The president of the Halal Food Authority (HFA) – which works with major manufacturers including Premier Foods and Kerry Foods – has mounted a staunch defence of his organisation after it came under fire for accrediting other businesses which critics said did not adhere to halal principles.
FoodManufacture.co.uk previously revealed claims from a member of the English Beef and Lamb Executive’s (EBLEX) halal steering group that KFC – which had been accredited by the HFA – was mislabelling its chicken as halal because it used machine slaughter.
Furthermore, the HFA was recently moved to issue a statement on its website in response to “the rumours and recent reprehensible innuendos floating around in various circles about HFA accreditation and standards of slaughtering for meat and poultry”.
HFA president Masood Khawaja told FoodManufacture.co.uk the organisation did not agree that stunning an animal before killing it, or the use of machinery, meant a product could not be halal, although it preferred “hand slaughter” where possible. The rival Halal Monitoring Committee, on the other hand, has imposed a blanket ban on stunning.
Khawaja said: “The HFA says this is the era of scientific advances, so science is okay as long as it is subservient to Islamic rules, and works for us.”
He added: “This means we can stun the animal, if it does not kill it. Science and technology can be used for the purpose of compliance with Islamic dietary rules.”
Commenting on the differing views about stunning, Khawaja suggested others took an inconsistent approach to the use of technology in relation to the Islamic dietary rules stipulated in the Qu’ran (Koran).
“Those who profess that stunning should not be done, I say to them, back then, there were no machines, no electricity, no wheels, but we are all using that in one way or another now. When Stephenson made the railways, people ran away from the track.”
“My question to them is, what is the rule on intensive farming? Because that wasn’t happening back then, but they still use intensively-farmed chicken.”
Khawaja said the HFA was a pioneering organisation that was respected around the world for the work it did with many of the UK’s major manufacturers and brands.
He said the HFA took a rigorous approach to accreditation right across the supply chain, from raw materials to the production process and the inspection of manufacturing sites.
He said it frequently refused to accredit products, including bacon flavourings and turkey ham, even though the ham referred only to the slicing process.
“We have to be very careful because we don’t want things to be misconstrued,” he said.
“It is important we take the dietary rules of the Prophet in systems that concur with science and technology for the benefit of humankind and for Muslims.”
To read more about halal slaughter, click here .
What they say about halal slaughter
Compassion in World Farming: “We believe that all slaughter should be humane, which means that animals must be stunned prior to slaughter using a method that causes immediate unconsciousness or, in the case of gas stunning, does not cause distress during the period before loss of consciousness.
“We understand that in the UK, a substantial proportion of animals slaughtered for Halal meat are stunned before slaughter; however, animals slaughtered for Kosher meat are in general not stunned before slaughter.”
KFC website: “Due to our strict animal welfare standards and the volume of chickens involved, our suppliers use mechanical slaughter. The HFA has confirmed that various Muslim scholars have approved the use of mechanical slaughter in order to take full advantage of progress made in science and technology.”
KFC website: "We insist that all our poultry is stunned before slaughter. Our halal chicken has been accredited by the Halal Food Authority, one of the most widely recognised bodies in the UK and overseas. It allows the use of a technique called 'stun-to-stun' – a pain-free process that makes the animal insensible to pain and suffering. A verse is also recited from the Qu'ran at the point of slaughter by an appropriate person and the poultry will not come into contact with non-halal meat at any point in the supply chain."
Jim Paice, former food and farming minister: “Killing an animal without stunning is not acceptable in the western world. But we need to be tolerant and understanding of religious communities who want their meat produced in that way.”
The Halal Monitoring Committee: “The government, Trading Standards, everyone needs to get involved to protect the Muslim consumer from unscrupulous traders who are taking advantage of the halal industry. There are huge problems. The main issue is that it is so unregulated, people will take advantage.”