The concepts of Kosher and Halal are codes to followers of Judaism and Islam about what food products are good and which are bad for them. The market for Halal food for Muslims in the West is a multibillion dollar industry with cut-throat competition.
American Muslims are one of the most racially diverse religious groups in the United States according to a 2009 Gallup poll. As other Muslims in the West, they may disagree about many things, but one thing they agree upon is that their meat is properly slaughtered or Halal and not Haram or improper.
What is Halal?
Here is a video of a properly done Halal slaughter. Warning: Gruesome and shocking to watch!
Since carrion or eating dead animals is forbidden, the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe are severed with a razor sharp knife by a single swipe, to cause minimal pain. Further, all the blood should naturally drain away and the meat kept away from Haram meat like pork.
One county in Ohio, USA has a 2005 law against selling or producing food mislabeled “Halal”, which does not meet Islamic dietary standards. Halal Monitoring Committee in the UK tries to provide comprehensive certification.
The Australian government regulates all Halal slaughter, but in France there are as many certification bodies as France has varieties of cheese. Halal Industry Development Corporation, based in Malaysia has tried to create a global Halal certification standard but not succeeded.
The market for Muslim food in the West is about $650 billion globally. Big European chains have been quick on the pursuit of this catch. The French Carrefour, the second largest retailer in the world, the British chain Sainsbury sells Halal meat and they even sell Halal chocolate at Tesco.
Are there any reasons for opposing the practice of halal and kosher?
- Animal rights groups, even if they might eat meat themselves, object to the Halal method of slaughter as the animal should be alive when the throat is slit and the animal does feel pain.
- Immediately after coming to power, the Nazis outlawed Jewish ritual slaughter (very similar to Halal). Mussolini followed suit. As the Allies liberated Europe, these bans were revoked except in Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
- Some countries like New Zealand insist on specific methods of stunning before ritual slaughter as a compromise.
I asked a Muslim friend of mine about his family's vegetarianism, and he replied "The one overall guideline on food that the Prophet gave was: Eat of what is halâl and what is agreeable to you. That says it all."