Are ethics behind halal and kosher sales?

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Animal welfare, Kashrut

Interest in ethical consumerism is rising, and with it so will sales of halal and kosher-certified meats, predicts a Packaged Facts report, but animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming disagrees.

The report, Market Trend: Kosher- and Halal-Certified Foods in the US, asserted that as consumers become more aware of ethical food issues, it is likely that more people will turn to halal and kosher foods, as the religious laws surrounding both Islam and Judaism tend to respect the land and animal welfare, as well as personal health.

“For ethical eaters who are not vegetarians, the knowledge that kosher and halal laws require humane treatment and slaughter of animals is certain to be an appealing concept,”​ it said.

But Joyce D’Silva, spokesperson for Compassion in World Farming told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “Unfortunately, I think they [consumers] actually perceive the opposite. I’m not saying they are right to do so, because there is probably not much difference at the moment…there’s no guarantee because something’s halal or kosher that the animal will have been well treated.”

However, D’Silva added that ensuring animal welfare is very much in keeping with both Muslim and Jewish teaching.

She said: “I think the idea of saying a prayer over the animal is quite respectful. If you are a believer it is probably a very good thing to honor the life of the animal…but if you are an animal, you want to be stunned when you have your throat cut.”

Rules of slaughter

Stunning the animal before slaughter, as used in modern slaughterhouses, is forbidden according to Orthodox Judaism and only some Muslims accept certain kinds of stunning.

Slaughtering an animal without stunning it first has been forbidden in the United States since 1958, apart from in the case of ritual slaughter, which is protected by law: The Humane Slaughter Act defines ritual slaughter as one of two humane methods of slaughter.

Under kosher law, animals must be slaughtered by a specially trained ritual slaughterer, called a shochet, who draws a sharp knife across the animal’s neck and lets the blood drain out.

For meat to be considered halal, animals must be slaughtered in a similar manner by a specially trained slaughterer called a dhabih, in the name of Allah.

Packaged Facts said that kosher and halal certification holds appeal for the increasing number of consumers who are concerned about the provenance of their food. The report said: “As methods of slaughter go, both shechita (kosher) and dhabihah (halal) are generally considered to be humane and mindful of animal welfare.”

Both Muslims and Jews are instructed that it is forbidden to slaughter sick animals, they must have been treated well, and their death should be quick and painless.

But D’Silva said this is not always the case. “You can go into a supermarket and buy two standard chickens, one halal and one not. The only difference between them is likely to be that they might have been slaughtered slightly differently.”

She said that consumers who are concerned about animal welfare should choose free range.

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