A reader from Australia emailed me this morning. Her question was simple:
My reader wrote:
“I just found out recently that a *lot* of the meat here is now. My understanding is that those animals are then dedicated with a prayer to Allah by a practicing Muslim.
The issue there is that they don’t label such meat so you don’t know what you’re getting. (A horrible greedy move from corporations wanting to make money*)
As someone who makes fairly frequent food offerings which may have been halal meat without my knowledge – would this make a difference at all?
This is probably a really stupid question – but as someone else who makes food offerings, I was interested in your opinion.”
*(Apparently, it is less expensive to produce one category of meat. There have been issues for observant Jews and Muslims with kosher and halal slaughtering in factories, with it not being done properly, so perhaps the real issue here is factory farming… -GK)
Well, yes. It makes quite a huge difference. I’ve asked my reader to send me more information, and I’ll be doing some research on my own, but if meat is being rendered halal, and that includes a prayer and dedication to Allah, and then that meat is being sold without efficient labelling, that is a huge problem for us.
This is, ironically, the same thing early Christians had to deal with in the Roman Empire, where the majority of meat came from offerings to the Gods. This was one of the spurs to the development of the Eastern monastic movement, and you even see Vegetarianism in parts of the Eastern Church. The Christians solved this by conquering the Roman empire. #lifegoals.
Seriously though, if meat is offered to Allah, or dedicated to Him before purchase, (as it is perfectly acceptable and proper for Muslims to do), then it is not an appropriate offering to our Gods. Plus, if we consume it, we’re consuming meat dedicated to at best a God Whose tradition is opposed to ours, Whose tradition contributed to the destruction of ours, and we’re giving to our Gods, meat already claimed. This is horrifying to me. It’s like having a friend over for dinner and giving them meat that has been pre-chewed.
I would suggest two things: either slaughter your own meat (chickens, rabbits etc, but you have to have training for this) or research the hell out of it and find meat that isn’t halal. One thing you might look for is organic farms that will allow you to pick out an animal and have it slaughtered for you, then you get the meat, or you and whoever else has bought into the animal.
Either way, this is a significant theological issue, not just for those of us whose traditions involve the sacrament of sacrifice, but for those who wish to eat meat without polluting themselves. What is appropriate for a Muslim to give, is not for us (and vice versa).
I’m not sure what the state of things is in the US, but you better believe, I’ll be looking into it.
EDIT: after a cursory websearch it looks like this is a problem with USDA as well, so much so that there have been ongoing petitions for accurate labelling.