FED UP: Anti-halal ‘hate campaigns’ damaging $13bn Australian industry, say certifiers
Lobbyists are ‘vilifying Islam’ and ‘manipulating the public’ over claims that food is being altered to gain halal status
“Hate campaigns” are detracting from the reputation of Australia’s $13bn halal industry overseas, according to one of the country’s largest Islamic certifiers, which says anti-halal campaigners are “manipulating the public to harm the Australian economy”.
The halal industry has been reluctant to comment on the Senate inquiry into food certification, instigated by Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, but broke its silence on Tuesday in a submission obtained by Guardian Australia.
“Under Australian law it is not acceptable to vilify one’s race or ethnic background but it seems acceptable to vilify Islam,” Mohammad El-Mouelhy, from Halal Certification Authority Australia (HCAA), wrote.
“It is against the law to vilify Jews and it is not politically correct to denigrate blacks or gays. But Muslims can be thrown to the wolves.”
El-Mouelhy, whose agency certifies mostly processed foods, hit back at claims that products such as Vegemite were being altered to be granted halal status.
A blessing was said over meat products, he said, but for other food, halal (or kosher) certifiers merely checked and approved the ingredients list.
“[Non-meat products] are not ‘blessed’ by either religion and have been sold to the public for decades in their original state,” he said.
Animals were halal slaughtered “after being temporarily immobilised by an acceptable device”, in line with RSCPA and Australian government export standards, the submission said.
(The RSPCA has said it is concerned about the “very small” proportion of kosher and halal abattoirs permitted to slaughter animals without stunning.)
The HCAA, understood to be the only halal certifier making a submission to the inquiry, said the fee paid by many companies for certification was negligible.
“A chicken company is paying at the rate of one cent for every 40 chickens. The company has contracts worth several hundred thousands of dollars a month,” the submission read. “This is a great return for the chicken company.”
It highlighted the example of Bega Cheese, which has increased its revenue and number of employees by 500% in the past decade, in part by securing halal certification that opened new markets overseas.
A recent halal industry conference in Malaysia had heard that “the Australian market [was becoming] ‘unreliable’ to importers specifically because of hate campaigns offending importers and Australia’s reputation”, the submission said.
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