In a remarkable move the Halal Food Authority, has finally decided to stop its practice of mechanical slaughter, which it had been accepting for the past twenty years.
This is not the first time the UK’s largest halal certifier has back tracked on its standard. Only a couple of weeks ago the HFA had announced that it will stop accreditation of poultry slaughterhouses that make us of stunning prior to the slaughter process.
The press release from the HFA website reads: “As a result of various consultations and procedural review by the Board of HFA Scholars and Trustees, Halal Food Authority (HFA) has decided to amend its certification policy and consequently, mechanical slaughtering of poultry would no longer be covered by the HFA Halal Standard.”
“Poultry slaughterhouses that employ a mechanical fixed blade (mechanised killing) to slaughter birds would no longer be accredited by the HFA for halal status with effect from 3rd March 2014” the press release read.
Many have questioned the moves made by the HFA, and have termed it to be merely a face saving exercise. They say it is a result of tremendous pressure and criticism from both the general public and other Muslim organisatons for certifying products that contained traces of pork. There were widespread reports that the then president of HFA Masood Khawaja had been sacked as result of the discovery of pork DNA in halal certified pies, but then the whole issue was kept under the carpet after Mr Khawaja received a reportedly twenty thousand pounds in severance pay. There are no confirmed reports that would indicate otherwise.
One blogger commented: “HFA is a shoddy organisation which failed to follow its own standards. This is merely a gimmick and I don’t trust them. If they think its not the right method, they should simply stop certifying with immediate effect. And even that means they have been feeding us haram all along. Boycott HFA!”
A CEO of another Halal Agency said whilst staying anonymous: “HFA’s practices were always dubious, slack and industry is well aware of the malpractices employed by them, but the discovery of Pork was the final nail in the coffin. One of my clients refused to receive certification from our organisation because they indicated that they could buy halal certificates from HFA over the phone to cover the issue.” There are many questions unanswered as currently the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) supply of halal poultry contains poultry that is slaughtered in slaughter houses that make use of a mechanical blade. Also most halal poultry availble in the UK market today is machine slaughtered.
This announcement means that there will be severe consequences for the halal poultry industry which at the moment is feeding the huge demand for halal poultry in the British market. The price of halal poultry is expected to rise sharply as a consequence of this decision by the HFA. But some have rejoiced the decision as they do not perceive either stunning or mechanical slaughter as a right practice.
Both the Association of Non Stun Abattoirs (ANSA) and the Halal Monitoring Committee UK (HMC UK) oppose the idea of machine slaughter. No one from these organisations was available for comment at the time.
Only last Monday, Eblex had to rebuff an attack on its introduction of consultation on the labeling of halal meat, which it said was in the consultation stage and they were still awaiting responses.
HFA had also come under immense criticism at the recently held Eblex Halal Forum where the attendees made calls for the boycott of HFA. There is also a website setup for that purpose which has a collection of links to material that criticizes the Halal Food Authority: www.halalfoodauthority.org.
On 4th July 2013, a Public Community Inquiry was held by the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal . The nature of the Public Community Inquiry was the circumstances surrounding pork DNA found in certain products certified as Halal by HFA, which the HFA did not attend. An excerpt from the press release reads:
“There are serious and pertinent questions which remain unanswered by HFA regarding its procedure for auditing and certifying products as Halal and that unless cogent answers are given to the afore going questions in a manner that satisfies the Muslim Community, the Muslim Community ought to be prudent and cautious of HFA and its auditing process and should avoid consuming products certified as Halal by HFA until the Muslim Community is satisfied and informed of the detail and manner in which HFA conducts its Halal audits and its certification process for products that it accredits as Halal and how it monitors and regulates such production once an audit has taken place and a Halal certificate issued.”
In the wake up to the issues the halal food industry has faced in the year which is about to end there has been calls from many in the industry and the community for the British Government to take serious measure to clean the mess created by independent halal certification business and for regulation to be brought in to safe guard the Muslim consumers interests, similar to the Australian model. Some have also called for a new credible organisation to be established, but whether that will help or not, the author can not guarantee as there are already too many halal certification bodies in the UK, and as they say “too many cooks spoil the broth”.