The global population of Muslims reached to 1.8 billion in 2017, and their population is increasing annually. The markets for halal food are growing at an extraordinary rate in line with the growth in the Muslim population. The amount of money Muslims spent on food and beverage in 2017 was valued at US$1.3 trillion, which represents total halal food market spending.
Currently, the halal food market accounts for a share of around 16% of the global food industry and may constitute around 20% of global trade in food production in the future. The food industry in Europe has begun to invest in halal food production. Halal food products are defined as food that is produced according to halal tradition. Islamic dietary criteria divide food into permitted (halal) and prohibited (haram) to Muslim consumers. These criteria are mentioned in the Quran and the Hadith (the sayings of the prophet Mohammed) and are explained and interpreted by Islamic scholars. Islamic dietary criteria are binding on Muslims and should be observed at all times. It is, therefore, necessary to perform checks on the halal status of food products provided for Muslim consumers. Basically, according to the Quran (Chapter V, Verse 3), Sunnah (the actions of the prophet Mohammed) and doctrines (scholars), the following kinds of animals are not halal:
- dead animals
- -all animals slaughtered without the name of Allah being pronounced on them
- -animals with long pointed teeth or tusks
- -primates, reptiles (except spiny-tailed lizards) and amphibians
- -donkeys, mules (horses are not forbidden) and Lycaonpictus (African wild dog)
- -most insects
- -only aquatic animals that are harmful to human health
- -blood (from any animal) and products made or sourced from blood.
In the Western world, several unregulated halal certification bodies have been created in an attempt to assure Muslim consumers that products with halal certification meet the requirements of Islamic dietary law. The standard certificates should comply with halal requirements to be acceptable for customers. The World Halal Council (WHC) is currently the largest certification organisation and oversees around 41 halal certification agencies from different countries. The OIC, which includes 57 member states, has developed general guidelines on halal food for its members worldwide. Although these halal certification bodies are unregulated and often operate according to different halal standards, they are considered enforcers of halal dietary laws by many Muslims, especially in minority Muslim population countries where there is a possible risk of cross contamination with non-halal raw materials (such as pork). Recently, the halal meat industry has been the focus of research of many authors from different viewpoints, examining the principles of halal meat, halal control points (HCPs) in meat processing, the aggregate of Islamic dietary and Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) principles and religious versus legal understandings of halal slaughter.
The main religious laws and regulations in the halal meat industry were promulgated more than 1400 years ago. There is a segment of Muslims who believe that religious laws are valid for all times and places and call for their application today without any change or modification because they believe that these principles are heavenly.
Fasting of Animals Prior to Slaughter
It is recorded that the Prophet Muhammad said, “When one of you slaughters, let him complete it”, meaning that one should sharpen the knife well and feed, water and soothe the animal before killing it. the fasting of ruminants during periods of transportation and lairage at slaughterhouses is recommended to reduce the volume of the gut contents and, therefore, the quantity of bacteria, thereby reducing the risk of carcass contamination during dressing . However, maximum periods of fasting/feeding and journey times for different animal species are given in Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2005 . Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 states, “Animals which have not been slaughtered within 12 h of their arrival shall be fed, and subsequently given moderate amounts of food at appropriate intervals”. Currently, there is agreement about the necessity of preslaughter fasting of animals in the European Union . In the rest of the world, the number of hours of preslaughter fasting for animal species is variable according to the legislation of the individual countries.
According to Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009, the stunning of animals prior to slaughter is a statutory requirement in Europe and applied in order to render animals unconscious. The definition of “stunning” provided by Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 means any intentionally induced process which causes loss of consciousness and sensibility without pain, including any process resulting in instantaneous death. The objective of stunning is to prevent anxiety, pain, suffering and distress in animals before and during the slaughter process. Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 indicates, “Slaughter without stunning requires an accurate cut of the throat with a sharp knife to minimise suffering”.
Although European legislation (Council Regulation No. 1099/2009) permits religious slaughter, which is usually conducted without stunning, several countries (e.g., Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland) have already prohibited the slaughter of animals without prior stunning . In fact, all advocates of preslaughter stunning, as well as advocates of religious slaughter methods, insist that stunning is the most humane method.
The Position of the Animal’s Body During Slaughter
The position of animals during halal slaughtering should be that they are laid on their left flank and preferably facing the Qibla (in the direction of Makkah in Saudi Arabia). This means that at the onset of the performance of the incision, the slaughterer should face towards the Qibla and the animal’s neck (location of incision) should be turned to face the Qibla (Figure 1). During slaughter, according to the Islamic rules of slaughter as indicated by the Hadiths, animals should be shackled and elevated only after bleeding and when the animal has lost consciousness.
Upright restraint performed in pens known as American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) boxes is designed with a chin lift that stretches the neck to provide easy accesses for halal incision performance. The disadvantages of the upright restraint method during the halal slaughter (without stunning) of cattle are the possibility of blood aspiration into the lungs, poor bleeding (clamping of the blood vessels of the neck against the head restraint) and delayed loss of consciousness. The upright restraint method is currently widely used by European halal authorities, although it is not preferred by certain groups of Muslims.
The Location of Cutting (Incision) During Slaughter
The preamble of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 indicates that slaughtering bovine, ovine and caprine species without stunning requires accurate cutting of the throat using a sharp knife to minimise suffering, adding that animals under this procedure that are not restrained mechanically after the incision are likely to endure a slower bleeding process and consequently prolonged unnecessary suffering . Minimally painful and complete bleeding is required during halal slaughter, which is difficult to perform in large animals. Previous researchers have indicated an association between the location of the cut and the onset of unconsciousness during slaughter without stunning, such as in halal slaughter.
Mechanical Slaughter (Poultry)
In general, and according to Islamic principles, only Muslims or “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) that are familiar with the Islamic procedure of animal slaughtering (ritual slaughter) can perform it.
A sharp knife free of scratches and nicks of a suitable length (two to four times the size of the neck of the animal) should be used to perform slaughter properly. There are no special types of knifes determined for halal slaughtering as there are for the kosher slaughtering of animals. During slaughtering itself, the specific phrase in the Arabic language “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar”, which means “In the name of Allah, Allah is the greatest”, should be pronounced by the slaughter-man aloud, and the animal should be alive
Halal certificate is used to document that a particular food has been produced in compliance with Muslim rules.
Halal guide (from Toronto Public health)