Butcher’s shops vs. Supermarket and Hypermarket Sector?
At the beginning of the 2000s, some studies claimed that more than 80% of halal meat in France was sold through the network of traditional butcher’s shops. Today this trend has strongly reversed, with butcher’s shops, according to our estimations, currently representing less than 50% of the halal market in France. Given that the beneficiaries of this reversal has been the fast food industry and the supermarket and hypermarket sector, one could rejoice in thinking that it illustrates a harmonising of French Muslims’ consumption habits with those of their fellow citizens. Indeed the main players who control the traditional French meat market are the hypermarket and supermarket chains. Some people believe that this situation contributes to falling prices and promotes consumption, which is more in tune with modern lifestyles, through ready-cooked meals and other processed products. Consuming cheaper and quicker!
However, if our modern and individualistic culture tends to undermine our customs, we, as bearers of the message of Islam, have to question our own level of responsibility. We are not mere consumers but the bearers of a particular conception of life. Indeed, the Prophet (pbuh), regularly inspected the market place to ensure the integrity of the traders. Among other things he ordered them to accurately describe their goods (in contrast with the numerous ads that are assaulting us today). Above all the Prophet forbade the companions from intercepting the caravans at the entrance of the city to prevent traders from establishing a monopoly or a dominant position that they could later abuse.
The current situation of the halal meat market is worrying as the increasing development of the fast food industry reflects a Muslim community that tends to consume and live faster and faster in a world, which celebrates speed and unconsciousness. By contrast Islam encourages us to take the time for meditation and the remembrance of God. The development of hypermarkets and supermarkets in France has contributed to the destruction of a culture of independent entrepreneurship. They have hijacked ethical initiatives such as organic production and rendered it financially inaccessible to all but a few, although it’s entirely possible today, to have access to products that are ethically produced at affordable prices. Hypermarket and supermarket chains are opposed to the idea of local independent entrepreneurship that is free and empowering.
To accept the takeover of the halal market by the hypermarket and supermarket sector and the fast food industry contradicts the very way we define halal. While one cannot deny that the presence of halal products in hypermarkets and supermarkets can ensure their accessibility in certain regions of France or in specific situations, one must remain vigilant and ensure that it doesn’t become the rule. This is why AVS supports all Muslim butchers who are concerned with selling halal meat independently, and who by their very actions contribute to this important message.