The Horrors of Halal

In the last couple of weeks, there have been three stories about companies selling halal products and apparently distressing some of their non-Muslim consumers.

Firstly, we have a McDonalds store in Melbourne that, shortly before Ramadan, decided to use halal meat for their products. There is a sign on the wall next to the counter that advises that the products are now halal and have been certified by some organisation but perhaps some customers may have missed it.

The fast-food chain has introduced halal products at two Melbourne restaurants, significantly boosting sales.

However some non-Muslim customers are furious they were not told their hamburger meat was slaughtered and blessed in accordance with Islamic rules laid down in the Koran.

Secondly, we have Red Rooster, a chain of fried chicken stores, that has apparently started using halal meat too. As MX report:

If Red Rooster has made the decision to make all of their chicken halal that’s appalling, because people need choice. … We think many Christians would be offended if they went into Red Rooster and had to eat halal meat. – Australian Christian Lobby spokesman David Yates

Finally, we have A Current Affair running a story about Nestle who have decided to include a stamp denoting halal certification on their products too. In this case, the stamp means that the products don’t contain pork, alcohol or non-halal meat products. Unlike the other two examples, there hasn’t been a change of product.

Not withstanding the outrage — real and manufactured — that this news has generated, it should be remembered that for each of these companies it is a commercial decision. They are seeking to capture a new market (Muslims) and expand sales of their product. In the case of the McDonalds stores, it has certainly been beneficial and they have increased sales as a result. Given companies have no obligation or responsibility other than to make a profit for their shareholders, the only possible complaint that can be made is that the decision has somehow reduced sales or they didn’t recognise the opportunity earlier.

The whole issue of halal certification is somewhat questionable but we’ll leave that for another post at another time, but suffice to say, I don’t see anything objectional about the manner in which the animals are slaughtered. They are not slaughtered in the name of the Prophet Muhammad or anything other than God alone: in the case of a chicken, a mechanical blade slices whilst a Muslim recites bismillah (in the name of God) and Allahu akbar (God is great).

However, if some Christians don’t want to eat such foods then that is their choice and we should respect it. Just as Muslims should not feel compelled to eat forbidden foods, these Christians shouldn’t feel compelled to eat halal food. In fact, Christians and other non-Muslims who feel offended by halal foods should therefore welcome the labeling of each of these products; it will make it much easier for them to know which products to avoid when shopping or looking to dine out at McDonalds.