African Christians begin campaign against the spread of halal food in South Africa
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) Commission in South Africa has been flooded with letters from Christians complaining about food and beverages in well-known supermarkets being certified ‘halal’, with some saying they don’t want to eat or drink anything “sacrificed to idols”.
According to a report on www.news24.com, which has been picked up around the world, complaints received by the CRL against supermarkets and Muslim halal-certification authorities show some Christians are furious about the prevalence of halal-certified food in grocery stores and restaurants, claiming it violates their right to freedom of choice, says the report.
Documents City Press obtained show that some Christian consumers have laid complaints with the commission against supermarkets, including Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Checkers, Woolworths and Food Lovers Market, food manufacturers and restaurants, as well as the SA National Halaal Authority (Sanha), National Independent Halaal Trust (NIHT), Islamic Council of SA and the Muslim Judicial Council.
Christian consumers complain they are forced to buy halal goods and are “manipulated” into funding Islam.
Animal rights campaigners says the traditional halal slaughtered animal suffers more pain that more modern methods, though the latest protest focuses on the religious significance.
For meat to be classed as halal, the name of God or “In the name of God” (Bismillah) must be called by the butcher before each animal is killed. This should be carried out by a swift, deep incision with a very sharp knife on the throat, cutting the wind pipe, jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides but leaving the spinal cord.
Traditionally this has been while the animal is fully conscious but in many European countries animals are stunned before the traditional kill. In the UK, an estimated 88 per cent of animals killed by halal methods were stunned beforehand in a way that many Muslims find religiously acceptable.
The complaints in South Africa are not focused on the alleged cruelty to the animal but on claims that buying halal-certified foods indirectly forces Christians to adhere to sharia law. The argument also suggest it is helping pay for the persecution of other Christians in Muslim countries, fund the building of mosques and even contribute financially to terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State and Hamas.
This does not just affect meat, all types of food can be included in whether they are or are not acceptable to Muslims – halal (meaning allowed). Cereal manufacturers across the world had begun paying for halal certification for their breakfast food in an effort to reassure Muslims. But last July, some of Australia’s largest cereal makers stopped paying halal certification fees. Kellogg’s and Sanitarium denied it was because of mounting public opposition.
Australia’s One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson had urged Australians to stop buying halal-certified products, which she said were “financially supporting the Islamisation of Australia”.
“One of the biggest complaints I have had since being elected is about halal-certification and it was my promise to you that I would do something about it,” Senator Hanson said in a video released a year ago.
In South Africa, one of the complaints from Laudium, Pretoria, handed to the CRL said: “I’ve been eating Kellogg’s Corn Flakes since I was a child, but now I’m forced to eat halal-certified Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, because that is all that’s available at my supermarket.
“My right to purchase groceries according to my own religious beliefs has been violated. The majority of food items available on the shelves are halal certified… I am deeply offended by the fact that I, as a Christian, don’t have a choice.”
Fewer than three per cent of South Africa’s 54 million population adhere to Islam but the food industry – especially restaurants and the tourism sector – not only in South Africa but across the world has long recognised that providing halal meat, is an aid to tourism for a religion that claims 1.2 billion adherents.
In South Africa the current complaints are being investigated by the commission’s lawyers.
At least one halal-certification body has hit back at the complaints, labelling them “Islamophobic” and dismissed claims that it funds terror groups and Christian persecution.
Stats SA figures from 2016 show that South Africa is home to 892 685 Muslims, 43.4 million Christians, 5.9 million people who claim to have no religious affiliation or belief, 2.4 million who follow traditional African religion, 561 268 Hindus, 52 598 atheists, 49 470 Jews and 32 944 agnostics.
The halal industry is estimated to be worth R45bn and it is estimated that up to 90 per cent of all food products in the country are halal certified.
A complainant from Kouga in the Eastern Cape charged in a letter to the commission that halal-certification bodies violate the Consumer Protection Act “which protects consumers against discriminatory marketing”.
In the UK The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), which advises British government on how to avoid cruelty to livestock, on the other hand, says the way Jewish Kosher (which also requires the animal is killed in a ritualisic way while still conscious) and Muslim Halal meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals.
Ritual slaughter is in many EU countries the only exception from the standard requirement, guarded by criminal law, to render animal unconscious before slaughter (before any cutting). While the Jews accept absolutely no stunning (rendering unconscious prior to cutting), many Muslims have accepted it as long as it can be shown that the animal could be returned to normal living consciousness (so that stunning does not kill an animal but is intended to render following procedure painless).