Halal literally means ‘permissible’. It has a wide meaning since it applies to any act or object that is permissible to be performed or consumed by a Muslim: a follower of Islam. Here (in the West) it is commonly referred to as ‘food which is permitted or lawful under Islamic Law’. The opposite of Halal is Haram (forbidden). This is the Halal symbol commonly used.
Generally, all food is Halal unless it is specifically mentioned as Haram. For example, all food of vegetable origin is Halal unless it is intoxicating (hence alcohol is banned). For meat however there are far more stringent requirements.
Specific meats are designated as Haram (e.g. Pork and its derivatives). Other meats are Halal if the principles of Halal slaughter are adhered to. These principles can be categorised as follows.
- Animal Welfare
- Animal must be alive at the point of slaughter
- Muslim Slaughterman must pronounce the name of God before slaughtering
- Slaughter must be performed humanely
- Blood is Haraam and must be adequately drained from the carcass
- Meat must be handled diligently to avoid cross contamination with Haraam products
If any of these principles are compromised, the meat will be rendered Haraam.
For Lamb & Sheep this means the following points must be obeyed.
Animal Welfare is of utmost importance. An animal must not suffer unnecessarily before slaughter. It is preferable to feed sheep water and hay in order to calm the animal prior to slaughter. It is also preferable to ensure that animals are not slaughtered in view of one another. Furthermore, one should not sharpen the knife in view of the animal he/she is about to slaughter. As well as good morals, this ensures there is less stress on the animal and a better meat is produced.
The animal must be alive at the point of slaughter. This ensures no dead animals are slaughtered for human consumption – a critical criteria for halal slaughter. The primary purpose for this is food safety as animals dying of illness, old age, blood haemorrhages etc. may cause risk to human consumption.
A Muslim slaughterman must say Tasmiyyah (pronouncing the name of God) before slaughter. This can be as short as saying ‘Bismillah. Allahuakbar’; translated as ‘In the name of God. God is Great’. Simply saying ‘Bismillah’ will also suffice.
Slaughter must be performed humanely. The slaughter knife must be properly sharpened and at least three of the main four vessels must be severed on slaughter. The main vessels in sheep are the jugular veins, the carotid arteries, the trachea and the oesophagus. This ensures a swift slaughter and immediate death as the blood flow is immediately disconnected from the brain thus minimising any animal discomfort. It is worth noting that different animals have different anatomies and the most humane slaughter for one may not be the same for the other. Species-specific humane slaughter is required.
Consuming flowing Blood is forbidden. Excess blood left in the carcase deteriorates the meat. The carcass must have an adequate bleed out period before further processing can commence. Note: only flowing Blood is considered Haram as one cannot totally drain a carcass of all blood.
Cross contamination of Meat. Mixing a Halal product with a Haram product renders the product Haram. Hence mixing a Halal lamb with a non-Halal product will render the Halal lamb Haram. This will apply to any products applied to the meat (e.g. carcase stamps, flavourings, cutting Halal meat with non-Halal meat contaminated knife). At Euro Quality Lambs, the applicable carcase stamps have been assessed to ensure no alcohol (which is Haram) is included as an ingredient (alcohol is common in food dyes). All transport/logistics have been assessed and controlled to ensure there are no cross-contamination concerns.
These are the over-riding principles which govern Halal and Haram and originate from the Qur’an and Hadeeth. The Qur’an is the Holy Book of Islam and the word of God (Allah (swt)). The Hadeeth are a collection of sayings and actions attributable to the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh); the last prophet of Islam.
Some Muslim scholars differ on the strict application of some of the rulings on Halal and Haram. The above criteria is the current consensus of many converging Halal standards. There is need for further standardisation in this area and we welcome an open debate on the future of Halal standards for the benefit of the consumer and the animal.
The correct application of Halal principles has a positive effect on meat quality and is consistent with our core principles and values – No Compromise on Quality & Service.