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Halal Vegetarianism

This section of the site shows how vegetarianism and Islam are compatible and how the switch to a vegetarian diet can help the animals, the Earth, and your own health.

Pork in Your Milk?

Are you eating "halal" meat? Did you know that your sheep have probably eaten chicken in their feed? Or that your dairy cows have probably had pork bones in their feed? A new article shows that this problem extends beyond meat in America - even animals in the Islamic world are fed these products.

Mercy and Compassion

The Qur'an is clear about the special lives of animals:
Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do. Sura 24:41
There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have We omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end. Sura 6:38
The Qur'an tells us that animals are communities and nations unto their own and that they are more than mere resources. However, animals are treated as nothing but machines on today's "factory farms." Not only are these factory farms found in the West, they are also becoming the dominant means of meat, egg, and milk production throughout the world. More than 20 billion animals are slaughtered for food each year worldwide. These billions of animals are confined to extremely small spaces so that producers can raise as many animals as possible. Ninety percent of U.S. eggs come from chickens who are crammed together up to five to a cage the size of a record album cover, and this method of egg production is spreading throughout the globe.

Chickens have their beaks cuts off with hot irons; cattle are dehorned, castrated, and branded, and their tails are cut off without anesthetics. Dairy cows are also confined to tiny stalls and kept constantly pregnant through artificial insemination. All animals on factory farms suffer.

The overcrowding of the factory farm causes many animals to become psychotic and to mutilate themselves because of boredom or stress. To combat the diseases rampant in such overcrowded conditions, factory farmers routinely spray animals with pesticides and inject them with antibiotics. To fatten them quickly and inexpensively, animals are injected with growth hormones. Residues from these drugs and chemicals are passed on to those who consume the flesh.

These practices violate the Prophet's (SAWS) teachings to cause no pain to an animal before she or he is slaughtered. In addition, Muhammad (SAWS) forbade the cutting off of tails and other mutilations, as well as branding animals on the face (which is still practiced by some ranchers).

During transport, animals raised for food are typically denied food and water, are overcrowded, are given no protection from the elements, and can often languish for days while waiting to be slaughtered. Many chickens have their wings broken during transport, and many animals suffocate in the transport trucks. The Prophet (SAWS) said that one should not keep an animal waiting to be slaughtered, and Hazrat Umar (RA) once flogged a man who refused to give a sheep water before she was slaughtered.

Very often there are further atrocities at the time of slaughter. One investigative story, regarding non-dhabiha slaughter found that cattle were being dismembered while still very much alive . But even Muslims who try to keep halal by purchasing halal meats may be supporting similar abuses. An undercover investigation into halal meat exported from India found that animals were being skinned and butchered while they frantically tried to escape or while they exhibited other clear signs of life. This despite the clear Islamic ruling that animals must clearly be dead before any skinning or butchering begins.

Factory-farmed meat also may not be halal (permissible). Cattle, sheep, chickens, and other animals are routinely fed the ground-up bodies of pigs, chickens, and cattle, along with chicken excrement and other unsavory waste products as a supplement in their food. Some Muslims believe that this is most probably haram (forbidden) for two reasons:
  1. The animals have eaten pork.
  2. These animals could be considered carnivorous, and carnivorous animals are generally forbidden for use as food in Islam.

Environment

Muslims are charged to look after the environment. The Qur'an says, "Lo! We offered the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man assumed it." Sura 33:72
But consuming the products of the factory farm directly leads to the destruction of the earth and the environment. It depletes the topsoil, uses vast quantities of water, and pollutes both earth and water with sewage runoff. For more on the environmental consequences of factory farming, please visit Earthsave.org.

Health

Muslims are exhorted to eat good, pure, and wholesome food. But we now know that eating animal products is implicated in a host of diseases. People who consume animal products are 10 times more susceptible to heart disease, 40 percent more susceptible to cancer, and at increased risk for many other illnesses, including stroke, obesity, appendicitis, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, and food poisoning. Additionally, meat contains accumulations of pesticides and other chemicals up to 14 times more concentrated than those found in plant foods. For more on the health consequences of eating animal products, please visit the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Islam Does Not Require Meat-Eating

Say: 'I find not in the Message received by me by inspiration any meat forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it" Sura 6:145
The Qur'an says only that permitted meats may be eaten if one so wishes. Nowhere in Islam are Muslims required to eat meat. Meat consumption is neither encouraged nor even recommended.

Neither the kindness to animals taught by the Prophet (SAWS) nor the special place of animals as described in the Qur'an is reflected in modern methods of raising animals for food. Adopting a vegan diet (a diet free from meats, dairy products, and eggs) is the easiest way for Muslims to live in accordance with the ethical, environmental, and health precepts of Islam.

Click here to see fatwas on vegetarianism.

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