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Government of India notifies guidelines for halal certification of meat products: What it means, what the guidelines say and what Hindu orgs are saying

Hindus and Sikhs prefer to eat Jhatka meat and meat products. He said, “Hindus and Sikhs avoid Halal meat and meat products as per their religion. However, most of the outlets in India do not indicate if they are serving Halal or Jhatka meat.”

On April 6, the Commerce Ministry, Government of India, notified guidelines for halal certification of meat and meat products specifically for export purposes. As per the notification, the meat and meat products originating from India can be exported as ‘halal certified’ only if the facility from which they are produced, processed and packaged has a valid certificate issued by a body accredited by a Board of Quality Council of India (QCI). The meat producers are allowed to export non-halal meat and meat products like before without any change in the process.

Furthermore, despite the Indian halal certification, the producer/supplier/exporter of the meat and meat products is required to meet the requirements issued by the importing countries. The Government had called for suggestions of the draft guidelines on halal certification in January this year for the export of meat and meat products as proposed by the directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT), which is an arm of the commerce ministry that deals with import and export-related matters.

In the notification, the DGFT pointed out that the existing halal certification bodies in the country would have to get accreditation from National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) for Indian Conformity Assessment Scheme (i-CAS) Halal.

It read, “Meat and meat products shall be allowed to be exported as ‘halal certified’, only if produced, processed and/or packaged in a facility having a valid certification under the i-CAS of the Quality Council of India (QCI), issued by a certification body duly accredited by the NABCB as per the guidelines issued/amended from time to time.”

Products covered under the notification

Meat and meat products like the meat of bovine animals, fish, the meat of sheep and goats, sausages and other similar products are covered under the notification. Notably, for now, it applies only to meat and meat products, and no other products have been notified under the same process.

Why halal certification?

Halal certification already exists in India, but it is not regulated. Many countries prefer only halal products to get imported; thus, the companies in India get the certification from private entities. The objective of the new certification system is said to streamline the certification of meat and meat products as halal from the country only by Government authorised entities. It has been further claimed it would open new opportunities for halal-based entrepreneurs among the large Muslim population in the country.

What is Halal?

The notification issued by the Government of India talked in detail about what is Halal and provided definitions in detail. Here is what it says in the letter.

Islamic Shariah

The revelation on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in relation to the beliefs, sentiments and acts of the ordered, whether conclusive or presumptive.

Source: GoI

Halal

The term Halal is used for products, services or systems which are considered lawful (Tayeib) or permissible under the Islamic Shariah law that do not consist of or contain any part that is considered as unlawful (haram) according to Islamic law, and/or the actions permitted by Shariah law without punishment imposed on the doer.

Haram

The term Haram refers to anything that is prohibited or forbidden in the Islamic law.

Halal Product

Any product which is allowed to be consumed or used according to Islamic Rules by eating, drinking, injecting, inhaling, applying or wearing should comply with the requirements mentioned in this standard.

Halal Food

Halal food means food and drink and/or their ingredients permitted under the Shariah law and that fulfil the following conditions:

a) does not contain any parts or products of animals that are non-halal by Shariah law or any parts or products of animals which are not slaughtered according to Shariah law;

b) does not contain najs according to Shariah law;

c) safe for consumption, non-poisonous, non-intoxicating or non-hazardous to health;

d) not prepared, processed or manufactured using equipment contaminated with najs according to Shariah law;

e) does not contain any human parts or its derivatives that are not permitted by Shariah law;

f) during its preparation, processing, handling, packaging, storage and distribution, the food is physically separated from any other food that does not meet the requirements stated in items a), b), c), d) or e) or any other things that have been decreed as najs by Shariah law.

Najis

A term in Arabic language that means impurity or impure, dirty, polluted, contaminated, dirt, or filth. Najis according to Shariah law are:

a) dogs and pigs and their descendants;

b) halal food that is contaminated with things that are non-halal;

c) halal food that comes into direct contact with things that are non-halal;

d) any liquid and objects discharged from the orifices of human beings or animals such as urine, blood, vomit, pus, placenta and excrement, sperm and ova of pigs and dogs except sperm and ova of other animals;

NOTE. Milk, sperm and ova of human and animals, except dog and pig, are not najs.

e) carrion or ha/al animals that are not slaughtered according to Shariah law; and

f) khamal and food or drink which contain or mixed with khamar.

There are three types of Najs:

i) mughallazah which is considered as severe najs which are dogs and pigs (khinzirj including any liquid and objects discharged from their orifices, descendants and derivatives;

ii) mukhaffafah which is considered as light najs. The only najs in this category is urine from a baby boy at the age of two years and below who has not consumed any other food except his mother’s milk; and

iii) mutawassitah which is considered as medium najs which does not fall under severe or light najs such as vomit, pus, blood, khamar, carrion, liquid and objects discharged from the orifices, etc.

Slaughtering (Tazkeya)

According to Shariah law the slaughter act is that severs the trachea (halqum), oesophagus (mari) and both the carotid arteries and jugular veins (wadajain) to hasten the bleeding to drain blood and the death of animal.

OpIndia has not changed a single word of the definitions and descriptions.

As it is a Sharia practice, it can only be achieved by forcing the companies to appoint Muslims who are well-versed in Sharia law and practices to ensure the food and services are “Halal”.

Responsibilities of the management

Notably, under the organisation and management responsibility section, it is mentioned that it will be the organisation’s responsibility to ensure there is a competent person to check compliance. That means they have to appoint a Muslim or a qualified person who is well aware of the Islamic Sharia Law. No matter how much it emphasises on “someone who is well-versed in Islamic laws”, it is the unsaid rule that the person who is going to ensure compliance will be a Muslim.

Furthermore, it adds, “The management shall ensure that they are trained on the Halal principles and its application,” which means everyone who is in control of the manufacturing and supply chain has be to be trained on the Halal principles.

If a slaughterhouse is providing Halal meat, then the premises shall be dedicated for Halal slaughtering and Halal processing only. This is one of the reasons that companies do not provide Jhatka meat and meat products if they are Halal certified. It is much easier for them to stick to one process of slaughtering rather than establish two separate sections.

Source: GoI

Slaughter only by Muslims

One of the major aspects of Halal slaughtering is that it has to be done by a practising Muslim only. That means in slaughterhouses where halal meat is prepared, non-Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs, cannot get a job. This discriminating practice deprives thousands of Hindus and Sikhs of the Kasai community of regulated jobs in the sector. Furthermore, even if a Hindu or Sikh wants to run a slaughterhouse to export Halal meat, he has to appoint only Muslims for the slaughter process.

SourceL GoI

Halal certification bodies in India

There are many private organisations that provide Halal certification to Indian companies. Many of them are recognised by the Middle Eastern countries that require the products to be Halal if the Indian companies want to sell their products in those countries. These organisations are Halal India Private Limited, Jamait Ulama-E-Maharashtra, Jamait Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust and many others. Among these Jamait Ulama-i-Hind is one of those organisations that have raised eyebrows. OpIndia reported how this particular organisation provide legal aid to terrorists. According to a New Indian Express report, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has offered its services to around 700 accused. What is worrying about such interventions is that they have been able to get acquittals of at least 192 terror accused since 2007.

Halal in India

The trade notice issued in January this year mentioned that non-Muslims are accepting Halal products in India. It read, “Due to changed Consumer Perception, the Halal market attracts Muslim and non-Muslim consumers. However, the perception towards Halal products and purchase intention are not quite the same, as Muslim consumers usually consider Halal food products mainly because of religious issues. In contrast, the increasing demand from non-Muslim consumers around the globe is influenced by the growing concern of the health-conscious community that request well-prepared product in terms of the slaughtering process, cleanliness and other reasons. Furthermore, culture assimilation in a multiracial country like India has shaped the purchase intention of non-Muslim consumers towards Halal food products.”

Excerpt from Halal circular by GoI issued in January 2023.

Hindu organisations react to notification

In January 2023, when the government of India sought a reply on the Halal India certification, several Hindu organisations submitted their reply. One of them was Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. OpIndia reached out to the National Spokesperson of the organisation for his comments. He said, “We submitted our reply to the government in March last week. However, it seems the government has decided not to act on the suggestions submitted by other Hindu organisations and us.” Notably, the last date of the submissions was in February, but HJS mentioned in its submission that the timeframe given was insufficient. Interestingly, many were unaware of any such notification, let alone have time to make any submissions in this regard.

Shinde added that the government, in its notification, has decided to continue with the organisations that are giving the Halal certification in India instead of forming a special cell for the same under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). He said, “If the organisations that are already giving the certification can get accreditation from the government and do it legally, it will not change the structure at all. These organisations would keep getting the money that could have gone to the government’s treasury if there had been a Halal certification body under the government’s department.”

Pointing to the largest Halal certification body in India that is Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which is known for supporting terrorists and providing them with legal aid. “Do you think that the money this organisation collects will not be used to provide legal aid to the terrorists and anti-India elements after they get accredited by the government for Halal certification? What is the assurance that these organisations will not support any anti-India activity using the money they earned by giving Halal certification? Government has to establish a rule where the money can be used and ensure the organisations stick to it,” he added.

Shinde added that the Government already has a well-established standard for food safety under FSSAI that is not linked to any religion. He said, “FSSAI regulations ensure the safety of the food items. What was the need to bring a specific certification linked to a particular religion?” Though the government has notified us that the new certification is only for the meat and meat products that are to be exported, Shinde believes that it is going to be a slippery slope.

Hindus and Sikhs prefer to eat Jhatka meat and meat products. He said, “Hindus and Sikhs avoid Halal meat and meat products as per their religion. However, most of the outlets in India do not indicate if they are serving Halal or Jhatka meat.” In the submission, HJS said that the Halal industry has expanded to non-halal products and services, including housing, service providers, taxis, vegetarian food items, makeup products and more. The organisation pointed out how food chains like Mc Donalds, KFC, Burger King, and Pizza Hut have “proudly” announced they only serve Halal meat and meat products on their outlets. Even after the outrage, these outlets have decided not to act upon the dietary requirements of the Hindus and Sikhs, that collectively make up the majority of the meat-eating population in the country.

Source: HJS

Shinde again emphasised that there was no urgency to bring the notification. He also pointed out that saying it is “Halal” and stamping the meat and meat products with a Government issued stamp will not mean anything. He said in 2020 a decades-old racket was busted in Malaysia where meat claimed to be Halal beef turned out to be Kangaroo meat imported from Australia. “If they cannot assure Halal meat in Islamic countries, what significant change would such hurried notification bring to India?” Shinde questioned.

Alternative for non-Muslim population

Shinde emphasised the need for proper marking of Halal meat and meat products in the Indian market. He urged the government to establish a rule that companies, restaurants etc., must be bound to announce that they are serving Halal-certified food and services. Furthermore, he said that there should be an alternative certification for non-Halal food items and services to make sure the religious sentiments of non-Muslims are not hurt in the process.

Hindus and Sikhs should have a choice to eat and use services that do not go against their religious practices. Forcing Hindus and Sikhs to accept Halal should not be done at this scale. Shinde said, “The documentation released by the government talks in detail about what Halal is and the requirements to make something Halal. It is an Islamic practice.”

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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