In a welcome move, the government of India has removed the word ‘Halal’ from its Red Meat Manual issued by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
About 6 months ago, the issue of the Red Meat Manual reading as if it promotes and is imposing the Halal method of slaughter in India had surfaced. Platform UpWord had tweeted a picture with some problematic wording of the manual.
The excerpt that was tweeted by UpWord read, “All animals must be slaughtered by Halal method in the presence of holy men approved by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind as per Islamic Shariyat, for certification”.
Soon, the government had issued a clarification as to why the term Halal and the process is mentioned in the APEDA Red Meat Manual.
APEDA said that there is no condition imposed by the government of India and that the govt does not mandate that only Halal Meat has to be exported. However, it is the requirement of the majority of countries importing the meat. APEDA further clarified that Halal Certification agencies are accredited directly by the respective importing counties and no govt agency has a role in it.
Essentially the government of India says that in their Red Meat Manual, the standards for Halal slaughter are mentioned not because the government mandates that meat be slaughtered only by the Halal method, but because the importing countries require that the meat be slaughtered in this specific manner. Since most meat importing countries are Islamic countries, it follows the reason that those countries would demand that their meat be slaughtered only by the Halal method.
However, it is true that the wording of the manual did give the impression that the government was mandating and promoting the Halal method, which would essentially mean mandating a religious practise, even if it was to ensure that the importing countries continue to import our product.
Taking stock of the situation, the government of India has now changed the Red Meat Manual to exclude the word ‘Halal’ from the manual altogether.
For example, in the older manual, the section on ‘Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) had an entire sub-section on ‘Halal’.
However, how that section has been removed completely.
This was one of the main sections where the confusion was created as if the government of India mandated that slaughtering the meat using the Halal method was a part of the ‘Safety Management System’ according to APEDA.
An entire section that read, “The animals are slaughtered by Halal System under the strict vigilance of recognised and registered Islamic body as per the tenets of Islamic Shariyat. The certificate for Halal is issued by the representatives of registered Islamic body under whose supervision, the slaughter is conducted in order to meet the requirement of importing countries” has also been removed.
Several such changes have been made in the red meat document wherein the word ‘Halal’ has been removed.
The only place now where the word ‘Halal’ appears is in the list of APEDA Registered Integrated Abattoirs Cum Meat Processing Plants, as a name of a plant itself.
Words like ‘Islamic’, ‘Halal’, ‘Ulema’, ‘Shariyat’ etc, that were there earlier have been removed and do not appear in the Red Meat Manual anymore.
What do these changes in the Red Meat Manual by APEDA mean?
Essentially, the changes in the manual are to ensure that the wording is not misconstrued to mean that the government of India mandates the Halal method in any way, which demands the hegemony of Muslims.
It is a fact that importing countries are mostly Islamic countries and mandate that the meat be cut, cleaned, packaged etc in the Halal manner and thus, it is impossible for the government to do away with the Halal method of slaughter itself for the foreseeable future.
The change in the manual, however, can be seen as a big step towards changing the discourse. While the importing countries do mandate that the meat be cut, cleaned and packaged in accordance with the practice of Halal, the government itself not ‘endorsing’ or appearing to mandate the practice opens up a window of opportunity for Hindus who wish to bring about a change.
When the manual had the word ‘Halal’ in it, it was entirely possible to dismiss even the possibility of selling or exporting Jhatka meat, since the manual provided a loophole to exclusively stick to the Halal method of slaughter. It also gave the impression that a secular country is open to endorsing rigid religious practices as mandated by Islamic clerics and associations. This is not to say that the change in the wording itself can break the hegemony of the Halal cartel, however, it is essential to provide a window to Hindus to make the changes they wish to.
Halal method of slaughter: A method that makes Hindus its hostage and promotes Islamic hegemony
It is important to note that Halal is not just a dietary preference but a method that imposes Islamic supremacy on those who don’t follow the faith.
Halal can only be performed by a Muslim man. Thus, non-Muslims are automatically denied employment at a Halal firm. There are certain other conditions that must be fulfilled that makes it quite clear that it is intrinsically an Islamic practice. Guidelines are available at the official website of a certification authority of Halal in India which makes it clear that non-Muslim employees cannot be employed in any part of the slaughtering process.
Throughout the document that lists the guidelines to Islamic slaughtering, care is taken to mention the religion of the employees involved. It makes it abundantly clear that only Muslim employees are allowed to participate in the entire process at every stage. Even the labelling of the meat can be done by Muslims only.
Thus, it’s quite apparent that when a person demands that he be served only Halal meat, he isn’t merely exercising a diet preference but he is also playing a part in deciding who is involved in the process of slaughtering the animal and labelling it. Furthermore, Muslims are barred by their scriptures from consuming non-halal food. Thus, when a Muslim specifically demands Halal meat, it’s an explicit instance of them demanding service that can only be performed by Muslims. The obvious implication is that a Muslim denies service from a non-Muslim due to his religious identity.
The Halal certification department also specifies the exact Islamic method of slaughtering. It says that the slaughtering of the animal must be done in just one stroke without lifting the knife, using a sharp knife. It says that the windpipe (throat), food-tract (oesophagus) and the two jugular veins must be cut in a single stroke. Care must be taken that the head is not severed and the spinal cord is not cut. The rules also say that meat slaughtered by a machine can’t be halal, it must be slaughtered by a Muslim person.
Essentially, the entire industry thus ensures the exclusion of people of all other faiths and ensures that only Muslims are employed. Not just that, they ensure that the meat is slaughtered while chanting Islamic slogans.
The Department of Halal Certification of the European Union makes it even more clear that employment opportunities at a Halal firm will be exclusively available to Muslims. It says, “Slaughtering must be done by a sane adult Muslim. Animals slaughtered by a Non-Muslim will not be Halal.” It states further, “The name of Allah must be invoked (mentioned) at the time of slaughtering by saying: Bismillah Allahu Akbar. (In the Name of Allah; Allah is the Greatest.) If at the time of slaughtering the name of anyone else other than Allah is invoked (i.e. animal sacrificed for him/her), then the meat becomes Haram “unlawful.””
The way forward
While the change in terminology by the government is a welcome step which opens a window for Hindus, the next steps have to be taken by Hindus themselves and not the government. While the change in the wording gives Hindus an opening, the government cannot create a demand for Jhatka meat and that is something that Hindus would have to do for themselves.
It is a fact that the Halal method of slaughter will continue on the ground since the demand for Halal meat is created by Muslims. If Hindus want the Jhatka method to take predominance, the demand itself will have to be created first, just as Islamic nations and those who belong to the faith of Islam created for Halal.
Only recently, for example, it was reported that the South Delhi Municipal Corporation was planning to make it necessary for eateries and meat retailers in its jurisdiction to specify whether the meat they’re serving is halal or jhatka.
The resolution which has been approved by the standing committee of the civic body on Thursday and would now be going to the house of the Parliament for approval, states that “thousands of eating places are working in 104 wards of 4 zones falling below SDMC and meat is being served in 90% eating places however it’s not displayed by them whether or not…(it) is halal or jhatka.” An identical state of affairs prevailed at meat retail shops, it read.
“According to Hinduism and Sikhism, consuming halal meat is forbidden and in opposition to the religions… Therefore, the committee resolves that this route be given to eating places and meat shops that it should be displayed mandatorily as to which meat is being bought and served by them…that halal or jhatka meat is available here”, furthered the resolution.
This was possible because demand was created by Hindus for Jhatka meat. After the raging debate, several Hindus asked for Jhatka meat at eateries and questioned them about why Jhatka was not being served, which could be the dietary preference of people who belonged to faiths other than Islam.
Thus, while the government has taken the first step and removed the problematic nomenclature that promoted Islamic hegemony in the meat market, the market for Jhatka, for the slaughter process to take predominance, has to come from Hindus.