By Syed Rizvi
As a Muslim who grew up in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, I was appalled when I read that some retailers in France have started marketing so-called "halal foie gras" to the area's growing Muslim community. I would argue that this term is as deceptive as "halal pork" would be. Because swine is haram (forbidden by God) according to Islamic law, the animal's flesh will always be haram no matter how closely Islamic law is followed during slaughter.
Muslims are allowed to eat only certain animals who have been slaughtered in a specific way while the butcher recites the name of God. Meat obtained in this way is known as "halal" (permissible by God). Any meat that is obtained as a result of any departure from the prescribed slaughter procedures no longer remains halal and becomes haram. Of course, I am of the opinion that killing an animal for food is itself a cruel practice. But let's focus on the issue at hand.
Besides the strict adherence to slaughtering procedures, there are two additional requirements that are equally imperative in Islamic law. One of those requirements is that animals must not be under stress or experience any discomfort prior to their slaughter. The other requirement is that animals must not be mutilated, deformed, or, most importantly, diseased when ready for slaughter. This is common knowledge among Muslims, and Islamic law is quite clear about these requirements. The Imams (Muslim clergies) always ensure that these requirements are met before an animal is slaughtered.
Foie gras, by its very nature, does not meet the two requirements mentioned above and cannot qualify as halal no matter how closely the slaughter laws are adhered to. Ducks and geese raised for foie gras (French for "fatty liver") are force-fed with pipes that are shoved down the birds' throats. Up to 4 pounds of grain and fat are pumped into birds' stomachs several times each day. This cruel procedure causes birds' livers to become diseased—known as hepatic lipidosis—and swell to up to 10 times their normal size. Birds suffer excruciating pain throughout their lives, and many birds with diseased and enlarged livers, which can only be described as deformed, become too sick to stand up.
Therefore, the production of foie gras does not meet the two requirements of Islamic law, which clearly states that animals must not be under stress or discomfort before slaughter and that animals must not be diseased, mutilated, or deformed.
Although Muslims who eat foie gras without knowing how it is produced may be forgiven in the eyes of God, it is the obligation of the foie gras producers to tell Muslim customers how foie gras is produced and to refrain from the deceptive "halal foie gras" labeling.
It is also the duty of every Muslim who knows how foie gras is produced to tell other Muslims. I am glad that PETA is working to make the facts about foie gras production widely known, and I hope that the Imams become aware of these facts so that they can issue fatwas on foie gras as haram and spare Muslims from indulging in an act that is strictly prohibited by Islamic law.
For more information on animals and Islam, see http://www.IslamicConcern.com/.
Syed Rizvi is a physicist by profession, and through his group, Engineers and Scientists for Animal Rights, he reaches out to the scientific and technical communities, promoting the animal rights philosophy. Syed lives in Silicon Valley, California.
We are presenting some of the interesting and thought provoking comments by readers below:
August 27th, 2010, 12:57 pm
I have a pet duck named Jack, and he is the greatest! Where ever he may be if I just call his name once, here he comes shaking his tail, seemingly happy to see me. We love Jack whole heartedly.
Ok, that said, there is absolutely NO way we could EAT him, or any duck.
We are not vegetarians, but we do only eat organic, from local farms.
Ducks are very smart and are very loving, it goes both ways. I just don’t get the eating duck thing, I really don’t.
I know there will be some who will say how crazy I am blah, blah, blah. But when I’m holding Jack and me and my 3 yr. old are petting, and making of him, the way he looks at us and softly quacks I know he loves us back.
I just wish some people would look at animals as they really are, and not as their next meal.
Salome Waters says...
August 27th, 2010, 6:12 pm
I absolutely agree with this gentleman. The thought of the agonies these birds must suffer is terrible, terrible.
I am so glad that the Muslim faith has such strict laws about the lives of meat animals and their slaughter, though, like the writer, I do not eat meat and have a difficult time now when I am with people enjoying meat.
Thank you for writing this article. Shalom
August 27th, 2010, 6:38 pm
I think the best thing Muslims can do is stop performing halal, which is cruel and violent, and stop eating animals. No god blesses violence, cruelty and murder.
Finn Skovgaard says...
August 28th, 2010, 7:47 am
Thank you for this very informative article. I have quoted and linked it on my critical website about France on skovgaard.org/europe/france.htm (non-commercial!) which also mentions the French barbaric bullfights.
Jaya Bhumitra says...
August 31st, 2010, 7:12 pm
@Tanya - you say you aren't vegetarian, but you sound like a vegan. like jack, other farm animals (chickens, cows, goats, and pigs especially) are also loving and intelligent. I have had pet chickens and goats that behave like jack and I too wish that people would look at animals as they are, and not as their next meal!
October 12th, 2010, 2:31 pm
Halal practices are terrifying to the animal to say the least. I have seen the practice many times in the streets of the Middle East. These poor animals are awake and stressed out, crying and whining. Then their necks are slit with a knife and drained of blood. Terrible. This ancient and horrific way of butchering needs to stop.
October 18th, 2010, 10:35 am
The silence of PETA on the whole issue of halal slaughter is pretty telling. Cowardice? Laziness? Ignorance? Not sure — but it's mysterious, given the growing amount of meat in Europe and the USA now produced "halal" style. I suspect PETA is more concerned about appearing trendy — look, a naked celeb on our front page! — than actually addressing the major halal issue.
October 18th, 2010, 1:11 pm
PETA has not been silent on the issue. You are leaving a comment on a PETA blog which is bringing the issue up. Please also see: