Halal certifiers say consumers, whatever their religion, have nothing to fear from halal.
One of the major halal Certifying bodies in Australia, the Islamic Coordinating Council says its role is to ensure food is prepared properly and hygienically, following Sharia law.
It comes as a Facebook page urges people to boycott halal certified products in Australia.
Bega cheese, Steggles, Parmalat and Bindaree Beef are among those who’ve found themselves the target of anti-halal campaigners. For some of them, halal accreditation has been a part of their business for decades.
“Australia is one of the biggest supplier to the Islamic world in regards to halal. It’s been like that since the beginning of the 60s,” says the chief auditor of abattoirs, Gaafar Muhammad from the Islamic Coordinating Council.
Australia exports almost a million tonnes of beef and veal, 300,000 tonnes of lamb and mutton to 110 countries throughout the world. The majority of Australia’s export meat works are certified halal.
Australia’s system of recognising halal slaughter is unique because of the Federal Government regulations. According to Almanar Consultancy, “Australia is a preferred source of halal product for an estimated 1.6 billion Muslim consumers worldwide.”
“Australia is well known for its natural methods of raising livestock and its world class standards in farm management and hygienic meat production,” said Dr Fiona Hill, of Almanar Consultancy. “All halal meat processing operations must be licensed and monitored frequently by the Australian Government quarantine inspectors AQIS and government authorised Halal Program (AGAHP), to ensure high quality, strictly halal product.”
The group calling for the boycott, Halal Choice, was begun by Kirrily Smith 10 months ago after she suspected ‘extortion’ by the certifying bodies.
“Many halal products that are halal certified are paying fees for certification that are already halal, e.g. milk, honey or nuts, yet companies are paying thousands of dollars a year.”
Ms Smith does not think even those companies seeking to find export markets for things like dairy products need certification.
“I think it reeks of extortion because Muslims worldwide know that they can consume milk …. so to ask a company to pay fees is unjust.”
She denies she’s discriminating on the basis of religion.
Christian Pastor calls for religious tolerance
Pastor Brad Chilcott says the campaign against halal food companies amounts to bullying.
As the national director of Welcome to Australia and Pastor of the Activate community in Adelaide, Pastor Chilcott says the case of the Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company means a ‘$50,000 contract is lost because the words and attitudes of our leaders have created a space in which fear, hate and prejudice thrive’.
He’s called on the Prime Minister to affirm the importance of halal certification to businesses.
Shari’ah Law, meaning ‘straight path’, means the animals are healthy and free of wounds or disease, according to information compiled by the Almanar Consultancy. “It requires the animal to be slaughtered alive, not dead, with stunning,” said Gaafar Muhammad.
“Within 10 to 15 seconds, the animal should die from slaughter, (from) a severed jugular vein and trachea and the animal should die from bleeding. If the animal dies before slaughter, the skull is damaged and the animal is dead, it is non-halal, and is segregated.”
But what does footage of animal mistreatment mean to Gaafar Muhammad? “We believe those animals are created by God for humans to eat. “To be slaughtered this way has been a tradition of our prophet Ibrahim, and has been done this way for a very long time.
“So there is no problem of halal, except if the treatment of the animal is not done with animal welfare.” Certification costs abattoirs and food companies which seek the label for export markets.
But Gaafar Muhammad says the certification costs the abattoirs only 1 per cent of their expenses, and the money raised funds education and the mosques within Australia. He worries the anti-halal campaign is a political stunt and distorts Islam.
Asked about claims halal certification fees were being channelled towards terriorism, a spokesperson for the Federal Attorney-General’s Department said it was not government practice to comment on specific operational or investigative matters. “The government is determined to detect and disrupt terrorism financing in Australia and take action against people who provide support to terrorist organisations.
“As part of the government’s $630 million counter-terrorism package, $20 million has been provided to AUSTRAC to improve detection of terrorism financing.”
Originally published on www.abc.net.au