Halal and organic?
Various surveys and reports on the halal business have concluded that more often than not Muslims in France and other European countries eat meat of poor quality. Further the provenance and even permissibility of the meat from a religious standpoint is suspect. It is precisely to combat this negligence that our organisation was created 25 years ago in 1991: to guarantee, through a rigorous, traceable and transparent method, the origins and lawfulness of meat products stamped « halal », in order to meet standards of hygiene and quality intrinsic to our ideals of ethical consumption.
To qualify meat as « halal » is thus to invest it with a deeply profound meaning: to both comprehend and assimilate, by the concept « halal », all spiritual and religious teachings, which bestows upon the consumer a role of responsibility for Nature and Creation.
Indeed, if one examines the foundations of halal, one discovers it is not simply a matter of a mechanical gesture accompanied by a ritualistic formula: halal transcends this narrow interpretation. It starts from the profound meaning of the ritual utterance bismillah (« in the name of Allah ») to putting the question of consumption at the heart of an ethic which renders Man accountable to the creature he takes the life of, to Nature which he harnesses in order to live, and to God, who reminds him that his death-dealing gesture is an exception.
Since its inception, AVS has resisted regulations that seek to impose stunning (and thereby the unbridled and mechanised production of meat) precisely to thwart, to the utmost, an industrial process blinded by money and cost-effectiveness. Confronted by an increasingly robotic rhythm of production, AVS, in its scrupulous respect of the religious tenets, requires that workers be allowed to take their time, particularly during the sticking process. To put ritual slaughter on trial by accusing it of animal cruelty betrays ignorance, as well as a total lack of understanding of its ultimate purpose. And to refuse an organic label because of ritual slaughter is also to hijack with a lack of sound science, the definition of organic farming.
But things are evolving, and within the industrial world, some entrepreneurs are genuinely keen to find solutions to the problems that industrial farming poses further up the supply chain before the slaughterhouse, such as intensive livestock farming, appalling transport conditions, etc. Although our association is currently not equipped to assume responsibility for animal rearing and transportation, we are all too aware that it is essential to promote an ethical consumption that is both in line with the animal’s welfare as well as with natural and organic farming.
It is these preoccupations, which led to the « organic » label’s creation in 1985; to promote organic farming and provide an alternative to industrialised food production. And it is also from this standpoint that one should understand a key objective of AVS: to give back meaning to ‘halal’ consumption, and remind people that halal is fundamentally linked to Nature, to the issue of animal welfare, to quality, hygiene, and also moderation in one’s consumption, and the upkeep of our bodies.
Today some Muslim entrepreneurs have understood the importance of such a definition, to the extent where they have decided to marry the two « labels »: halal and organic. Beyond the mere labelling, one has to look to the future and remember that halal is by definition (at both a theological and theoretical level) organic. Thus, while nowadays we have developed skills to track and ensure the smooth running of the sticking process (in accordance to Muslim ritual), it is equally important to ensure that halal is synonymous with ecology, biology, ethics and the respect for Nature.