite killed than put into boiling water to remove the fur, it's heartbreaking. But it can happen in some slaughter houses for halal because some oversimplify how they do that and I guess an over production of meat ends up being humane (one of the major reasons I'm mostly vegetarian now. We do have meat maybe once a month, but for environmental, humane and HEALTH we avoid it)

      I'm responding because I like when you go with random thoughts, but this one was quite disrespectful.

    3. Well, I was going for a bit of sarcastic tone, for sure. I am not a big fan of religion, and definitely poked a bit of fun at it here. Is that the part that you found disrespectful? As far as your arguments, yup, everyone has them. Both sides in the debate have their views on it, both very passionately, both insisting that they are RIGHT. So, who is right? I ride in the middle, and hoped to get that across. Now, there aren't a ton of facts in here, mostly because there is so much propoganda and info out there on all sides making their arguments, with videos and studies to prove their points that I really truly do not know what is better or worse. You argue halal is better. Others argue the other way. The reality is that both sides have their points, and my solution is just label the stuff so people know what they are getting and can make their choices.

  4. My concern is there is a lot of anti-halal facebook post and emails going around that try to suggest that money from the halal certification goes to fund terrorist groups. I really doubt this - the manufacturers simply want to broaden their market and make more sales. Surely a product like butter or vegemite can put the halal label on as a sign it carries no blood or pork products etc. It makes no difference to me, and the cost of certification will be the administrative cost to prove it - not a commission from every sale that then funds terrorists. Anyone back me up on this?

    1. I agree. I don't think it's some grand conspiracy to raise money for terrorism. It's pretty laughable really.