BUMP! – This is a post from April 2005 about the issue of halal meat in the UK. The comments section has some good discussion points and I thought that I would bump this for further discussion
Halal Meat in the UK
Last week I was discussing the the whole issue of halal meat with a few friends. We came to the conclusion that “real” halal meat is increasingly hard to come by, having said that we did recognise that we all should have husn al-zann with the meat that we are supplied with, since if a Muslim tells you something is halal you accept it unless you know for a fact that it isn’t. There were many factors that we discussed that lead us to this conclusion. Firstly our insatiatiable demamd for meat; there is no way that this demand can be met without cutting a few corners at the slaughterhouse. I know that chicken slaughter is very hi-speed and there is a very high throughput of live chickens and those conducting the slaughter just don’t have the time to say “bismillah Allahu akbar” on every chicken when the automatic knives make the cut. With regards to slaughter of larger animals, there is a widespread use of stunning and electric shock as is well discussed and documented and so I am not going to go into the ins and outs of that.
The other factor that we discussed is how many people actually know how to do “dhabiha”, Any Tom, Dick or Harry can get a Slaughterman’s license and anyone can say “Bismillah Allahu Akbar” and run a knife across the throat of an animal, but how many know exactly where to make the cut or the other ahkam that need to be fulfilled? I think as the years go by there will be less and less people with this skill and certainly this is a concern. There is absolutely no training available for the people doing “dhabiha” and even if there were it would have to be on live animals and this is not possible; anyone for Deen Intensive on the Fiqh of Islamic Slaughter?
My father runs a halal meat and grocery shop and has done so for nearly 40 years. When I was younger, our business was one the very few businesses of this kind that used to supply meat and chickens slaughtered by ourselves. From an early age I used to accompany my father to the slaughterhouse and observe the slaughter of sheep and lambs. From what I remember, my father observed all the ahkam of slaughter and never cut corners. This was reflected in the quality of the meat that we used to supply to our customers and people used to come from far and wide to buy meat from our shop and the reputation grew, even our non-Muslim customers preferred the meat that we supplied to the local butcher even though it was cheaper. Unfortunately for the last 7 or 8 years we have been supplying meat from a wholesaler of halal meat as all the local slaughterhouses shutdown one by one due to Government regulations and EU regulations it became uneconomical for small slaughterhouses to operate. For a time we did use a local farmer who was a friend of the family to supply us with sheep and the use of his farm slaughterhouse but due to the BSE and other health scares it became too risky for him.
My father once told me that there was a man who used to supply “halal” meat quite cheaply in Luton and this man used to use the same slaughterhouse that my father used to use. This man used to slaughter 6 or 7 animals for his own use and then let non-Muslim slaughtermen to finish off the rest of his order! My father was outraged and offered to slaughter his animals for free but he never took up the offer. This was going back 15 or 20 years, I don’t think this guy is supplying “halal” meat anymore. There are some unscrupulous halal meat suppliers who don’t realise that this is an amanah – a sacred trust – that has to be safeguarded.
I think if Muslims reverted back to the Sunnah practice of eating very little meat this would certainly go some way in helping as well as improving the health of the community by lessening the illnesses relating to eating too much red meat. I also think that consumer pressure should be applied in that we should demand the highest standards even if that means paying more for it. There is too much apathy on our part, whilst husn al-zann is praiseworthy it shouldn’t make us complacent in demanding the halal and tayyib.