Most of us may be perplexed after reading my last 2 articles When I mentioned Halal Industries like Fashion, Tourism, Pharmaceuticals, and many more. And, I am absolutely certain that many among us must be contemplating that industries of 56 Muslim countries are called Halal Industries and it has nothing to do with the rest of the world.
But my dear fellow readers I am sorry that you are highly fallacious here. Halal Economics has spread its noxious wings all over the world. Now, I will walk you through detrimental Halal Economics in Europe.
Halal Economy Global Share
Halal Islamic economy has become an established reality in the system of the global economy. Its total volume is estimated at just over $ 2 trillion.
The European share amounts to about 70 billion Euros, mostly from the food production sector. Other growth segments include cosmetics and pharmacy, lifestyle and clothing, and services such as finance and tourism. By 2020, the market share is expected to have risen by a further 6 percent.
With immigrant Muslims starting to settle in the West and becoming increasingly conscious of their purchases, the market for Halal food in the region expanded continuously. Concurrently, in many Islamic countries importing food from non-Muslim countries, concerns occur about the compliance of imported goods with Islamic dietary requirements. This resulted in governmental Islamic authorities establishing guidelines for Halal standards and certification to guarantee the monitoring and auditing of the food industry.
The rapid growth of the market has captured significant attention across all sectors of the industry. Companies that aim to enter or expand in this dynamic market or want to export to Muslim-majority countries can gain international recognition and increase the trust of their customers in their services and products by offering “Certified Halal Products” that will meet all important requirements and allow them to enjoy a larger market share.
Halal Food in Major European Countries
Europe Halal meat markets are experiencing a period of unprecedented growth and development, though the intensity varies from country to country.
In the UK and France, there has been year-on-year growth for well over a decade, while in Germany the market is just starting to develop. Halal meat and Halal animal products are increasingly available in non-ethnic stores, particularly supermarket chains and fast-food restaurants, and much as Jewish diners in the US are attracting large numbers of non-Jewish consumers, so the consumption of Halal meat products by non-Muslims is also increasing across Europe.
These developments have been hugely controversial in a number of European countries, creating tension between Muslim and Non-Muslim citizens (especially NGOs advocating better animal welfare) and also amongst Muslims.
According to the Halal Food Authority (HFA) in the UK, poultry (chickens, turkeys, and ducks) can only be ‘Immobilized’ prior to slaughter using electric water baths, while ovine animals (lamb, sheep, and goat) can only be stunned using electric tongs. The majority of bovine animals (cattle, bull, cow, and ox) in the UK are stunned with a captive bolt pistol, but this is not permitted by the HFA because of the risk that it may kill the animal. In the UK and France, former colonizers of vast Muslim territories, there has been little hesitation in upholding the exemption from the requirement to stun animals prior to slaughter and dual markets for halal meat have expanded rapidly.
In Germany, on the other hand, where the state did not allow slaughter without pre-stunning for Muslims until 2002, the expansion of the market has been considerably slower. The picture is complex. In France and the United Kingdom, there are now recognizable halal markets for meat from both pre-stunned and non-stunned animals, whilst in Germany, consumers appear less aware of the underlying debates and the distinction is less evident.
Halal Food Authority (HFA) has experienced continuous growth in line with the expansion of the UK market and the president estimates that they now certify around 75% of the UK’s halal meat. HFA’s position has been criticized by Muslim organizations opposed to these practices. One such organization is the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC), the UK’s major certifier of non-stunned halal meat, which was set up by a group of Ulama (Muslim Legal Scholars) in 2003 with a clearly defined mission to assure Muslims that they are eating “Genuine Halal“. Whilst recognizing the HMC’s position, the HFA president has consistently argued that with ever-greater numbers of animals being slaughtered for halal meat ‘we have to use some kind of mechanization, some kind of stunning to immobilize the animal”.
1) The United Kingdom
The Muslim population in the UK is very diverse, though the vast majority have roots in South Asia, particularly India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The population has increased rapidly over the last decade; between 2004 and 2008 it was reported to have grown by more than 500,000 to around 2.4 million, a growth rate ten times faster than the rest of society. The market for Halal meat is also growing at a significant rate, with the Halal Food Authority (HFA), the major halal certifying body in the UK, estimating a 30% growth in 2006 alone. However, there is still a great deal of resistance to buying fresh halal meat at supermarkets and it has been estimated that around 70- 80% of all halal meat in the UK is ‘fake’. Although things are starting to change as supermarket sales increase, many Muslims still prefer to buy fresh meat from independent retailers, who are seen to offer trust in the face of growing concerns about the authenticity of the commercial forms of halal meat that have emerged alongside market growth.
- Market Growth and Development
The HFA has experienced continuous growth in line with the expansion of the UK market and the president estimates that certify around 75% of the UK’s halal meat. It includes most of the UK’s poultry, which is slaughtered in large, highly mechanized, modern slaughterhouses where the use of mechanical blades and electrical stun baths for reversible stunning are commonplace. This method of slaughter is considered acceptable for the Halal standard proposed by the HFA, and it is compatible with the current EU regulation on the protection of animals at the time of the killing, However, there is no obligation to label any surplus poultry slaughtered in this way as halal when it is sold into the mainstream market.
The position has been hugely controversial for animal welfare NGOs and adherents of the pre-stunning discourse aligned with mainstream science. The Farm Animal Welfare Council has been at the forefront of this debate, arguing for the pre-stunning exemption to be lifted. However, the HMC contests animal science’s claim that making animals unconscious through stunning alleviates unnecessary suffering, and they consider stunning and mechanical slaughter unacceptable on a number of levels. They argue that are not against science per se, only science ‘that might contradict the rules of Islam.
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. In 2000 official sources suggested that there were four Million French Muslims, but more recently a figure of seven Million has been put forward.
The French market for halal meat has been growing steadily since the 1970s, but much like the UK market, it has grown rapidly over the last decade as ‘Halal’ has become central to the religious and cultural identity of many young Muslims. Unlike the UK, however, where the vast majority of halal slaughter is performed with pre-stunning, in France most halal slaughter is performed.
Market growth is currently estimated to stand at around 15% annually, with the market valued at between 3 and 5 billion Euros. Quick and KFC have recently opened ‘Halal only’ restaurants, while the French supermarket chain Casino has introduced a halal line called Wassila.
- Market Growth and Development
The impact of these developments can be seen in the experiences of Group Doux, one of France’s major agri-food companies. Set up as a family business in the 1930s, Group Doux grew dramatically during the 1970s to become one of Europe’s major exporters of poultry. The problems that emerged as a result of these developments, the interviewee argued that the meat industry was unprepared for the complexity of the problems that emerged as the halal market expanded.
Much like the UK, the mainstream position has been challenged by the growth of Muslim concerns about the authenticity of halal meat, and by an increasingly complex certification continuum characterized by a diverse range of halal practices and an increasingly blurred boundary between religious and commercial culture. At one end of the certification, continuum stands the well-established halal services at the large urban mosques in Paris and Lyon, which often have longstanding business relationships with the meat industry.
The German halal meat market is still in its infancy compared to the UK and French markets. The debate about the authenticity of commercial forms of halal meat has only recently intensified as consumer concerns about animal welfare have forced the Aldi and Lidl supermarket chains to think through the implications of selling halal meat.
- Market Growth and Development
European Halal Certification Institute (EHZ) pointed out because German consumers are not overly concerned about the expansion of the halal market at the present time, debate about the merits of pre-stunned and non-stunned meat has not emerged to the same extent as it has done elsewhere.
Islamic scholars in Germany work closely with the meat industry and they permit stunning and mechanical slaughter to varying degrees in different areas of production. Pre-stunning is generally becoming more acceptable amongst German Muslims; However, fifteen years ago European Halal Certification Institute (EHZ) scholars did not even permit stunning for poultry; today 95 per cent allow it. Fifty percent also permit stunning for lambs, though the stunning of cattle is still forbidden on the grounds that the captive-bolt method is irreversible.
Halal poultry is the biggest growth area in Germany, as the regulation is less stringent than it is for halal red meat. This gives producers a big advantage in the marketplace and it is an area where controversy may emerge as the market grows and expands. An executive from an EHZ certified poultry processor was clearly aware of this when he claimed that it would be ‘counterproductive’ to market his company’s products to non-Muslims at the present time.
The majority of Norway’s 72,000 Muslims live in the capital city Oslo; most are of Pakistani origin. Animal welfare standards in Norway are widely regarded as the highest in the world. under Norwegian law, it is a requirement that all animals are. stunned prior to slaughter. While the Jewish population still imports kosher meat to bypass this stringent regulation, a collaboration between the Muslim community and the Norwegian food authorities has facilitated an ongoing process of halal standardization that has been beneficial for everyone concerned.
- Market Growth and Development
The grocery sector in Norway is horizontally rather than vertically integrated, with manufacturers and farmer’s cooperatives rather than retailers dominating. The major producer of halal meat in Norway is the farmer’s cooperative Nortura. Nortura supplies processed halal products through their own-label halal brand Alfathi which worked with the Norwegian Islamic Council to find a slaughtering method that different Muslim groups could agree on, and which the Norwegian Food Safety Authority would validate.
With the Imams operating as certifiers of halal meat in their own communities’ trust began to grow and a small range of processed halal products began to appear in Norwegian supermarkets.
With the introduction of Halal chicken into the Norwegian market, though there are worries that the encroachment of the European market and the emergence of a more mixed Muslim population adhering to different schools of thought will undermine the country’s high animal welfare standards and challenge the halal consensus.
How European Countries implement Halal Certification
In France, the halal market has become the figurative goose that lays the golden egg which is home to around 4 to 5 million Muslims – one of the largest populations in Europe. In France, the estimated Halal market value is between 6 and 7 Euros.
As there is no law regulating halal meat, a number of organizations have emerged in the past which mentioned that they can certify products, which must be slaughtered and blessed by a slaughterman accredited by one of three mosques in either Paris, its southern suburb of Evry, or the southwestern city of Lyon. But the main concern is that how anyone can open a certification business, regardless of whether they have religious approval.
“Producers are required to hire a slaughterman accredited by one of the three mosques, but are under no obligation to use a halal certification agency,” Bergeaud-Blackler writes in her book. “There’s nothing keeping them from labeling their own products as certified halal.”
Italy has a Food umbrella company called KHC Group. KHC Group primarily deals in certifying products and professionals. The largest entity within the group is called KHC (Know-How certification) which certifies professionals in 22 different areas including anti-bribery/corruption auditors, quality auditors, and food safety auditors.
Auditors can be internal or external to the production process and are responsible for documenting production in terms of customers’ requirements and satisfaction. They may simply ensure processes are in place so, for example, their company fills enough vats to send the correct amount of ice cream to buyers who sell to consumers.
Halal Italia is one arm of a parent association. Founded in 2009, Halal Italia is part of a number of entities run by the Italian Islamic community, Coreis.
Coreis manages two religious circles (IHEI and ISA) in addition to the community’s two businesses: a marketing firm called Genesi Communications and Halal Italia. The marketing firm includes a graphic designer and two account managers, who are also members of the Muslim community4.
Ideas about what is halal are very much embedded in an Italian context. Briefly, the development of halal in Italy was spearheaded by a well-connected group of Sufi converts through their association, Coreis, in the last decade. Coreis started Halal Italia at the urging of the Italian Ministry of the Interior.
In 2009, the Ministry felt it was important to create an avenue to export made in Italy products to Muslim-majority countries. They created a pilot project providing advice and funding for the community of converts to start Halal Italia. The development of halal in this context is inseparable from the made-in Italy domain. Halal Italia, though a small, religious community, remains one of the most important players of halal in Europe.
By the time of the study conducted in 2018, Halal Italia certified approximately 150 products across a number of sectors including baked goods, flavorings and food ingredients, coffee products, ice creams, and meat products.
This also parallels a recent survey that showed that in 2019 the most Coreis Halal Italia
- Halal certification Genesi Marketing.
- Marketing company ISA (Interreligious Studies Academy).
- Interreligious conferences and events IHEI (Institut de Hautes Etudes Islamiques).
- French community 10 popular Italian exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were Italian baked goods and dairy products.
What is important to highlight is that the products exported to markets abroad are very much a result of local foodways. For example, Italy is well-known as a producer of coffee and gelato (or ice cream) and so it is little surprise that the halal industry would also certify products in these sectors.
Global Halal Meat Market and the ‘Supply Side’ Theory of Religion
The stun and non-stun positions evident in the strategies of UK supermarket and restaurant chains are mirrored in debates about halal standardization at the global level, where tensions between Malaysia and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) collide in a way that hinders the development of a global halal standard and enhances market complexity. The OIC’s Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) has been working to develop halal standards for over three decades.
To conclude, it seems that Halal Economics is the perfect example of what Great European Scientist Albert Einstein has once said. Einstein states that “Religions create meaning through myths, rituals, and practices; marketing creates meaning through advertising and shopping. Religion is the acceptance of a belief system; marketing is the acceptance of beliefs about a product”. However, Einstein also points out that “The relationship between religion and commerce has always been uneasy“. As Einstein states, while “The underlying beliefs are in conflict, the institutions of religion and commercial culture do in fact support each other in staying viable”.
It is at this juncture that the significance of Halal practices and the relevance of Einstein’s insights about supply-side initiatives become important considerations in this argument. In opposition to proponents of the secularization thesis, who argue that “Decline in traditional forms of religious participation signals a waning of religious belief“, Einstein argues that “Changing religious practices now emerge from production (supply) as well as societal (demand) side pressures and that different religious packages now offer different benefits for individual consumers in this sense“.
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