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Halal (Arabic: حلال ḥalāl, "permissible") is a term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. The term is used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law. The opposite of this word is haraam.
Halal foods are foods that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic dietary guidelines. The criteria specify both what foods are allowed, and how the food must be prepared. The foods addressed are mostly types of meat/animal tissue.
 Meaning of halal
"Halal" is an Arabic word meaning "lawful" or "permissible", and the term not only covers food and drink, but also to all matters of daily life. When it comes to halal food, most people think of meat foods only. However, Muslims must ensure that all foods, particularly processed foods, pharmaceuticals, and non-food items like cosmetics, are also halal. Frequently, these products contain animal by-products or other ingredients that are not permissible for Muslims to eat or use on their bodies.
 Explicitly forbidden
A variety of substances are considered as harmful (haraam) for humans to consume and, therefore, forbidden as per various Quranic verses:
Animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but God. All that has been dedicated or offered in sacrifice to an idolatrous altar or saint or a person considered to be "divine"[Quran 2] [Quran 5]
Carrion (carcasses of dead animals)[Quran 2]
An animal that has been strangled, beaten (to death), killed by a fall, gored (to death), savaged by a beast of prey (unless finished off by a human)[Quran 5]
Food over which God's name is not pronounced (or at least not in a name other than God)[Quran 6]
These verses also have information regarding Halal foods: 2:173, 5:5, and 6:118-119, 121.
 Meat from Christians and Jews
Main article: Islamic and Jewish dietary laws compared
In Surah 5:5 of the Quran, it is written: "The food of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] is lawful for you as your food is lawful for them."
An overwhelming majority of scholars from the Muslim world agree that this verse speaks about the Christians of Muhammad's time and say that Christian methods of slaughtering and consumption has drastically changed over time as the diet played lesser importance in the daily practice of Christians. They also point to Deuteronomy chapter 14 verse 8 in the Bible which says that "Thou shall not eat of the swine nor shall you touch its dead carcasses." Matthew 15:11, though, notes, "What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Pork and pork related products, which are forbidden in Islam, are consumed by Christians and used widely in food and food products. Kosher meats, which are consumed by Jews, are permissible if no Halal meat is available. This is due to the similarity between both methods of slaughtering and the similar principles of Kosher meat which are still observed by the orthodox Jews today.
 Exception if no Halal is available
If there is no other food available, then a Muslim is allowed to eat non-halal food. Surah 2:173 states:
If one is forced because there is no other choice, neither craving nor transgressing, there is no sin on him.
"This day (all) the good things are allowed to you; and the food of those who have been given the Book is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them; and the chaste from among the believing women and the chaste from among those who have been given the Book before you (are lawful for you); when you have given them their dowries, taking (them) in marriage, not fornicating nor taking them for paramours in secret; and whoever denies faith, his work indeed is of no account, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers."
— Quran, Sura 5 (Al-Maidah), ayat 5
 In non-Islamic countries
A halal meat store sign in Hankou, China, ca. 1934-1935. China historically has had a sizable Hui Muslim population.
Halal certificate issued for dairy products by a German registered merchant
Australian halal certificate for chocolate.
Rules concerning halal food are relatively difficult to adhere to in non-Muslim countries:
The abundance of pork and non-dhabiḥa meats (that is, from animals that are not slaughtered by the prescribed method) at restaurants presents a rather difficult problem to overcome. While a Muslim will not order a non-halal dish, there is a concern about cross-contamination. This is likely to occur when the dhabiḥa halal dish is prepared with the same cooking tools and in the same kitchen as other non-dhabiḥa halal dishes. Food particles and juices from the two dishes are likely to be exchanged, technically rendering the dhabiḥa halal dish as haraam.
Many apparently meat-free dishes, and even some desserts, contain pork, such as most kinds of gelatin, or other non-conforming substances. There is some disagreement about food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) that may use enzymes derived from pig fat in the production process. It is difficult to avoid such additives when eating out since they are usually not listed on restaurant menus. Some Muslim organizations compile tables of such additives.
Alcoholic beverages, including wine and whiskey, are used in many sauces and cakes, and alcohol is used as an ingredient (a solvent and a preservative) for the production and storage of food flavorings such as vanilla and other extracts.
 Efforts to increase the availability of halal food in non-Islamic countries
Since the turn of the 21st century, there have been efforts to create organizations such as the Muslim Consumer Group that certify food products as halal for Muslim consumers.
Since 1991, some mainstream manufacturers of soups, grains, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, prepared foods, and other products, as well as hotels, restaurants, airlines, hospitals, and other service providers have pursued the halal market. These companies purchase halal-certified products. Halal certification tells Muslims that their ingredients and production methods have been tested and declared permissible by a certification body. It also allows companies to export products to most Middle Eastern countries and South East Asian Countries. The oldest and most well-known halal certifier in the United States is called the "Islamic Services of America". Something that companies which intend to export halal products must keep in mind, when choosing a certifier, is whether or not the certifier is recognized by foreign governmental bodies.
In 1986, the "Islamic Meat & Poultry Company" was founded in Stockton, California. Islamic Meat & Poultry is a halal-only, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected, hand slaughtering and meat processing facility. This company follows the principles of slaughtering and meat processing according to the Islamic Shariah.
In 2011, Halal Products Certification Institute was established in California and became the first worldwide corporation that certified halal consumer products such as cosmetics, personal care products and perfumes & fragrances. The institute was established by Islamic intellectual scholars and Muslim scientists to assure the dissemination of halal consumer products.
Also in Europe, several organizations have been created over the past 20 years in order to certify halal products. A survey recently published by a French association of Muslim Consumers (ASIDCOM) shows that the market of halal products has been developed in a chaotic way. The certification organizations do not have a common definition of "halal" nor agreed upon control procedures and traceability. The controls implemented by individual agencies are all very different: it can go from an annual audit of the slaughterhouse to checking each production with permanent controls in place.
In South Africa, most chicken products have a halal stamp. The South African National Halal Authority (SANHA) issues certificates and products bearing this logo range from water, snacks, and even meat-free products (which may contain non-halal ingredients). The South African National Halal Authority also licenses the usage of the Halal logo in restaurants where the food is halal in addition to no alcohol or pork products being served.
One of the first halal food companies in the USA is Midamar Corporation, established in 1974 and located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It is also one of the first companies in the USA to sell USDA approved and Halal certified US protein products to the Middle East and South East Asia. The certification agency Islamic Services of America (ISA) was established in 2004 and located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Islamic Services of America certifications are recognized by some Islamic countries.
Some questions have been raised about the authenticity and practices of ISA and Midamar. An investigative article documents the conflict of interest between ISA and Midamar. At least four members of the Midamar owner's family are on the board of directors of ISA. Midamar's vague differentiation on the slaughtering methods has also generated controversy.
In Dearborn, Michigan, the home of one of the largest Muslim and Arab populations in the United States, some fast food restaurant chains such as the McDonald's Corporation have introduced halal chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches.
In the United Kingdom, China, Malaysia or Singapore, halal fried chicken restaurants having thousands of outlets serve halal foods, such as the ChicKing Fried Chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Brown's Chicken, and Crown Fried Chicken companies. As of February 2009, Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the U.K. began to sell halal meals in several restaurants.
Also, in New York City there are numerous halal food carts in business which serve gyros, chicken platters, and other halal fast foods, whereas in Europe, there are many of the Muslim-owned Döner kebab shops.
A law passed by a county in Michigan in 2005 bans the sale, distribution, or production of food mislabeled "halal," when county authorities determine that the food does not meet Islamic dietary standards. Similar laws protect kosher foods in most of the United States, and in many other countries, states, or provinces.
McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken have been declared to be halal in Sri Lanka by the Jamiyathul Ulama, the only authority able to give out the certification there.
In 2008 and 2009, twelve stores in the Mary Brown's chain in Ontario and Alberta became 100% halal. Numerous halal meat markets also exist in Southern Ontario and Metro Vancouver.
Popeye's Chicken in Ontario is halal-certified, however, a legal dispute broke out between a group of 14 Muslim franchisees and the chain over the company's decision to use machine slaughtered birds. The 14 Toronto area outlets are instead using hand slaughtered halal birds and are suing the company so that they can continue to do so.
Thailand and Philippines also has a noticeable population of Muslims and Halal-meat shops country-wide.
Within the People's Republic of China, which has a sizable Hui Muslim minority population, halal food is known as "Qingzhen" (Chinese: 清真; pinyin: qīngzhēn; literally "pure truth"). Halal restaurants run by Hui Chinese resemble typical Chinese food, except that they do not serve pork. Dishes specific to Hui Chinese are known as Chinese Islamic cuisine.
 Dhabihah: method of slaughter
Main article: Dhabihah
Ḏabīḥah (ذَبِيْحَة) is the prescribed method of slaughtering all meat sources excluding fish and other sea-life per Islamic law. This method of slaughtering animals consists of using a well sharpened knife to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat, the carotid artery, wind pipe and jugular veins. The head of an animal that is slaughtered using halal methods is aligned with the Qiblah. In addition to the direction, permitted animals should be slaughtered upon utterance of the Islamic prayer "in the name of God".
 Animal welfare concerns
Animal rights groups have objected to Halal, saying that it is a form of animal torture. The animal is positioned in order to have its blood completely drained (if size permits) and left to exsanguinate.
The ritual method of slaughter as practiced in Islam and Judaism has been described as inhumane by some animal welfare organizations in the U.K. and the U.S. who have stated that it "causes severe suffering to animals.".
In 1978, a study incorporating EEG (electroencephalograph) with electrodes surgically implanted on the skull of 17 sheep and 15 calves, and conducted by Wilhelm Schulze et al. at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Germany concluded that "the slaughter in the form of a ritual cut is, if carried out properly, painless in sheep and calves according to EEG recordings and the missing defensive actions" (of the animals) and that "For sheep, there were in part severe reactions both in bloodletting cut and the pain stimuli" when captive bolt stunning (CBS) was used. This study is cited by the German Constitutional Court in its permitting of dhabiha slaughtering. However, recent studies have countered the Schulze study which is dated and relied on older EEG measurement techniques. Dr. Schulze himself also warned in his report that the stunning technique may not have functioned properly.
In 2003, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an independent advisory group, concluded that the way halal and kosher meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals. FAWC argued that cattle required up to two minutes to bleed to death when such means are employed. The Chairperson of FAWC at the time, Judy MacArthur Clark, added, "this is a major incision into the animal and to say that it doesn't suffer is quite ridiculous."
Halal and kosher butchers deny that their method of killing animals is cruel and expressed anger over the FAWC recommendation. Majid Katme of the Muslim Council of Britain also disagreed, stating that "it's a sudden and quick haemorrhage. A quick loss of blood pressure and the brain is instantaneously starved of blood and there is no time to start feeling any pain."
In April 2008, the Food and Farming minister in the UK, Lord Rooker, stated that halal and kosher meat should be labeled when it is put on sale, so that members of the public can decide whether or not they want to buy food from animals that have been bled to death. He was quoted as saying, "I object to the method of slaughter ... my choice as a customer is that I would want to buy meat that has been looked after, and slaughtered in the most humane way possible." The RSPCA supported Lord Rooker's views."
For the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Humane Society International, "the animals that are slaughtered according to kosher and halal should be securely restrained, particularly the head and neck, before cutting the throat" as "movements (during slaughter) results in a poor cut, bad bleeding, slow loss of consciousness, if at all, and pain."
In Europe, the DIALREL project addressed religious slaughter issues by gathering and disseminating information and by encouraging dialogue between the spiritual and scientific communities. Funding for DIALREL was provided by The European Commission, and it began functioning in November 2006. DIALREL produced many fact sheets and ultimately published a final report in 2010, "Report on good and adverse practices - Animal welfare concerns in relation to slaughter practices from the viewpoint of veterinary sciences."
Certain Muslim and Jewish communities expressed frustration with the process of dialogue skewed for non-religious audiences.