The Labels Halal & Zabihah And Why I Choose Local And Organic Instead
The Muslim community, in general, has become obsessed with the way an animal is slaughtered, despite the fact that our tradition actually speaks not just about the way an animal is slaughtered but how it is treated during its life. Duh! Why do we call meat "halal" when only the step of the animal's life is according to 'Islamic' () principles. That's right, the meat labeled 'halal' is most likely from the same factory farm as any other meat in the grocery store-- just slaughtered in a different way. The Muslim community, in general, has become obsessed with the way an animal is slaughtered, despite the fact that our tradition actually speaks not just about the way an animal is slaughtered but how it is treated during its life. Duh! Why do we call meat "halal" when only the last step of the animal's life is according to 'Islamic' (Read: ethical) principles. That's right, the meat labeled 'halal' is most likely from the same factory farm as any other meat in the grocery store-- just slaughtered in a different way. Most people don't realize that the 'halal' label refers only to the way the animal has been killed. In the era of factory farms and hormone-fed animals, the label of "halal" has been watered down and exists only as an empty brand name. If you are a heartless person who doesn't care about the treatment of animals, consider this of your beloved label:
"75 percent of Halal meat in America produced in the year 2000 came from pork fed cows, according to Dr. Stephen Emanuel, from Agway Feed Company." - SoundVision
Thankfully, I'm not the only one who feels that 'halal' doesn't mean much. Check out the new stream of 'organic and halal' meat suppliers like GreenZabiha, founded by Yasir Syeed. (Full disclosure: I photographed his brother's wedding)
"Muslims are directed in the Quran to eat food that is Halal and Tayyib. Halal is defined as food that is permissible according to Islamic law. Tayyib means wholesome, pure, nutritious and safe. Traditionally, Muslims in North America have emphasized the Halal over the Tayyib when it comes to meat consumption, Hussaini says." - SoundVision
(More disclosure: That quote was from 10 years ago, but the emphasis on the method of slaughtering of the animal over the health and treatment of the animal hasn't changed much.) Some Muslims like to use the excuse that when someone sells you 'halal' food you should take it at face value, as they are the one making the claim. I don't buy that. I believe we (who have the means) have a responsibility to ourselves, our families, and our communities to support businesses that produce high quality food by treating animals with respect. In that way, we do justice to the bodies that God has given us on loan, we do justice to our families, and to our communities.I'm not going to provide a detailed discussion on the benefits of eating mostly locally grown, organic vegetarian food, as it has already been discussed in books, articles, and documentaries. (Hi Michael Pollan!) Instead I'm going to ask myself (and yourself) to consider what "The Most Just" God would be pleased with. Let's take a look at revelation, let's take a look at what people like to overlook.
The Qur'an strongly enjoins Muslims to treat animals with compassion and not to abuse them. The Qur'an states that all creation praises God, even if this praise is not expressed in human language. In verse 6:38, the Qur'an applies the term ummah, generally used to mean "a human religious community", for genera of animals. The Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an states that this verse has been "far reaching in its moral and ecological implications."
There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.
—Quran 6:38 - Wikipedia
Would you dare treat any animal with disrespect if you fully understood that they are muslims...i.e., literally "those who submit to God? That you will be called to account as to how you treated them? For me, the method of slaughter is not as important (as long as the animal isn't killed in the name of some other "god" other than The [One] God)*** as the way it was treated. Based on my reading of the Qur'an and my approach to Qur'anic principles (namely that they are a precedent for progress, pushing us towards realizing universal principles of justice and equality), this is what I think God would be pleased with:- Staying away from processed food with additives, flavorings, etc.- Not eating too much- Eating locally grown organic food (Remember kids, pesticides on vegetables hurt and kill a lot of animals (including humans!) - If eating beef, making sure it is well-treated, grass-Fed, hormone-free and from a local farm.- If eating any other meat, making sure it is well-treated and from a local farm.- Working towards vegetarianismSo, what's your take? What's important to you?***Regarding the method of slaughter: God, in the Qur'an says:
FORBIDDEN to you is carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that over which any name other than God's has been invoked, and the animal that has been strangled, or beaten to death, or killed by a fall, or gored to death, or savaged by a beast of prey, save that which you [yourselves] may have slaughtered while it was still alive; and [forbidden to you is] all that has been slaughtered on idolatrous altars...." -Qur'an 5:3 The verse continues, "As for him, however, who is driven [to what is forbidden] by dire necessity and not by an inclination to sinning -behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace...." - Qur'an 5:3 Two verses later, "...And the food of those who have been vouchsafed revelation aforetime is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them..." (Muhammad Asad translation)
HijabMan's note: Just so I don't scare off our friends: we do buy halal meat when we have guests who keep halal.