Attitudes of the public towards halal food and associated animal welfare issues in two countries with predominantly Muslim and non-Muslim populations

Japanese firm tapping halal Japanese dishes in Singapore

Halal food is that which is permissible or lawful for Muslims to consume. Meat products must abide by a number of requirements in relation to their preparation, condition and content to be considered halal. We conducted a survey in order to assess the knowledge of, and attitudes towards, halal meat products in two contrasting countries, one with a majority non-Muslim population (Australia, respondent n = 565), where the most commonly followed religion is Christianity, and one with a majority Muslim population (Malaysia, n = 740). The most common reasons for avoiding halal food were animal welfare, religion and meat quality. Malaysians generally believed that halal processes led to improved meat quality, whereas Australians did not. The general consensus was in favour of legally controlling animal welfare during slaughter, supported by both Muslims and Christians. Malaysians were more aware of the main tenets of halal slaughter than Australians. However, some non-compulsory, incorrect practices were thought to be required practices by respondents in both countries, but especially in Australia. Muslims were more concerned about humane treatment of animals during halal slaughter. They generally believed that stunning is never allowed and that this view was acceptable, whereas people from other belief systems generally held the view that this was unacceptable. Religion and education were the most common factors associated with attitudes, beliefs and consumer habits concerning halal. Information from this study can help to improve understanding of attitudes to halal and provide insights to policy makers seeking to address animal welfare concerns.

Definitions were provided as follows:

  • Halal: an Arabic word meaning permitted or lawful by Muslim law []

  • Animal Welfare: an animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress []

  • Stunning: any mechanical, electrical, chemical or other procedure which causes immediate loss of consciousness which lasts until either the animal is killed or it recovers []

  • Reversible stunning: the animal being able to recover naturally if slaughter does not take place

  • Halal certification: endorsement that a product’s contents and manufacture has been approved by an appropriate religious authority as meeting the Islamic requirements relating to food []

  • Tasmiyah: the Islamic prayer recited during the slaughter, in Arabic

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