A great deal of meat sold in this country is halal but is not labeled is such. It’s a scandal — but an established practice: meat packers generally do not separate halal meat from non-halal meat, and do not label halal meat as such. We attempted to right that wrong. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture has for four years now ignored, shelved, or just plain refused to rule on our petition.
As many Americans do not, for a variety of reasons, wish to eat halal meat, back in February 2012, my organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), filed a citizen petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, asking that a regulation be enacted to ensure that all halal food be clearly labeled as halal. In April 2012, we agreed not to publicize our petition in order to give the agency some space to review the document without any pressure from the public.
On May 11, 2012, we had a face-to-face meeting in the USDA offices with top FSIS officials. We discussed this petition and the need for halal meat to be clearly labeled. Present at this meeting was Dan Engeljohn, a longtime USDA official who is now Assistant Administrator for the Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD) in the FSIS. This position makes him responsible for FSIS regulations.
Engeljohn and company have now had four years to rule on our petition. They’ve done absolutely nothing.
As far back as October 2010, I reported on little-noted but explosive revelations that much of the meat in Europe and the United States was being processed as halal without the knowledge of the non-Muslim consumers who bought it.
Then in November 2011, I penned an article that caused a firestorm across the political spectrum, revealing that Butterball turkeys were all halal, but were not labeled as such. Heads exploded on the left – not over Butterball’s deception, but over my having the audacity to reveal it. And the clueless and compromised on the right were enraged as well: John Podhoretz tweeted, “I’d tell Pamela Geller to put a sock in it, but the sock might be halal.”
I was, of course, excoriated as a racist Islamophobic anti-Muslim bigot. In reality, however, we have no objection to halal meat being sold, as long as it is clearly labeled as such, and as long as non-halal meat is available. Meat that is halal must be labeled as such.
Our petition regarding ritual slaughter was posted on the FSIS website on February 14, 2012. It was a “ritual slaughter” petition that applied to all types of ritual slaughter: kosher, halal, etc. Every type of ritual slaughter holds some type of concern for some segment of the consuming public. We were not asking the USDA to single out a specific type of slaughter when dealing with this issue; our petition did not single out one type of ritual slaughter over another, nor did it wish to discriminate against a specific religious group.
We just wanted all meat that had been ritually slaughtered to be clearly labeled to that effect. Kosher meat is routinely marked accordingly; why not halal meat?
Our petition has since been taken down from the FSIS site, but here is a screenshot via the wayback machine.
This is strictly a false labeling and consumer choice issue. Religious people – Jews, Muslims, and others — should have the freedom to have meat and poultry products produced in a way that meets their needs. Conversely, consumers who don’t wish to consume ritually slaughtered products have a right to sufficient labeling information.
Under the current system, ritually slaughtered meat and poultry is not sufficiently labeled for consumers to be able to choose exactly what they want. Labeling can be misleading and untruthful in what it does not say if key facts are omitted. Consumers should have the ability to be able to choose for themselves if they want to eat ritually slaughtered products. Some Christians see the New Testament prohibiting the consumption of meat sacrificed to idols, and some would view halal meat as meeting that definition. But under current law, they have no way to avoid eating it.
Just as those who buy meat and poultry products labeled halal or kosher should have a reasonable expectation that the meat they’re buying was actually produced in that manner, so also those of us who don’t want to eat halal meat for whatever reason should also have a reasonable assurance that meat not labeled halal was not actually slaughtered in accordance with Sharia rules. As halal slaughter increases in the US, the likelihood of unknowingly buying meat sacrificed under the present system also increases.
This is a matter of simple justice and common sense. So why is the USDA stonewalling on our petition?
Pamela Geller is the President of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), publisher of PamelaGeller.com and author of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America and Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance. Follow her on Twitter here. Like her on Facebook here.