With the first round of the presidential race in France this month, Halal, the prescribed method of slaughtering animals for human consumption per Islamic law, has been spotlighted.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number: FR9094
Ritual Slaughtering and Presidential Elections
Special Certification - Organic/Kosher/Halal
Livestock and Products
Market Development Reports
Agriculture in the News
Daryl A. Brehm
Lashonda McLeod, Xavier Audran, and Laurent Journo
With the presidential election in France nearing, Halal, the prescribed method of slaughtering animals
for human consumption per Islamic law, was spotlighted when National Front and Union for a Popular
Movement party members questioned the custom in efforts to court voters. Their statements revealed
that a significant share of ritually slaughtered meat that is not consumed for religious dictates, is sold in
France to the general public without specific tags or religious labels. With the largest Muslim
population in Western Europe, France?s Halal sales reached $8 billion in 2011. According to the
Ministry of Agriculture?s Food Directorate, twenty-six percent of all cattle and sheep slaughtered in
France were ritually slaughtered, for 14 percent of the meat produced, which is well above the demand
for ritual red meat, estimated at 7 to 10 percent of the total red meat market.
Ritual Slaughtering and Presidential Elections: when religion, economics, and politics collide
With the first round of the presidential race in France this month, Halal, the prescribed method of
slaughtering animals for human consumption per Islamic law, has been spotlighted to court far right
voters. In late February 2012, a French TV show indicated that in the Paris region, all four remaining
slaughterhouses (slaughtering cattle and sheep) were conducting ritual only (in this case under Halal
rules) slaughtering. The weekend that followed the show, Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate of the
extreme right political party, National Front, charged that non-Muslims in Paris were unwittingly eating
animals slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. Ms. Le Pen?s statement gained a lot of media
Sitting right-wing (Union for a Popular Movement party) President Nicolas Sarkozy initially criticized
his opponent?s Halal-related assertion; calling it frivolous. After polls reflected consumers? sensitivity
on the issue, President Sarkozy suddenly pledged to protect consumers from unknowingly eating Halal
meat. He suggested to adopt a request for legislation requiring all meat labels to note the slaughtering
The political controversy lasted a couple of weeks in March 2012, but subsided after Prime Minister
Francois Fillon said he personally believed that religions should rethink maintaining traditions that are
no longer relevant given today?s science, technology, and health concerns. The comment was
denounced by Jewish and Muslim religious leaders. Interior Minister Claude Guéant also touched on
the subject when he linked a Socialist Party (major party of the left) proposal to allow non-EU members
to vote in local elections with the introduction of compulsory Halal food in school meals.
Ms. Le Pen reopened the debate on April 5, following the publication of a European Food Safety
Agency (EFSA) report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic that highlighted the increase in E. coli and
Campylobacter contamination in meat. She linked the rise to Halal slaughtering which involves cutting
the animal?s esophagus at the same time as its carotid, potentially allowing bacteria present in the gastric
content and digestive track to mix with the blood and contaminate the carcass. In non-ritual
slaughtering, the esophagus is usually clamped to prevent such contamination. Ms. Le Pen highlighted
that Campylobacter contamination, while present in both meat and poultry, is higher in poultry than in
pigs and linked this difference to the high levels of Halal poultry slaughtering.
FAS/Paris contacts at the French Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that they are aware of the higher
sanitary risk posed by ritual slaughtering. The risk is enhanced by the fact that front carcasses, the most
prone to bacterial contamination, are also used for production of ground meat. This risk assessment was
one of the bases for the restriction of ritual slaughtering to approved slaughterhouses set by the
December 29th Decree (mentioned below).
Economics & Religion
The four relatively small slaughterhouses provide less than 5 percent of meat consumption in the Paris
region of 12 million inhabitants. At these establishments, ritual only slaughtering is done for economic
reasons, as the cost of shifting from ritual to non-ritual slaughtering, especially in cleaning the killing
rooms, makes the switch uneconomical. The controversy is regarding the part of the carcass of ritually
slaughtered animals that cannot be consumed due to religious dictates (such as the rear half of a carcass
for kosher foods), is sold without the religious labels.
In France, as in all other EU member states, it is compulsory to stun animals before slaughtering (EU
directives 74/577/EC and 93/119/EC). EU regulation 1099/2009/EU (and French regulation R214-70),
however, grants a waiver to this obligation when stunning is not compatible with religious dictates.
France regulates ritual (i.e., without stunning) slaughtering as the following:
?It must be undertaken in an approved slaughterhouse, the animal must be immobilized and all
applicable regulations pertaining to animal welfare must be implemented. Ritual slaughtering is done
for both kosher (under kosher rules) and Halal (under Halal rules).?
France published a decree on December 29, 2011, which limits ritual slaughtering to approved
slaughterhouses and sets a registering system linking ritual slaughtering to Halal and kosher orders and
sales. It states that it will improve the welfare situation for ritual slaughtering and reduce the volume of
ritually slaughtered meat sold unmarked on non religious markets. The approval of a slaughterhouse for
ritual slaughter is granted by the local Veterinary Directorate (DDS(CS)PP) and can be withdrawn if the
slaughterhouse does not comply. The decree becomes applicable July 1, 2012.
As a consequence of this new decree, an assessment of slaughterhouses is mandatory. Only
slaughterhouses under Categories 1 and 2 (normally the larger facilities) will be certified compliant, the
smaller, local or temporary facilities (which are set-up mainly during the Muslim feast of Aid-el-Kebir)
will be excluded. The certificate of competence will impose a minimum time of 90 seconds for
religious slaughtering against the current 45 seconds. This implies a slow-down in the production chain
and profit margins; since Halal meat demand is steadily increasing, it is likely that France will be forced
to turn to imports.
Animal welfare groups, such as the one headed by French actress Brigitte Bardot (Fondation Brigitte
Bardot) and the Organization for Slaughter Animals (OABA), have petitioned for decades for an
abolition of the ritual slaughtering waiver. They launched in January 2011, an advertizing campaign
against ritual slaughtering. The Government of France has always opposed, even at the EU level, such
initiatives in order to preserve religious freedom and to prevent stigmatization of any religious
An official report, which went relatively unnoticed until the Halal debate erupted, written by the
Ministry of Agriculture?s Food Directorate stated that in 2010, 12 percent of adult cattle (158,000 MT),
42 percent of sheep (44,000 MT) and 13 percent of calves (24,000 MT) were ritually slaughtered.
Altogether, twenty-six percent of all cattle and sheep animals slaughtered were ritually slaughtered, for
14 percent of the meat produced. This is well above the demand for ritual red meat, which is estimated
at 7 to 10 percent of the total red meat market.
With the largest Muslim population in Western Europe (an estimated 5 to 7 million, nearly a tenth of the
total population), France?s Halal market sales were $8 billion in 2010. That same year, organic market
sales were valued at $4 billion dollars, half of the Halal market. As the most rapidly-growing segment
of the food market, annual Halal sales have risen by 7 to15 percent since 1998. This formerly niche
market now represents 13 to 18 percent of the French food market, with a potential to reach $26 billion
in the next five-ten years.
Meat analysts believe that this issue will remain acute for the coming years. Any impact of the
controversy on meat consumption has yet to be assessed but preliminary information show a further
decline in red meat consumption in France, a move enhanced by high red meat prices in the context of a
sluggish economy combined with health-related concerns, an increase in poultrymeat consumption, in
addition to increased Halal meat consumption due to the growing number of second and third generation
French Muslims consumers. Butchers have reported increased questioning by consumers on
slaughtering processes. At least one slaughterhouse from southern France is now marketing its meat
with additional tags stating ?traditionally slaughtered guaranteed,? guaranteeing that the animals have
not been ritually slaughtered.
Reacting to the recent political hoopla over Halal, a Paris restaurant now serves French cuisine cooked
with Halal meat ? the first of its kind. The owner of this restaurant stated publically that the debate
wasn?t really about meat, but about the far right trying to attract votes in advance of the election. Word
has spread among the young Muslim crowd of the French-Halal fusion cuisine. Supermarkets and food
distribution chains are capitalizing on young Halal consumers? desire to have the same choices as non-
Halal consumers, increasing opportunities for U.S. suppliers offering beverages, grocery, and frozen
products. Certification of grocery products is not as stringent as it is for meat products.