WHAT IS HALAL?
Halal is an Arabic term in Islam which means permissible, allowed. Its antonym is Haram.
According to the dietary rules of Islam, halal refers to the foods that are fit for Muslim consumption.
Muslims are allowed to eat the meat of the following animals:
• Domesticated birds
With the exception of fish, Muslims will only be allowed to consume the meat of the aforementioned animals if:
1. They are slaughtered by a believer in Allah
2. At the time of slaughter the slaughter man recites, “I begin with Allah’s name and Allah is the Greatest,” or at the very least, “I begin with Allah’s name.”
3. With a very sharp knife the slaughter man manually swiftly cuts the oesophagus, trachea and the two jugular veins of the animal in a single cut. In the event of him being unable to cut all four he must cut at least any three of them.
Muslims are not allowed to eat the meat of the following animals
• Animals that were slaughtered without being blessed
• Animals that were dead prior to slaughter
• Birds of prey
• Domesticated donkeys
Muslims are also not allowed to have any intoxicants such as alcohol nor any blood.
WHY IS HALAL IMPORTANT TO MUSLIMS?
Halal is important to Muslims because it is a divine dictate. Allah has issued the following orders in the Holy Qurʾān:
• “Mankind, eat whatever on the earth is lawful and good, and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is a clear enemy to you.” (Chapter 2, verse 168)
• “Messengers, eat from the good foods [We have provided you] and perform righteous deeds.” (Chapter 23, verse 51)
• “You who believe, eat from the good things We have provided you and be grateful to Allah […].” (Chapter 2, verse 172)
• “So eat of that [meat] upon which Allah’s name has been taken, if you are believers in His verses.” (Chapter 6, verse 118)
• “And do not eat of that [meat] upon which Allah’s name has not been taken, for indeed, it is a grave sin.” (Chapter 6, verse121)
Compromising the dietary laws of Islam yields serious spiritual drawbacks. This is made clear in the following narrations:
• Abu Hurayrah reported, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) made mention of a man who undergoes a lengthy journey, dishevelled and dusty. He extends his hands to the sky [calling], ‘My Master, my Master.’ However his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothes are unlawful, and he has been nourished with unlawful [foods]. So how will he be answered?” (Sahih Muslim)
• Saʿd reported, “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, ‘Saʿd, make sure your food is pure. [By doing so] you will become one whose prayers are [always] answered. I swear by the Being in whose hands my soul lies, verily, [when] a servant [of Allah] throws down a haram morsel into his stomach, no deed of his is accepted [by Allah] for forty days.’” (Tabarani)
• Abu Bakr reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, ‘That body will not enter paradise that has been nourished with haram.’” (Bayhaqī)
WHAT IS MACHINE SLAUGHTER?
Machine slaughter is a convention that is typically used to slaughter poultry. Birds are slaughtered by being conveyed over a mechanical rotating blade at high speeds. The validity of this method for halal production has been debated by the Muslim community for several years now. Multiple observations show that this method is unacceptable to serve as halal slaughter for the following reasons:
1. The condition for the slaughter man to be a Muslim is compromised. Typically, in this type of operation, a person simply turns on the mechanical blade and then moves away from the area. He plays no role in the slaughter process thereafter.
2. Due to the swift speed of the slaughter, it is impractical to bless each and every single bird individually prior to slaughter. Hence many birds get slaughtered during the operation without being blessed at all. Hence, enacting verse 118 of chapter 6 in the Qurʾan becomes simply impractical.
3. The speed of the poultry production line is also a factor in many birds being cut improperly. It is for this very reason 1 to 2 men are always stationed after the rotating blade to sift out the improperly cut birds and complete the cut. Multiple observations have shown that human error does occur during this process and hence some birds are occasionally missed by the stationed men thus rendering them haram for consumption.
It is true that the sacred texts have not mentioned that the slaughter must be carried out manually by hand however it has given us clear guidelines to follow, which the machine slaughter method falls short of due to the aforementioned reasons. It is also worth noting that machine slaughter is not required to cater for the dietary needs of the growing Muslim community in Canada. Manually slaughtered poultry currently is and will continue to adequately meet the Muslim consumer demand with ease.
The following article provides more information on the problems surrounding machine slaughter:
WHAT IS STUNNING?
Stunning is a convention used to render an animal immobile prior to slaughter. This has also been an area of controversy in recent times. There are multiple forms of stunning employed today:
CAPTIVE BOLT STUNNING
This method is typically used for cattle, sheep, lamb and goats. A captive bolt pistol is used to fire a bolt in to the animal’s skull which enters its cranium and damages its cerebrum thus rendering it completely unconscious. It is argued that this method is the most humane away of slaughtering an animal as it saves it from pain and agony during the slaughter. However studies clearly reveal the contrary:
Professor Schultz and his colleague Dr. Hazim of Hanover University, Germany, proved through an experiment, using an electroencephalograph (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) that captive bolt stunning causes severe pain and agony to the animal. Details of the experiment are as follows:
1. Several electrodes were surgically implanted at various points of the skull of all animals, touching the surface of the brain.
2. The animals were allowed to recover for several weeks.
3. One group of animals was slaughtered by making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife in the throat cutting the jugular veins of both sides along with the trachea and oesophagus.
4. Another group of animals was stunned using a captive bolt pistol prior to slaughter.
5. During the experiment, EEG and ECG were recorded on all animals to observe the condition of the brain and heart during stunning and slaughter.
The results of the experiment are as follows:
1. The first three seconds from the time of Islamic slaughter as recorded on the EEG did not show any change from the graph before slaughter, thus indicating that the animal did not feel any pain during or immediately after the incision.
2. For the following 3 seconds, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep – unconsciousness. This is due to a large quantity of blood gushing out from the body.
3. After 6 seconds, the EEG recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all.
4. As the brain message (EEG) dropped to zero level, the heart was still pounding and the body convulsing vigorously (a reflex action of the spinal cord) driving maximum blood from the body: resulting in hygienic meat for the consumer.
Details of the study can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/18968848/Conventional-Slaughtervs-Halal-A-Scientific-Examination#archive
A relatively more recent study shows that captive bolt stunning can scatter brain tissue throughout the body of the animal which in turn could serve as a means for mad-cow disease to spread in humans. Islamically this method is unacceptable as it contravenes the Prophet Muhammad’s instructions, “Indeed, Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things. […] So when you slaughter, you should sharpen your knife and then put the animal to rest.” (Sahih Muslim)
This system is the most commonly applied method in poultry abattoirs throughout Canada today. In this process, the birds’ heads are immersed into an electrified waterbath, causing the current to run through their head and body, thus either inducing unconsciousness or rendering them partially immobile. Stunned broilers normally regain consciousness and are able to maintain an erect posture within 120 seconds. Since this form of stunning is reversible and does not kill the bird prior to slaughter, provided the voltage remains low, it is acceptable to employ in order to ensure that the slaughter man makes an accurate cut.
CONTROLLED ATMOSPHERE STUNNING (CAS)
“Controlled atmosphere stunning” is a name for the use of carbon dioxide or argon gas as part of the processing of chickens or other poultry for the production of human food. This procedure achieves insensibility by exposing broilers to either a mixture of inert gases (nitrogen and argon) or concentrations of carbon dioxide. The gas mixture deprives birds of oxygen, causing them to lose consciousness.
Temple Grandin from the Colorado State University states, “Controlled atmosphere stunning has several welfare advantages. Handling stress is reduced because live chickens no longer have to be hung on the shackles. Another welfare advantage is that when a gas system runs correctly, 100% of the chickens will be rendered insensible before shackling and bleeding. Small runt chickens that may miss a water bath stunner will be effectively stunned by the gas. Some systems may also improve meat quality.”
Since CAS is an irreversible method of stunning, where the birds eventually die, the Halal Monitoring Authority does not approve of it except when the following is guaranteed:
– The gas that is used is strictly CO2
– Once the birds are out of the gas station, they are slaughtered in under two minutes as research shows that death does not occur in the bird until 2 to 6 minutes after exiting the station.
– In the case where the line breaks down, all birds in the station until the slaughter bay will be condemned
– In the case where CAS is not functional, the electric stunning will be applied.