Students attending the University of Northern Colorado this semester may notice a change in the food offerings with menu choices now including meat slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines.
Hal Brown, the food director at UNC, told the Gazette that beginning this semester, halal meat is now part of the menu.
“Halal” is an Arabic word meaning “permissible” and is used to describe any action or object, including food, it is permissible to engage in.
In order for meat to qualify as halal, the animal must be slaughtered according to strict Islamic standards.
The slaughter involves facing the animal’s head toward Mecca and cutting the trachea, esophagus and jugular vein with a sharp knife. The animal is not allowed to be stunned in any way and while the blood is draining out, the words, “Bismillah allahu akbar” or “in the name of Allah the greatest” are said over the animal.
While it may seem as if eating halal meat is a strict requirement, Muslims are permitted to eat regular meat if halal is not available.
In the Quran, Surah 2:173 states, “Whosoever is driven to necessity, not desiring, nor exceeding the limit, no sin shall be upon him.” Surah 5:5 also states, “This day all the good things are allowed to you; and the food of those who have been given the Book (Jews and Christians) is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them.”
As Muslims continue to grow in number in the U.S. and Europe, companies have decided there is a market for halal products. Subway proudly boasts about its halal products on its website, saying stores in England and Ireland are certified by the Islamic Foundation of Ireland. The trend has spread to U.S. fast food outlets with McDonald’s and KFC in Dearborn, Michigan offering halal foods.
Last Thanksgiving Butterball turkeys became the subject of controversy when it was announced that the company was selling unmarked halal turkeys to American consumers. Calls by several media organizations to Butterball confirmed that the halal turkeys were in fact being sold in American supermarkets even though they were not labeled as such.
After the incident began to be reported on the Internet, the company appeared to backtrack and issued a statement saying that while Butterball does export products in Islamic countries that meet halal standards, no turkeys sold in the United States were slaughtered according to the Islamic standards.
The Blaze reported that when they contacted Butterball, they were told that while the methods used to slaughter its turkeys allowed for halal certification, it did not go the extra step in reciting the ritual prayers over the meat.
When asked why the turkeys that were slaughtered according to halal were not labeled, Butterball reportedly said the USDA does not require them to label the turkeys accordingly.
While it may be easy to think that people having issues over halal meat are simply being Islamophobes , there are actually legitimate reasons for concern.
Religious groups such as Sikhs and Christians have prohibitions against eating foods they see as being offered to idols.
Acts 21:25 states, “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.”
Some Christians have said this prohibition applies to halal meat because of the statement referencing Allah made over the animal while it is slaughtered.
Animal rights groups have protested halal meat saying the methods used in the slaughter is even more barbaric than traditional methods. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say not stunning the animals prior to slaughter is an excessive form of cruelty as the animal fights to stand and gasps for breath while the blood drains from its body.
The majority of complaints over halal offerings have nothing to do with the meat per se, but rather over the foods not being clearly labeled as such.
In an attempt to avoid this issue, Brown says the meat at UNC is plainly labeled so that people opposed to halal meat have the ability to avoid it.
Brown said the halal meat is part of the many options available to students, faculty and staff on campus. “We have also added a number of other special diet needs foods from gelato & sorbet, more fresh fish and salad options, Gluten free baked products, allergen free foods, flavored waters to local grown products.”