Halal body ‘disappointed’ by EU non-stun organic ruling

It’s disappointing that the freedoms of Muslims are once again being demonised unfortunately just because of a religious practice that Muslims implement as part of their Halal standards. – Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC)

Muslim farmers and meat suppliers have reacted in dismay following the EU’s court ruling that non-stun meat can no longer be labelled organic.

The EU Court of Justice has made stunning animals during slaughter a necessary condition towards qualifying for the EU organic logo.

This means that non-stun Halal meat will officially be refused an organic certification by the EU.

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), an estimated 12% of animals killed through Halal slaughtering are non-stunned.

The Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC), one of the UK’s leading Halal certifying bodies, has described the verdict as disappointing.

A spokesperson for the organisation told FtLion: “It’s disappointing that the freedoms of Muslims are once again being demonised unfortunately just because of a religious practice that Muslims implement as part of their Halal standards.”

He also added: “It’s disappointing that Muslim companies can no longer be associated with reputable organisations across Europe to be accredited for doing things in the right manner.”

Biodynamic Association (BDA)

One such business which recently lost its accreditation was the first Halal meat supplier to be certified by an organic society.

Halal Exotic Meats received a Certificate of Compliance by the Biodynamic Association (BDA) certification body last year in August for organic meat cutting and butchering.

If you look at Halal meat in general, you see hysteria headlines that appear on front pages of the tabloids. – Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC)

The Dewsbury-based company proudly announced on its Facebook page at the time: “In UK the organic societies have refused to certify any organic non-stun chickens. With your duas [supplications] we have sourced HMC Organic chickens and certified by an organic society.”

In reaction to the court decision, owner Ebrahim told FtLion this week: “It’s a pity, as Muslims want to buy organic and non-stun. We will have to offer it on trust only, but can’t supply corporate.”

Politics at play – HMC

HMC believes that “it’s the politics that exist within the arena” that may have forced these certification bodies to reverse their policies even before the EU ruling.

“If you look at Halal meat in general, you see hysteria headlines that appear on front pages of the tabloids. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help such organisations to promote what they’re doing,” said the HMC spokesperson.

“They are an independent organisation that has made an informed decision to run their standards in the way that they wish to.”

In response, the BDA Certification Manager, Stuart Cragg, directed FtLion to the company’s policy-reversal statement issued in January which said that the body “has been looking in depth at the issue of religious slaughter without pre-stunning for more than a year and has come to the conclusion that we can no longer continue to offer organic certification under any non-stun circumstances”.

We are willing to support the certification of Halal businesses, and would invite them to contact us contact us directly to discuss this matter. – Biodynamic Association

While the BDA says it is “committed to religious freedom and religious slaughter in principle”, it peculiarly attributed this practice to “cultural tradition” alone.

Yet the statement concluded: “However, after reviewing a range of scientific evidence and engaging in internal debate, we have decided to continue to organically certify abattoirs that are practising religious slaughter, but only under the condition that animals are pre-stunned.”

The future of Halal organic?

There was also a time when Abraham Organics was “the only Soil Association accredited organic halal meat producer in the UK”.

After that ended, the Kent-based company began a short stint with the BDA before that was “abruptly cancelled because of the unstunned issue” six months later.

Abraham Organics business partner Muhsen Hassanin told FtLion: “They told us that they didn’t want to because they are an international brand Demeter and they have unstunned certified organic stuff in America and the rest of the world. So they didn’t actually want to, but they felt pressured from the other governing bodies because they were the only ones allowing unstunned organic products to enter the market – that’s what they said to us.”

And though the family business continues to procure its produce from both Soil Association and BDA farmers, Muhsen said his company now languishes in “no man’s land”.

“We’re waiting for certification and we’re waiting for the news to come through regarding what they want to decide: will they certify us partially, e.g. our chickens are stunned but our lambs aren’t, or what.”

Halal Exotic Meats have interpreted both the EU’s decision and the policy change of these certification bodies far more emphatically.

“Since this ruling, the certification board will no longer certify non-stunned Halal, so certification is now invalid,” Ebrahim said.

The HMC spokesperson was more “optimistic” though, suggesting that a compromise could be reached if the bodies do not lose sight of “consumer choice”.

“It’s about legalities and allowing the consumers to make an informed choice. And I think it’s important that the consumer ultimately gets what they want to buy,” he said.

Meanwhile, BDA said it was “willing to support the certification of Halal businesses, and would invite them to contact us directly to discuss this matter”.

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